February 27, 2010

America, A Big Historical Perspective

~ “LETTERS FROM AMERICA” - by The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

We’re often caught up in our own little corner of time, our own historical corner, cultural corner and geographic corner. Sometimes it’s good to step back and see the larger picture.

Often here in America, we beat ourselves up; think we’re at the end of our influence, that our destiny was a flash in the historical pan. Wars and rumors of wars, a projected deficit that’s more than our total value, ever increasing fuel and energy costs, monumental corruption in politics and business, culture wars, serial killers run amok…just multitudes of grief.

There’s a view that America is just a kid on the world stage. Since the 1400 or 1500’s, Europe has been center stage. Biggest economies, biggest and most powerful militaries, and a geographical location that allowed it to become center stage globally.

That remained the case until the end of the Twentieth century. The 500 year run of world dominance ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and 9/11. The seminal moment of change of global power happened that day of 9/11, and America responded with devastating force into the Middle East and disrupted that area for a long time to come. Meanwhile, Europe continues fragmenting and weakening, culturally, militarily, and economically, fighting amongst themselves while Islamists slowly take over.

At the same time, America is beating itself up over the things mentioned above. Some observations. We have about 4% of the world’s population, yet produce about 26% of all goods and services. Our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about $15-$16 Trillion; World combined GDP is about $54 Trillion. American GDP is larger than Japan, Germany, China and the UK combined.

Diminished manufacturing base to be sure, but America still produces about $26 Trillion, the most of any country in the world.

Oil we obsess about. We import a lot, but we produce over 8 million barrels a day. Russia produces about 10 million a day, and Saudi Arabia about 11 million. We’re producing nearly as much as Saudi Arabia and we have huge untapped reserves. Russia’s natural gas production is about 22 trillion cubic feet per year; America is second with about 19 trillion cubic feet per year. That amount of production is more than the next five producers combined.

America has a small population. The average population density on the planet 49 people per square kilometer; Japan is at about 340, Germany about 230 and America about 32 people per square kilometer. Plenty of room to grow, with the land and economy to do it.

The US military is the largest and most powerful. The US Navy controls all the oceans, all the sea lanes.

All these things happened due to beliefs and values that are different from Europe’s over the past five hundred years. America sits between East and West, and because of all the elements mentioned, its influence is vast, extending and influencing in both directions.

No matter what the internal political, economic, and whatever struggles go on in America, the big picture influence will grow throughout the 21st Century. All the little stuff we focus on right now may seem like a big deal, but big picture…not so much.


  1. That's a refreshing observation.
    Europe, on the other hand, seems to prefer to continue to hide behind America and even Obama, on the international scene, although there are many hypocrites with Iphones on the old continent who pretend that they would like to see America 'se casser la gueule'.

    When two unlikely choices for European Parliament* are elected- more, it would seem, to fetter them from assuming too much power, than to seriously represent Europeans, it's hardly surprising that they are unable to come up with anything more forceful than the spokesman of Ashton's ridiculous and inappropriate reaction to Gaddafi's djihad threat to Switzerland.

    And with Monsieur Trichet at the helm of the BCE, who seemed to be secretly hoping that his Bundesbank economic policy would encourage the world to adopt the euro instead of the dollar, it's hardly surprising that the euro zone will be the last to drag itself gasping and disillusioned to the surface of the deep, fetid swill of the economic crisis.


  2. You’re absolutely right in your main point: talk of American decline is unconvincing. During the late 1960s/early 70s things where a lot for Americans than they are now: OPEC forced up oil prices, unemployment reached record highs, and increased competition from Japanese industries had forced Nixon to devalue the dollar. But America has a kind of structural strength, which allowed it come back stronger than ever. There’s a great article by F Zakaria that defines the exactly what it is that makes America structurally superior to other nations.

    If you want to have a read, here’s a link: http://tinyurl.com/yjq83tn

    The article argues, however, that certain aspects of the American political system are compromising the dynamism that characterises the nation and makes it resistant to changing circumstances. This,I think, is what your president meant when he recently talked about the 'numbing' weight of politics and modern obstacles to reform.

    One small thing: You say Europe’s dominance ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, etc. I'd put the date almost half a century earlier, i.e. the end of WWII in 1945. The War devastated and bankrupted most European nations (including Russia), leaving the US in a remarkable position of strength... and control over well over half the world’s economic product!

  3. @MP:

    Europe needs America far more than it likes to admit, and far more than America needs Europe. Yet, I’m afraid that, if Europe fails to timely adapt to the needs of the present time—in terms of culture, identity, values, but also in terms of economic, political, and military policies—and to achieve a common view on the future, then the US will follow. That’s also why all of us, Europeans and Americans, need to be cooperative with each other, I mean, we need to find the right balance between being cooperative and being independent, no matter how much this may offend our collective egos…

    P.S. Great post!