My six year old daughter asked me, “What’s so great about the United States anyway?” And I didn’t know what to say to her.
I’m from the US. But there’s many problems in how the US plays out its role both at home and in the world. How to answer about a country that engages in horrific wars, had slaves, has a 15% poverty rate, and yet has always called itself “the land of opportunity” and with reason.
There are really two question: how do you define “world power” and is this a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it’s better to be a small power and still have lots of wealth and conveniences (think: Luxembourg).
First: are we a world power? Yes, the United States is by far the biggest world power and nobody is close;
GDP (the amount of dollars the US makes): is $18 trillion dollars. The entire world is $75 trillion. That means, we are almost 25% of the world’s economy even though we only have about 4% of the people.
- Military Power: There’s no right or wrong way to assess this. But let’s assume that a country is a military power if it can quickly gather forces into any region and engage. You do this with aircraft. The US is #1 in the world with over 13,000 aircraft. The next eight countries: Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, France, Egypt, Turkey all added together are about the same as the United States. We are number one in nuclear submarines, destroyers, cruisers, etc.
- Science: The US ranks #1 in citations (how many times scientific papers cite papers written in the US) with 35,000,000 between 1993–2008. I know this seems out-dated but it covers a long period and demonstrates the strides in biotech, chips, robotics, AI, plant-based foods, energy, etc. (I have an entire post about it here).
- Athletic prowess: Again, despite being only 4% of the world population, the US is #1 in Olympic medals with over 2800. If you add up the Soviet Union + Russia you still get only around 1800.
- Where do people go? Despite however the world feels about the US, the US is where people go on vacation. Again, despite how tiny the US is versus the world: the US is #1 in tourism with $200 billion spent here by tourists. versus #2 China with $108 billion.
- Gold. People say, what if the dollar is not the #1 currency? Doesn’t matter. The world defaults to Gold when that happens. The US has 8000 tons of gold reserves. Number 2 is Germany with 3000 tons.
Trump? Clinton? Who cares. Pundits have been predicting the decline of the United States since 1792 and innovation outside of government has always outpaced the government’s ability to destroy the United States economy. (see the great book, “The Myth of America’s Decline”)
You can say the US is not #1 in esteem held by other countries. I agree with this. I don’t think the US should police the world. I think we should stop engaging in any wars.
I have a 17 year old daughter right now. There is basically zero condition that would allow me to say to her, “I think you should pick up a gun, go to a strikingly poor country, and murder other 17 year olds.” No matter what was happening in that country.
And yet the US has 800 military bases in 70 countries around the world.
The last time the US “legally” declared war according to the Constitution was 1941 when we entered World War II.
And yet we are in involved in at least six wars right now and we have special operations going on in 134 countries according to The Nation.
(countries where we have bases)
(source: Where in the World Is the U.S. Military?)
I am naive about war and killing and helping other countries that might need it. But this seems like a disaster to me.
What will happen in the future?
Why do we need countries at all? They only lead to nationalism, trade wars, immigration problems, dictatorships, corruptions (name me a single government that is not corrupt?).
Facebook has quietly bonded 2 billion people together across their single platform. I talk to people from at least 50 different countries a day across social media.
We once were nomadic tribes of 150 people. Then when we had to protect our wheat so we became villages. Then villages developed specialties and developed into cities. Then cities merged into kingdoms. Then empires. (See the book, “Sapiens” by Yuval Hariri).
The United States is by far the biggest empire ever.
But there will be a next. Evolution of government structures over the past 12,000 years requires that there will be a next. Economics requires that there will be a next. (See the book, “The Evolution of Everything” by Matt Ridley).
Global communication requires that there will be a next. The relatively recent discovery that racial and ethnic differences are much smaller than people believed requires that there will be a next.
The expansion of technologies that will have global footprints (biotech, virtual reality, faster transportation) will tighten the stitches that hold us all together. There will be a Next. (Here’s how to be prepared).
I’m signing up now. I’m a Citizen of Next.
By the way, the US is also #1 in strawberry production. I love strawberries. Mmmm.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)