Amid all the talk of gloom and doom in the United States, with the stock market’s near-crash and the renewed threat of a double-dip recession, it is worth pausing to remember that the United States remains the greatest country on Earth. It is also the country with the most promising future. I make these assertions not as a matter of national pride, but as an analytical conclusion.
This is not to discourage serious attention to deficit reduction, economic renewal and political reform — all of which we greatly need — or to trivialize the country’s admittedly serious problems. Nor is it meant to deny the plight of the many Americans who have suffered enormously as a result of the punishing economic downturn of the last three years. But when the news is generally bleak, there is always a danger we will talk ourselves into greater fatalism, and more extreme responses, than are warranted or wise.
Consider our strengths, beginning with who we are. The United States remains the land where people around the world dream of living, and they still arrive in substantial numbers, enriching our melting-pot society and energizing the economy. Our population today is at just over 300 million, with a modest and steady growth rate. Almost every other major industrial power is in decline, with low birthrates and aging populations that will soon put a huge strain on their economies.
Countries such as Turkey and Brazil have healthy population growth rates too, and they have promising futures. But they are middle powers at most. China is rising impressively, but it also has huge problems, with far too many people for a relatively modest landmass. The country’s one-child policy, designed to address that overpopulation, will, within a decade or two, result in huge numbers of retirees relative to the size of its working-age population, a far greater challenge than we will face here. India’s problem is the opposite but just as serious. Unable to get any handle on its population growth, India’s demographics verge on unsustainable. To be sure, these other countries can make progress, and we wish them well as they try. But the notion that their futures are all bright and rosy while ours is declining does not comport with the facts.