Aug

6

 You can read a lot lately about the end of the US dominance era. Many dare to compare the Roman empire with the United States. Examples can be demographics issues with "barbarians" entering the empire as workforce (as opposed to invaders) while the average "citizens" age increases, high military expenses to maintain presence along the borders, big trade deficit as rich consumers help grow poorer neighbors that produce at lower costs. Environment, food, climate change, and energy are additional problems, which are not exclusively "American", but require a global response. Let's leave aside the parallels between Romans and Americans. There are multiple futures ahead with profound implications from the U.S. perspective. The main drivers are related to:

- energy: peak oil and dependence from foreign sources;

- technology: what happens if the technology gap narrows in favor of competitors?;

- demography: older population and immigration issues;

- climate change;

- global governance and geopolitics: failing states and emergence of areas of regional/global power (Asia/resurgence of Russia).

There could be many other drivers, but, in my opinion, the analysis of the implications of the different future scenarios should start from the present situation.

Twenty years after the end of the cold war the US remains the only global power, however, I think that being global in the years past has shown itself to be too expensive for the benefits it gives. The efforts required to maintain a constant (or even increasing) high level of global presence are too high. The main point is that marginal costs are higher than marginal benefits. In summary, if this trend continues, the country could enter a long decline era, where vital resources are wasted to "guard the outposts of the empire" instead of being used to sustain the country's capitalistic and entrepreneurial spirit. Maybe a global strategy should be set aside in favor of a reduced and more focused intervention in specific critical areas and issues. At the same time, concerns about US "strategic competitors", should not be excessive. No country, from China to Russia and each for different reasons, can cultivate the ambition to become a global player for decades to come. The US should manage the comparative advantage in technology, military, innovation potential, financial markets, social development, property rights, education, and so forth, making a better use of its huge resources. The current trend of deficits and debt is not going in this direction. Many consider this trend acceptable and manageable. Actually, my personal opinion is that a continuously weaker currency, higher inflation, increasing private and public debt, a fragile credit system display that the current strategy (with the related cost and budget implications) cannot be sustained much longer. If we look at the stock market, which represents the economy, in the past ten years it has not grown that much. And, if we take into account exchange rates, the situation looks even less satisfactory. The wave of innovation (and source of huge profits) brought by the advent of the information age in the nineties was initiated and "owned" by US technology and US companies. Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, Cisco, Yahoo! and so forth are some examples. The last wave, still ongoing, but limited in its effects, is now represented by Google and Apple. This sector is getting mature and growth appears to be slower with time. In general, the stock market performance reflects a mature economy where growth can be sustained only at the cost of higher inflation. The US needs badly a new wave of innovation. Where is the next wave coming from? Will US companies once again be protagonists? This is what is really crucial in the next decade. Energy dependence is one important aspect, also from the national security perspective, to take into account in this scenario. Is alternative energy going to drive the new technological developments and the needed growth? Biotech? Nanotechnologies? Very difficult to say. Very important, however, is that resources be allocated properly to maintain the intellectual and cultural leadership in the various fields of human and economic interest and not dispersed to support global strategic efforts, which could reveal themselves as unsustainable in the long term.


Comments

Name

Email

Website

Speak your mind

Archives

Resources & Links

Search