April 28, 2011
Here’s an offer: Make a few simple sacrifices, and your annual
income will double.
You’ll give up the right to own guns. Internet access won’t be
eliminated, but controlled by politicians and bureaucrats who deem what content
is “appropriate.” Due process, trial by jury, guaranteed legal representation? They’ll
have to go, as well as your ability to “throw the bums out” (and put new bums
in) every election day. You’ll be allowed to procreate, but the government will
determine how many times. Finally, religious activities are permitted, but only
if they do “not
infringe upon the interests of the state.”
So, are you willing to make the switch?
Probably not, and it’s isn’t a real offer, of course. But it is
a useful thought experiment to run at a time of scaremongering over China’s
Since the Soviets’ development of nuclear weapons, the “bomber
gap,” the “missile gap,” and Yuri Gagarin, the fear that we may no longer be
“#1” has gripped effete elites and red-blooded commoners alike. The American
Century was barely at its midpoint when the U.S.S.R. forever crippled the cocksure
attitude that the Land of the Free was, and always would be, the best in everything.
In time, the Soviet Union would be exposed as little more than a
Third World gangster state with nukes and a
space program. But by then, our military/technological inferiority complex had
given way to persistent economic hand-wringing. In the 1970s, OPEC assumed a
villainous role. (The cartel’s currently making a bit of a comeback.) Then came
Japan, which had a lengthy tenure
as the inevitable, imminent destructor of U.S. dominance. Two rather miserable
decades in the Land of the Rising Sun have debunked consultant
Sheridan M. Tatsuno’s 1990 description of the Japanese as “the ‘new Americans’
-- pioneering at the edge, fueled by their self-confidence and enormous
Today, the “enemy” is China. A
plurality of the population believe that it is “the world’s leading economic
International Monetary Fund’s finding that the “Age of America” will end in
2016 surely compounded such ignorance.
Lucid voices are doing the spadework needed to refute the notion
will soon bestride the world as its economic colossus. According to Investor’s
Business Daily, “Per-capita GDP in the U.S. is $42,517 in 2005 dollars. In
it's about $2,802. Even by 2030, China
doesn’t get close to U.S.
per-person output, not even at current growth rates.”
Foundation weighed in with some revealing trade data: “China is the world’s second-largest
oil importer, the biggest coal importer, the biggest soybean importer, and
accounts for two-thirds of global iron ore trade by itself. The same kind of
results hold for many metals, and corn could be next.”
Good points. But seen from a larger perspective, metrics like economic
growth and resource “dependence” are no more determinative of a nation’s true condition
that its inventory of ICBMs.
It’s for good reason that the founding documents of the United States
are bereft of references to agricultural production, stock markets, luxury
goods, and globe-spanning military might. The United States is an adventure in self-determination,
not a technocracy charged with keeping up with the planet’s Joneses.
At a time when NASA had put just four men
in orbit, William F. Buckley wandered off the neoconservative reservation,
and advised the Kennedy administration to abandon the “space race.” The founder
of National Review recommended that
the White House tell the Kremlin: “Very well, you have reached the moon, but
meanwhile here in America
we have been trying, however clumsily, to spread freedom and justice.”
What was true during the
my-aerospace-socialism-can-beat-your-aerospace-socialism spectacle of the 1960s
is true of the country’s challenges in a globalized economy in 2011. It’s not affluence,
nor nifty consumer electronics, nor a peerless military-industrial complex that
makes our nation singular. It’s liberty. And liberty is the answer to undeniably
severe tax, spending, regulatory, and monetary problems.
Get over the fact that China
might one day have a larger economy than America’s. Let Japan and South Korea be proud of their
faster Internet connections. And Europeans will probably continue to work fewer
hours and weigh less than stressed-out, donut-scarfing Yankees.
A stellar standard of living, conveniences too numerous to
count, and firearm ownership so widespread that it makes us immune from
invasion and occupation are ancillary products of a society founded on limited
government and the sovereignty of the individual. Preserve that foundation, and
what foreigners do -- grow wealthy, wallow in stagnation, or butcher each other
-- is of no importance.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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