The Economist has an interesting essay here about the future of American “exceptionalism” (the way America takes its global role as special). The discussion is prompted by a book: Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation, edited by Peter Schuck and James Q. Wilson. The question is whether America will move past Bush’s own brand of exceptionalism (stupid, swaggering, and belligerent) and toward something more welcome — or whether it will just fold in on itself and build them walls even higher.
“American exceptionalism has been increasing ever since the rise of the modern conservative movement from the late 1960s onwards. The current Bush administration, with its commitment to conservative values at home and assertiveness abroad, is the most exceptional administration in recent years. But the book raises a new question: is a new cycle, dominated by a rejection of conservatism and a convergence with West European norms, about to dawn?”
Good lord, let’s hope.
In his new book, “The Post-American World,” Mr. Zakaria writes that America remains a politico-military superpower, but “in every other dimension — industrial, financial, educational, social, cultural — the distribution of power is shifting, moving away from American dominance.” With the rise of China, India and other emerging markets, with economic growth sweeping much of the planet, and the world becoming increasingly decentralized and interconnected, he contends, “we are moving into a post-American world, one defined and directed from many places and by many people.
Read the NYT review of Zakaria’s book. But this seems to me to ignore things the US has that others lack (and envy): the US’s mix of cultures and its passionate individualism, plus a politico-economic structure that allows for rapid individual promotion. Others are really good at taking US innovations and making them better, faster, more efficient; but not at making the (major) innovations (like the computer, the web, etc.). A couple of possibilities: other places might begin to replicate the US’s innovation engine, or that engine might simply get overwhelmed, and the post-American world will get stagnant and decidedly less liberal. Eyes on Chindia, as usual.