October 15th, 2010 // 4:00 am @ Oliver DeMille
America hasn’t yet figured this out. The focus of our leaders — political, corporate, media — seems mostly on problems.
As Fareed Zakaria argues, the current debate in the United States is totally out of touch with the global reality.
The news covers Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea, as have weekly talk shows. Americans are “obsessed with issues like terrorism, immigration, homeland security, and economic panics.”
But these all represent a preoccupation with the global losers of the past twenty years. Zakaria argues that the “real challenges that the country faces come from the winners, not the losers, of the new world.” (See his excellent book, The Post-American World.)
Rising — & Falling — Stars
How much are Americans thinking of the real challenges ahead, from China, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, India and Russia?
These emerging powers are on the rise economically and politically, yet most Americans are alarmingly unaware. The economic growth of these nations is increasing their clout and “producing political confidence and national pride.”
The American people and the U.S. government are unprepared to deal with these new powers and their demands, choices and might. The central role of the United States in the world is about to drastically shrink, right when Washington sees America as the world’s last super power.
American political, economic and psychological letdown is inevitable.
Many of the rising powers have sectors with free economics, less regulation, lower taxes and more opportunity than the U.S. Entrepreneurs are increasingly courted and rewarded in these nations, while they are increasingly regulated and put down in the U.S. and Western Europe.
America’s Critical Choice
The United States has a great choice ahead: increase taxes to protect jobs and benefits or free up the economy in order to really compete in the decades ahead. The first is socialism, the second is free enterprise.
But here is the great challenge: the first is seen as “fixing the economy” and the second as scary, and probably depressionary.
A scarcity mentality is the cause of socialism; abundance is the foundation of free enterprise. Clearly, America today is caught in the grip of scarcity.
Welcome to our current irony. The story most Americans know is of a powerful but fearful great nation that leads the world against dark and sinister forces of jihadism and dictatorship.
What is left out of the story are the two dozen nations who are growing, prospering, and not affiliated with either side.
Washington will be forced to rethink its domestic and global strategy; forced not by its enemies but by its competitors. They are refusing to allow its meddling, and they are starting to attract those who are seeking free markets, opportunity and freedom.
On top of all this, at the same time that Americans are losing faith in their government, the new powers are experiencing a surge of nationalism; they want to be seen as strong and to spread their ways and power like the U.S. has for so long.
As the U.S. mires itself in the worst problems around the world, the new powers are attracting capital, technology and leadership by offering opportunity and freedom.
The Simple Solution
Of course, the U.S. can solve this all in one simple way — become the most inviting nation on earth. Get rid of massive regulation and simply re-establish freedom, free enterprise, free markets, true opportunity.
To do this, it will have to stop interfering in world conflicts and trying to be more socialist than Russia or Sweden.
If it fails in either change, if it doesn’t deregulate and stop policing the world, it will decline and collapse in power as did Rome, Spain, France and Britain — all of whom followed the same sick path to failure. China, Russia and India will be the new super powers.
But America’s biggest problem is that it has lost its purpose. It became the world’s leader by promoting freedom, and it lost its purpose when its major goal became power.
The freedom purpose had enlivened its domestic and international actions, and this made it great. Power as purpose — both at home and abroad — turned Washington into a place hated around the world and by its own citizens.
The United States is powerful in many ways but not in one critical way — legitimacy. Much of the world sees the U.S. as powerful, yes, but only powerful. Not good, or great, or standing for something.
What Do We Stand For?
For America to maintain a leadership role in the decades ahead, it must stand for something.
Thomas Friedman thinks it should stand for global Green. But I’m convinced that freedom is its only path to success. Without a renewed commitment to freedom, free government, deregulation, free enterprise, America doesn’t deserve to lead the world.
America must stop policing the world, and start standing for its greatest export: freedom. Unless this happens, it won’t solve its own problems or be able to help anyone else.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.