THE MYTH OF AMERICA'S DECLINE by Josef Joffe

THE MYTH OF AMERICA'S DECLINE

Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies

KIRKUS REVIEW

Think Yankee power is doomed? The answer is no, argues German magazine editor Joffe, even if the patient seems to be running a fever.

America, some wag once observed, went from colony to empire without an intervening period of civilization. Even in the colonial era, observers (mostly French) were predicting that the British experiment in North America was doomed to failure. The modern strain of doomsaying, all talk of decadence and collapse, began in the 1950s, “when Decline 1.0 came to grip the land.” It did not come to pass, though by Joffe’s reckoning, we’re in the fifth iteration (Decline 5.0) of the idea that some crisis—Sputnik, Vietnam, the dot-com collapse, the Great Recession—is finally going to put the nation out of business. Joffe considers various metrics, such as the size and extent of America’s military, to argue that the nation’s power in the world is not diminished. If this argument sometimes seems uncritical—not everyone believes that the nation’s treasury should be devoted to war-making—it does a solid enough job of refuting the declinism so feared by the right and perhaps welcomed by some even farther to the right and left. Along the way, Joffe cites some little-discussed statistics, such as the fact that China’s aging population and the need for a replenished labor pool to support it fall into “ratios [that] are far worse than any in the West.” So much for China as the rising dominant world power. There is no triumphalism here, for Joffe notes that there are plenty of problems for the United States to overcome, such as “the breakdown of bipartisanship…intractable deficits and rising debt…[and] social polarization.”

Mostly good news, then, with some bad thrown in to balance the picture. Of interest to those with a bent for policy wonkery, geopolitics and demographic trends.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-87140-449-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Liveright/Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2013




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