The Myth of America's Decline (Hardcover)
Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies
Liveright Publishing Corporation, 9780871404497, 327pp.
Publication Date: November 4, 2013
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While it may be catnip for the media to play up America as a has-been, Josef Joffe, a leading German commentator and Stanford University academic, compellingly shows that Declinism is not a cold-eyed diagnosis but a device in the style of the ancient prophets: "Thou shalt perish, unless..." Gloom is a prophecy that must be believed so that it will turn out wrong. Joffe repeatedly demonstrates how the "economic miracles" that propelled the rising tide of challengers flounder against their own limits. Hardly confined to Europe alone, Declinism has also been an especially nifty career builder for American politicians, among them Kennedy, Nixon, and Reagan, who all rode into the White House by hawking "the end is near."
Buttressing his argument with facts, Joffe demonstrates that America's future is sanguine. In contrast to the Carter years, the economic woes of the Obama era look more like a nasty migraine. By historical standards, the U.S. defense burden today is extraordinarily low, hence sustainable over the long haul. Immigration (plus a healthy birth rate) will not only keep the nation younger than China, Japan, Europe, and Russia but will continue to bring in the world's best and brightest. Indeed, America is the "world's Ph.D. factory" both in science and engineering, while its R&D spending dwarfs the "rising rest." Its uniquely deep and wide capital market encourages innovations and continues to turn dreams into vibrant companies.
Joffe argues that it is only if America "freezes up" by enshrining privilege, closing its doors, and withdrawing from the world that it will succumb to the rigor mortis that has overwhelmed previous empires. Effortlessly mixing keen historical insights with brilliant diplomatic and economic analysis, The Myth of America's Decline becomes a remarkable reflection on our nation's standing in the world and an eye-opening account that challenges the pervasive and now tired notion that America is on the decline.