Ben Buchwalter

America Doesn’t Have to be Rome
October 12, 2008, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Economy, Foreign Affairs, General Politics | Tags: , ,

There are a few articles today in The New York Times about whether the recent economic crisis is the first indication in a doomsday procession that marks the end of American political and economic strength. One Week In Review article connects the American example to the British Empire that dwindled by the end of the nineteenth century. Maureen Dowd writes a predictably annoying article arguing that the American decline has already begun.

American dominance could certainly decline if our national hubris does not change for the better. As I see it, that change can come about in two important ways. First, as the Week in Review article points out (and the economic meltdown proves) Wall Street needs more regulation. Fortunately, that process has already started.

The economy looks to be heading into a period of more regulated, but still American-style, capitalism, more along the lines of how it operated in the 1950s, 1960s and 1990s. Those three decades happen to have produced the biggest and most widely shared economic gains since World War II.

From that standpoint, the economy could thrive as it did in the 1990s under Clinton style regulation.

Second, the United States needs to become a leader in something aside from quasi-imperialist military strength. Considering the threat of climate change, we have an opportunity to become a leader in green technologies to decrease our reliance on oil. As Barack Obama frequently says, no one knew much about flying to the moon when John F. Kennedy announced that NASA would visit within 10 years. But we got there in fewer than nine.

Similarly, If the scientific and automobile communities focus on making effective green alternatives to oil, and more efficient vehicles to save what energy we do use, then energy – not military – could become our greatest import and global legacy and help make our Rome last a few decades longer.


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