Kagan the American Exceptionalist Versus Math

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 2/09/2012 10:50:00 AM
It appears that Robert "Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus" Kagan is set to come out with yet another of these eminently dispensable books on why America remains the indispensable nation. (I partly blame deforestation on this cottage industry of delusional Americans thinking they have an exceptional right to sacrificing trees in publishing books "proving" that the USA can still p*ss the highest in the global political economy as if everyone else doesn't have more pressing problems to contemplate.)

Anyway, the FT's Edward Luce--a fine writer among many working for that publication, simply lays out the facts that indicate Kagan's assertions are questionable at best:
Start with its economic facts. Mr Kagan says that in 1969 the US had “roughly a quarter” of the world’s income. “Today it still produces roughly a quarter,” Kagan wrote. “America’s share of the world’s GDP has held remarkably steady.”

That would seem pretty conclusive. Here are more precise measures. In 1969, the US accounted for 36 per cent of global income at market prices, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook. America’s share had fallen to 31 per cent by 2000. Then it started to plummet. By 2010, the US accounted for just 23.1 per cent of world income. In one decade America lost 7 per cent of world share. More than half that loss occurred before the Great Recession.
The overall point is that the American rate of decline is accelerating compared to its challengers' rise. Not by a small margin, but it's being caught up with by leaps and bounds. Consider, also, that even if the US were to (somehow) reach growth rates above the "new normal" and China had more subdued growth rates in line with those of other LDCs, the seemingly inevitable overtaking will happen in a dozen years or so:
China’s economy, meanwhile, was barely an eighth the size of the US’s in 2000. Today it is 41 per cent – and that is based on current exchange rates...Indeed, as Arvind Subramanian writes, China would surpass the US within 12 years even if its growth slowed to 7 per cent a year and the US hit an unlikely annual pace of 3 per cent.
Failing that, America #1 cheerleaders then run into fallacious territory that shifts the goalposts of hegemony such as making GDP per capita the new indicator of preponderance. Which, as I've argued, is preposterous.

Kagan is just as mathlexic as the veep and the rest of the products of America's mediocre educational system. Stick a fork in them; they're done. (Out of mercy for these unenlightened and hubris-filled white man's burden-loving folks, you may even want to show them how to use a "calculator" or a "spreadsheet".)

As I've said, the global challenge nowadays is not how to preserve the crumbling, crisis-filled American order but to replace it with something better and more representative of new voices on the world stage. Leaving Americans to do this task is akin to leaving Gary Glitter or Roman Polanski to organize your children's party.

Since you obviously don't know what you're doing, America, you should at least step aside and let others try their hand at fixing the mess you've made. You can't even fix your own country, so why should anyone expect you to fix the world? Does "lead by example" mean anything to these grandiloquent sorts? If Kagan's book or those of his other America #1 cheerleading colleagues at least acknowledged that question, they'd be worth reading. But they don't.