Monday, November 12, 2007

10 ways to avert the end of the American Empire

I have often been criticized for being anti-American, but that is an inaccurate portrayal of my points of view. I am highly critical of the United States because I expect more from it. As a citizen of the United States, I too have a stake in it's future and I do not want harm to come to it. For that reason I am offering here ten ways in which the United States can avert a fall from grace as a global superpower.

1) Rapidly privatize space exploration and travel: Space exploration has been a major driver of new technology development, from computers to medicine, but American leadership in this field is eroding fast. In the past 10 years the number of space faring nations has risen to 11, counting the European Space Agency as one. In the next few years Brazil and Kazakstan (which inherited the development and launch facilities of the former USSR) will inaugurate their own programs, and reaching the moon is the next logical goal. In order to out-do the investment potential of countries like India and China, the US must involve private industry to commercialize the endeavor. But it isn't just money, it's human resources that matter and command economies like China can place their best in research and development while the US cannot do so. Commercializing the space industry will draw the broadest possible net to make use of America's top scientists and engineers, as well as those from other countries, to ensure leadership.

2) Export the American population: Cultural exchanges are an old time proven method of bettering economic and political ties, but Americans do not travel often enough outside the country to reap the benefits. The Federal government should encourage travel and relocation of Americans to other countries, to live, work and study. Not mere tourism, but actual resettlement. Americans would be surprised to know that there are already American neighborhoods in many countries around the world and on every continent. This project would actually be similar to how the American population expanded across the continent throughout the 1800s. Doing this would not only increase American exports around the world but would facilitate diplomacy, and rapidly spread American concepts. Let's say that 10% of the population is willing at one point or another in their life to live in a foreign country for ten years, that means that at any one point in time there could be 30 million Americans living abroad, teaching others about American culture. No other international relations program in the world could compare.

3) Invest in infrastructure: Since the 1950's very little investment has gone into public infrastructure, beyond maintenance. In fact, other than Boston's Big Dig no major public works have been initiated, but mass mobility of the population remains important for a healthy economy. A major investment into interstate high speed trains and municipal public transportation will help facilitate mobility. From an economic point of view it will help alleviate the turns of the business cycle as people looking for employment will be better able to reach corporations with available jobs, by facilitating relocation, while also reducing the need for it. To make an analogy the US today is like New York without its subway system. There's simply no good reason why I cannot travel from New York to Chicago or Washington DC, without wasting so much time with airports, when it could be as easy as stepping into the subway.

4) Redesign the educational system and provide funding for it: Perhaps the greatest problem with the educational system is that it is wholly outdated. The current system was designed in the 1800s for an agricultural country and last updated at the turn of the century to aid industrialization. In other words, we have a system designed for kids to be able to return to the farm or work at a factory after school. Neither of these models represents modern American society. A look at the worlds top educational systems we find Finland and Japan both of which not only have longer school days but more of them. Essentially, by the time these students graduate they have 30 to 40% more schooling than American students and can speak on average 2.5 foreign languages other than their native language. In an information economy like the one developing globally, those students will not only be more successful, but also more adaptable to changing market conditions. In other words, if the US is going to be successful in the 21st century, it should educated its children for it. Oh, and as far as bringing religion to the schools, as some groups are lobbying for, the day they can charge a cellphone by prayer or turn polluted water into drinking water at the calling of miracles, then you can teach religion in schools, until then keep faith out of the science classroom.

5) Fund & organize 'Manhattan Project' for solar energy: Solar energy is the 'Holy Grail' of renewable energy resources, after cold fusion. While much of the knowledge is already there, the technology is still expensive and too inefficient for a mass consumer market. It is, nevertheless, extremely safe, and essentially limitless with billions of years before it runs out. Much like the efforts that brought atomic power to hands of mortal men from theory into reality in a short handful of years, a similar effort should be undertaken to bring some of the greatest minds to work on the development and popularization of solar power.

6) Encourage entrepreneurship through small business NYSE: Stock exchanges like the NYSE and Nasdaq are very important to the economy as they facilitate investment and reward corporate efficiency. Small businesses however are the driving force of the economy yet they are excluded from that important piece. A small business stock exchange, regional in nature perhaps, could help draw foreign and domestic investment to entrepreneurs who otherwise find it difficult to compete in a global market. Such exchanges would also help to diversify the business climate further and reduce the need for small business loans that can cripple the credit worthiness of a business. More independent businesses means greater economic activity and stability.

