Yesterday I heard on the Situation Room on CNN that the past decade has seen a tremendous economic decline of the US. The U.S. GDP’s stake in the global economy shrunk from 32% to 24% in the past decade. That is the worst decline of any nation except for the collapse of the Soviet Union, they said. Which brings to mind that the same professor who accurately predicted that the Soviet Union would collapse also has predicted that the US global empire will collapse. He moved up the year when G.W. Bush became president, to in the middle of the decade that is now starting.
When I moved to the US in 2002 I was surprised to find a country that was almost obsolete in terms of technology compared to Europe (GSM and SMS had almost no penetration, for instance), and which was very inefficient in many aspects in terms of how basic everyday things are done. Several sectors are totally dysfunctional in comparison to Europe, banking and health insurance being by far the worst. There seems to be no functioning competition (I later learned that health insurance as a business sector is actually allowed to fix prices by law, but they have no law that requires them to provide insurance). Also the government bureaucracy is inefficient. In comparison, Sweden – with a government bureaucracy that is known to be meticulous – appears as a miracle of speed and simplicity. While in Sweden you typically can file your taxes on a GSM mobile phone, in the U.S. it typically requires the assistance of a paid professional.
What shocked me was the discordance. At the same time as the U.S. had a GDP per capita that was one third higher than any other country, they seemed to be at least one third less efficient at what they were doing. Most things in the stores were imported from China, and the U.S. didn’t produce much that the rest of the world wanted to buy. Their insistence on using their own measurement system instead of the metric system pretty much disqualified their products from any application in which they have to be interfaced to anything else, or to be repaired abroad – a disadvantage that pretty much affects all manufactured goods. The Chinese have solved this by making a unique U.S. version for export using the U.S. measurement system instead of the metric one, but here in the U.S. it is so hard and costly to find metric raw materials for producing metric products for export, that it becomes totally impossible to produce items for export at competitive prices (keep in mind that the costs here already are the highest, even without this handicap).
Already in 2002 I thus predicted that the U.S. economy would collapse, for lack of competitiveness. Unfortunately, rather than realizing the situation and changing with the times, the Americans have been told by their leaders and media that the U.S. is the best country in the world. The impression they have got is that they are the best, and that they have something to teach the rest of the world rather than learn from it. And so the downfall has become inevitable.
The solution is of course to fix the systemic problems that caused this in the first time, as I have said to anybody who has cared to listen since 2002: Regulate banks so they have to provide good and timely services at a reasonable price, and ban immoral practices that are hurting the economy; regulate the health insurance so that every legal resident has access to health care, no exceptions, and so that everyone who is able to pitches in to pay for it; streamline the government, make different branches cooperate directly with each other, remove private consultants and build the competence within the government instead, and drastically reduce the number of politically appointed persons in favor of staff hired based on competence; switch to the metric system not just on paper but in reality as well; and finally, stop destroying money and other countries alike by wasting trillions on the military, and invest money instead in educating the young Americans, with free education all the way up to college level.
Those are 5 areas of action that I believe are essential for turning the country around. It includes giving up the Empire. The Bush notion that the U.S. can be a global empire has to be abandoned. It is possible for a time, but the price is that after this limited time, the homeland will be destroyed financially, and it will take a hundred years to come back. This is not guesswork, it is just a matter of using empirical data from history. The U.S. is far from the first country to try to turn into an almighty empire. It always ends the same way, even if the details differ.
The only thing that can keep the U.S. ahead is brains. The first step is to become aware of the reality. Given the horribly inadequate news reporting in the U.S. one might be tempted to conclude that the underlying reason for the collapse is the collapse of the TV News in America, which happened about two decades ago as a result of president Reagan’s deregulation. So to the list can be added to create a tax-funded TV and radio News service that is totally free from any advertising and sponsoring money, and that has to be un-biased and objective, with some sort of oversight and complaints system. NPR and PBS today are total jokes.
Can this be done? Yes, definitely. Will it be done? No, I don’t think so, because there is no political will, and no political possibility, due to the way the U.S. constitution is written. Ultimately, I believe the U.S. needs a constitutional reform that changes the form of government to a parliamentarian republic, with a prime minister alongside the president, and with proportional representation. Only by strengthening democracy in such a way do I think it is possible to defeat the powerful special interests that have now shot themselves in the foot so badly.