Saturday, July 02, 2011

U.S. is Well-Positioned to Navigate the Exhilarating Changes Coming Because Change is Our Home Field

Walter Russell Mead writing in today's WSJ, "The Future Still Belongs to America":
"It is, the pundits keep telling us, a time of American decline, of a post-American world. The 21st century will belong to someone else. This fashionable chatter could not be more wrong. Sure, America has big problems. But what is unique about the United States is not our problems. Every major country in the world today faces extraordinary challenges—and the 21st century will throw more at us. Yet looking toward the tumultuous century ahead, no country is better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities or manage the dangers than the United States.

The great trend of this century is the accelerating and deepening wave of change sweeping through every element of human life. Each year sees more scientists with better funding, better instruments and faster, smarter computers probing deeper and seeing further into the mysteries of the physical world. Each year more entrepreneurs are seeking to convert those discoveries and insights into ways to produce new things, or to make old things better and more cheaply. Each year the world's financial markets are more eager and better prepared to fund new startups, underwrite new investments, and otherwise help entrepreneurs and firms deploy new knowledge and insight more rapidly.

Scientific and technological revolutions trigger economic, social and political upheavals. Industry migrates around the world at a breathtaking—and accelerating—rate.  Each year the price of communication goes down and the means of communication increase.

New ideas disturb the peace of once-stable cultures. Young people grasp the possibilities of change and revolt at the conservatism of their elders. Sacred taboos and ancient hierarchies totter; women demand equality; citizens rise against monarchs. All over the world more tea is thrown into more harbors as more and more people decide that the times demand change.

This tsunami of change affects every society—and turbulent politics in so many countries make for a turbulent international environment. Managing, mastering and surviving change: These are the primary tasks of every ruler and polity. Increasingly these are also the primary tasks of every firm and household. 

This challenge will not go away. On the contrary: It has increased, and it will go on increasing through the rest of our time. The 19th century was more tumultuous than its predecessor; the 20th was more tumultuous still, and the 21st will be the fastest, most exhilarating and most dangerous ride the world has ever seen.

Everybody is going to feel the stress, but the United States of America is better placed to surf this transformation than any other country. Change is our home field. It is who we are and what we do. Brazil may be the country of the future, but America is its hometown.

Happy Fourth of July."


At 7/02/2011 10:20 AM, Blogger Rufus II said...

By far the best post you've ever put up. The absolute truth.

Thank you.

At 7/02/2011 10:26 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Thank you Professor for bringing attention to Walter Mead. I was not very familiar with Mead but the article cited is very interesting and compelling.

Here is from a blog posting from May 12, 2011, by Walter Mead, on the American Establishment falling down on the job:

"Here in the early years of the twenty-first century, the American elite is a walking disaster and is in every way less capable than its predecessors. It is less in touch with American history and culture, less personally honest, less productive, less forward looking, less effective at and less committed to child rearing, less freedom loving, less sacrificially patriotic and less entrepreneurial than predecessor generations. Its sense of entitlement and snobbery is greater than at any time since the American Revolution; its addiction to privilege is greater than during the Gilded Age and its ability to raise its young to be productive and courageous leaders of society has largely collapsed."

At 7/02/2011 1:55 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

If you travel abroad, you come home thinking how polyglot America is. In many other countries, everyone is alike.

That makes us willing to try the new, rather than the traditional. It also means we have few traditions, little culture, and a lot of carnival barkers braying about the glories of money.

At 7/02/2011 2:05 PM, Blogger arbitrage789 said...

I have little doubt that the U.S. will continue to be a leader in science, engineering, and, dare I say it, financial services. The questions are, (a) are there enough people who see the corrosive effects of massive debt to take action to reduce it, and (b) are there enough people willing to make a positive economic contribution, and not merely vote for politicians who will give them handouts?

At the present time, there’s reason for concern.

