Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Rumors of America's Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Victor Davis Hanson thinks that the most recent predictions of America's demise are as incorrect as previous ones over the last 100 years:

During the Cold War, hard-core socialists pontificated that the (soon-to-collapse) Soviet Union was ascendant, inasmuch as it had realized Karl Marx's triumphant New Man who was reborn from the ashes of capitalism.

In President Jimmy Carter's days of “national malaise,” the state-subsidized industries of Japan Inc. were supposedly making us all wage slaves to Sony and Toyota — until the Asian financial meltdown.

Now a new generation of pessimists is warning that it is the turn of the European Union, flush with trade surpluses, a small defense budget and a strong euro. Larger in size than us, with a greater population, a better-educated youth and a supposedly more humane social net, will Europe gradually nudge the United States from its world pre-eminence? Or does the new Asian axis of 2 billion in China and India instead foretell American decline?

Some long-term indicators here at home are indeed worrisome. The deficit is again spiraling. Our trade debt is enormous. The dollar is weak. Materialistic Americans are buying more consumer goods than their global scorecard might otherwise warrant — all predicated on borrowed money from Asia that could be recalled with little warning. Few of the huge container ships from China, Japan and South Korea that dock in California return to Asia stuffed with American exports.

However, such pessimism is premature. Other indicators generally point in our favor. Interest rates are steady. Rates of real economic growth are strong. Unemployment and inflation are both low.

Without denying that there are real economic issues that need to be addressed, VDH goes on to discuss several empirical indicators that suggest we are doing fairly well. I would add that we are doing fairly well considering that we are in the middle of a war.

I grew up with many many stories of what life was like during WWII. The daily sacrifices that families made; the shortages they had to deal with. And the fact that for the first three years, things went badly on the battlefield for the U.S. and its allies. My grandmother told me how scared she was that we would lose the war to the Japanese and Germans. She escaped from Italy before WWI, and was particularly concerned about German and Italian fascism, which she despised. The thought of living under such oppression was dismaying to her, to say the least.

Yet here we are today, complaining about high oil prices (the lowest in the world actually); complaining about how many Americans are being killed in Iraq (the lowest in any war); while we drive our SUV's, watch our color TV's (one in every room); play our Xboxes and use our Blackberrys.

What have we had to sacrifice on a daily basis for this war on terrorism?

Except for our brave soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families here at home, what do we know of sacrifice? So many of us whine and complain; moralize and pontificate about the evils of war; violently rage and rail against violence; and oppose everything on some pseudoprinicple or another.

So, let me summarize. We are doing well--very well, in fact. There are both short- and long-term economic problems that will need to be addressed, but they are no worse than thsoe we've had in the past. We are making great progress, with minimal loss of life in the war on terror. Freedom is spreading throughout the world. Challenges remain, and there is much still to do to eradicate Islamofascism from the face of the earth. Finally, we have not had a terrorist attack in the last 3 1/2 years. Now is not the time to pull back. Now is the time to push forward with everything we've got.

As VDH suggests, the rumors of America's demise are greatly exaggerated.

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