Friday, January 07, 2005


Why do I hate America?

And why does Matt Yglesias?

Seriously, though, he says what I've been thinking, only he says it better (duh).
Military Spending In the Infinite Horizon

The policy goal of indefinite American military hegemony is simply incompatible with the goal of continued growth in Chinese and Indian prosperity. A policy of trying to deliberately perpetuate the impoverishment of 3 billion human beings would be morally problematic, as well as pragmatically hard to pull off. Thus, no indefinite American military hegemony. That's not something we need to worry about over the next five years, but we really should be spending the next five (and ten, and fifteen) years on trying to make sure that the global system is on a trajectory such that we can continue to be comfortable with that trajectory once we are no longer hegemonic. The British had the good fortune to see their former hegemony replaced not by Nazi or Communist hegemony, but by a world system dominated by a reasonably friendly, culturally and politically similar power.

Ideally, it would be good if our hegemony could fade away over the next several decades into some kind of amicable, cooperative framework in which no one country will dominate. The alternative is going to be a fairly frightening revival of great power competition or some such thing. Or maybe not. Maybe China will collapse. Maybe India will return to its formerly dismal growth pattern. Maybe Europe and Japan will reverse course and stop their recent trends toward trying to play a bigger role in the world. Then we get to keep dominating, but the resulting situation would be worse in many, many ways than the alternative of widespread cooperation and prosperity.
It's very difficult to predict what's going to happen in China, India (or, indeed, anywhere else). It's also very difficult to predict what's going to happen in the USA. The trends that we can see, however, show that China and India are likely to offer serious competition to the USA, and that we are going to lose our hegemony one way or another.

This is not a value judgment! I'm not saying I want the USA to lose its hegemony (nor am I saying that I don't want it to lose). I'm simply saying that the USA is going to lose its hegemony. What replaces that is what Matt is discussing. It can be a system favorable to us (a soft landing) or any number of possibilities we won't like (e.g., anarchy, Muslim domination, we all have to learn Cantonese, you name it). But something other than us is coming. If we don't want to be bitterly surprised and disappointed, we need to start thinking about what we want that something to be and how we might be able to bring it about.
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