At 7/02/2011 2:27 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

Then, you look at Professor Perry's favorite state,

In May nonfarm payroll employment was up 4.3 percent from the year before, and the unassuming state sported a gaudy 3.2 percent unemployment rate. In several counties, the rate is below one percent. The state jobs office has 15,205 listings, up 64 percent from May 2010. North Dakota, which is one of the smallest states by population (about 670,000) and one of the largest geographically, has .7 unemployed persons for every job opening. In the U.S., the labor force participation rate is an anemic 64.2 percent. In North Dakota, it stands at 74 percent.

North Dakota is Rocking.

At 7/02/2011 4:23 PM, Blogger juandos said...

From Walter Russell Mead's blog site Via Meadia dated June 20: Blue State Schools: The Shame of a Nation

When it come to excellence in education, red states rule — at least according to a panel of experts assembled by Tina Brown’s Newsweek. Using a set of indicators ranging from graduation rate to college admissions and SAT scores, the panel reviewed data from high schools all over the country to find the best public schools in the country.

The results make depressing reading for the teacher unions: the very best public high schools in the country are heavily concentrated in red states...

Three of the nation’s ten best public high schools are in Texas — the no-income tax, right-to-work state that blue model defenders like to characterize as America at its worst. Florida, another no-income tax, right-to-work state long misgoverned by the evil and rapacious Bush dynasty, has two of the top ten schools.

Newsweek isn’t alone with these shocking results. Another top public school list, compiled by the Washington Post, was issued in May. Texas and Florida rank number one and number two on that list’s top ten as well... (there's more)

At 7/02/2011 6:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are positives and there are negatives. The US is still number one and will stay that way for decades to come, because it is still the freest country to operate in. However, there are some worrying trends, Obamacare, Frank/Dodd, entitlement growth, and the inability to pare back the rise of govt spending from 1950-1990, only to freeze it before the recent resurgence. More importantly, the market centers in the US- NY for finance, LA for entertainment, SF bay area for tech- are in the declining stage, none of them will ever reach their former glory again, with the exception of possibly one last surge for the bay area. Globalization has opened up a more competitive market and the US is still uniquely suited to compete, but those three city hubs will be devastated in the process, so one can't rely on their strength for long. I guess the point I'm trying to make is to underline what Mead said about change becoming the only constant, and point out that, especially with the worrying trends in the US, it's very hard to predict anything 20-30 years out into that tumult.

At 7/02/2011 7:30 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

Alan Greenspan (who, it turns out, got more than a few things wrong in his life) got a few things right. One was, when asked what was the single most important contributor to the economic success of the United States, replied, "The U.S. Constitution."

I think we'll still be No. 1 in 30 years. And, in one hundred years, also.

At 7/02/2011 8:16 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

To understand where the U.S. is going, we need to know where it's been.

The U.S. had a remarkable 25-year economic boom from 1982-07, with only two recessions (one moderate and one mild).

Despite what the media said, the 2002-07 boom raised U.S. living standards at a steeper rate than the 1995-00 boom.

However, the U.S. economy peaked in 2007, and we've entered a period of economic decline, which was completely avoidable.

After the last of the Baby-Boomers (born between 1946-64) retire in 2029, the economic decline will accelerate, for some period of time.

So far, we've basically managed to maintain our living standards over the past few years through huge monetary and fiscal stimulus, which is unsustainable.

However, the U.S. is in a stronger economic position compared to other major countries. Western Europe, which has lagged the U.S. badly for decades, will fall further behind, while China has its own major economic problems.

I suspect by 2040, half of the U.S. will be poor, perhaps mostly low income children of Third World immigrants, while the other half will live well.

At 7/02/2011 8:43 PM, Blogger mike250 said...

The USA is a heavily regulated economy, no different than Sweden, so I am not sure that it is well positioned to exhilarate any of the changes. That is just wishful thinking.

At 7/02/2011 8:56 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

The foundation of any nation's economy is its agricultural sector, and ours is so far ahead of any other country's as to hardly be in the same Universe.

At 7/02/2011 10:09 PM, Blogger mike250 said...

The foundation of any nation's economy is its agricultural sector

Someone hasn't been to Singapore lately Or Hong Kong.


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