Having made a name for himself as a military sage, Luttwak (Strategy, 1987, etc.) now turns his attention to geoeconomics—the battleground on which, he asserts, a self-defeating US must best commercial rivals if it's to thrive in the wake of the USSR's collapse. In his wide-ranging, alarmist overview, the author argues that America is on the decline toward Third World status—citing a downward slide in domestic wage scales; measurable drops in living standards; ongoing job losses in major industries (owing to the transfer of advanced technologies); urban decay; spiraling debt burdens; inadequate savings rates; and a persistent failure to invest in capital goods, infrastructure, research, or people. In the meantime, Luttwak warns, an unfortunate trend to unfettered individualism (driven to a great extent by misguided concessions to cultural diversity in schools, the workplace, and other venues) has undermined the nation's unity and, hence, its capacity to compete in global markets. Following his worst-case diagnosis of what ails the body politic, the author prescribes some strong medicine: e.g., he commends vocational as well as academic education (with uniform countrywide standards), value-added taxation (to curb excessive consumption), and a formal industrial policy that enables the US government to support American business (rather than the ad hoc practices that currently preclude effective action). Now that the cold war's end has all but eliminated the nation's need to propitiate erstwhile allies, the US can no longer afford to pay even lip service to free-enterprise principles more honored in the breach than the observance, Luttwak maintains. Indeed, he concludes, America's political leaders must mobilize all available resources for the trade conflicts that will determine economic dominion in the 21st century and beyond. A shrill wake-up call to arms.
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