03.23.09

Simple math and world domination

Posted in Liberty, Society at 15:53 by RjZ

Alright, the modern world is based on a service economy and knowledge is a valuable export, but just the same, the 2008 import/export numbers published by the World Trade Organization seem pretty discouraging if you’re an U.S. citizen. While the U.S. is first in imports, it is third in exports.

Maybe much of that could be attributed to currency fluctuations. Too bad a some simple math (exports divided by imports) tell such disturbing story. China: 1.27; Germany: 1.22 and the United States: 0.60! Just looking at how much we buy and how little we sell, it’s pretty easy to see how we could be in such an economic crisis.

During my recent visit to China, it was pretty clear that United State’s economic system catching a cold ends up being highly contagious outside of the borders. And the Chinese aren’t too pleased about it either. Although, in our defense, I’d like to point out that these numbers were no secret around the world. The Chinese are as guilty of investing in Team America as anybody else who’s seen assets dwindle in the last few months of stock market crash correction. We all should have read the signs.

The Chinese trip raised another question. Namely, why would anyone, without an ego to protect, really care whether the United States remains the foremost economic, and therefore political, power? Actually, I’ve often wondered that. I am proud to be an American, but am not exactly sure that means everyone else enjoys our power, or that they should be expected to. Despite the propaganda to the contrary, China seems to be a pretty nice place, and at least as free as most Americans would ever actually notice anyway. (True, there is no free press in China, but would any Americans really miss it if our free press were gone? Have you heard about all the failing newspapers or Jon Stewart’s comedic railings against poor economic reporting of the past few years?)

A few surprising conversations with some, not necessarily representative, Chinese did give me some insight into just why we just might care where the U.S. is in the world pecking order. It seems many in China believe that the only thing stopping them from some serious border skirmishes, or worse, with traditional enemy Japan is the strong alliance between the Japanese and Americans. In spite of the Chinese party-line which preaches peace and non-intervention, as soon as China could neutralize retaliation from the United States, so goes the argument, they would be free to act without consequence on some deep seated (and justified, if outdated) anger still harbored for their neighbors.

Regardless of how credible we find this scenario, one fact remains true. The United States has transferred power 44 times without significant impact to the rest of the world. We’ve stuck our noses in countless country’s affairs but generally, the majority of countries have grown to trust that, even if we go astray (see for example, 2000 – 2008) we have a working system that kicks bad guys out and brings in new ones (hopefully better). It could be a new United States marketing slogan: Dictator -Free for over 225 years!

This track record may be the best argument for maintaining the United States preeminence. Unfortunately, it takes only some simple math to see how tenuous that position might be.

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