7) End the Cuban embargo: There are 11 million people sitting 90 miles away who would like to buy everything from a hamburger to iPods and cars and the only thing stopping them is a misguided policy that mistrusts the very capitalist system it espouses. The free market system is not perfect but it is a democratizing tool and if the US really wants to bring democracy to Cuba that is the fastest way to do it. Besides, just like China and Vietnam, Cuba has sought to change its economy to a free-market-like system, but unlike those other communist countries, the embargo on Cuba makes it impossible. It also impoverishes the US by denying American corporations of such an entrepreneurial consumer base, that by sheer geographic proximity would be wholly dominated by American products. The embargo also has a graver cost in terms of American credibility around the world as it makes the US look weak and fearful of Cuba, not to mention inhumane and capricious in policy.

8) Encourage urban agriculture: While farming is still a part of American life, the agriculture industry is dominated by a corporate superstructure and an inefficient transportation system. So despite the fact that most Americans do not know what a famine is, food security is a real issue. If freight transportation should come to a halt, be it by a labor strike or terrorism, urban centers would have less than one week's worth of food. This is a major catastrophe waiting to happen, and one for which no counter measure has been developed. Urban agriculture, like the victory gardens of WWII, could become a primary solution if developed prior to such a crisis. Urban agriculture could provide a new source of income for urban populations, diversify the food supply, and maintain a buffer against corporate upheavals in the industry.

9) Encourage development of an African Common Market: Africa is the world's most underdeveloped and forgotten market. That means that its importance will increase over the next few decades as the only real growth sector of the global economy. With 900 million people and the majority of the continent's population under the age of 25, Africa is largely untapped and under appreciated. Proximity to Europe and the Chinese economic expansion have however severely curtailed the influence of the American dollar since the last decade. In order to change this, it is important to first help Africa adopt a common market which could create a common currency, create a commodities market and integrate its banking system. One of the problems in Africa has been the fact that all of its countries are pitted against each other in the global economy. A common African market would lift all while protecting the continent's trade from problems in an individual country. An analogy is the impact the Euro has had in Europe, where the economic troubles of one country are absorbed by the rest while maintaining a collective trend in the positive end. Similar efforts are now taking place in Latin America and Asia. A common market would stabilize Africa, encourage democracy, and in effect allow it to deal with its domestic problems more efficiently. If the US wants to remain relevant in tomorrows most promising market, it should invest some time and money into this endeavor today unless it doesn't want 900 million new consumers.

10) Do not go to war against Iran: Imperial overstretch is a real concept proven by history and vastly ignored by most Americans. Part of the problem is that most Americans have such a simplistic view of the world that they are unable to see themselves as an empire; suggestions 2-9 in this article should help to change that. Most Americans fail to understand the dynamics of geopolitical strategy. Back when the population was smaller in the 1890s a greater proportion of the population understood that simply because the US was not a superpower and because those American's had the privilege of observing the British, French, and German Empires be empires. But Americans today live in a world where they believe America has been the greatest of powers since the revolution was won. That perspective robs Americans from understanding how easily a superpower can be demoted from its perch. Imperial overstretch is one way in which this happens. The privilege, in fact, of being an empire is to be able to flex one's muscle when needed with little risk. Unfortunately that risk is a variable that cannot be fully accounted for and empires which fail to calculate that risk appropriately are said to have "overstretched" themselves. When this occurs to one empire it provides an advantage to others. In a world where China, Russia, India, the European Union, and Brazil are all playing the game of empire, the US needs to really calculate the risks involved in a war against Iran or any other country. Some would argue that the US is already overstretched with Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the other empires are definitely testing the new boundaries of the American empire. If this is true, Iran will be played appropriately by Europe, and Russia to their benefit, while China, India, and Brazil all place their bets.

The best analysis's say a war against Iran will further raise the cost of oil, increase the national debt, and diminish military capacity for about a decade to come. All this, while further alienating our relations abroad, reducing American political influence, while reducing consumption of American exports. And still, there is the other problem of regional instability in the middle east, which will only be deepened by war against Iran.

Essentially, the best thing the US could do today to remain the hegemon on this planet is to make sure that it does not go to war until the mess in Iraq has been cleaned up, or until it has truly and appropriately calculated the risk involved in such a war and if those risks are worth it.

**These are my suggestions, they are worth as much as yours, but maybe someone in the NSA is reading this too and looking for ideas.


Catholic Sunni Shia said...

11) Free Palestine

Michael A. Deliz said...

True, Free Puerto Rico too, but I know better than to expect decolonization from an empire.

Solidaridad con Palestina, Siempre!

Catholic Sunni Shia said...

Oh I don't have those expectations either, I just thought it needed to be said.


Rodrigo said...

good job driving them out of Vieques.. guess where us navy was received with open arms... Dominican Republic.. let the bombing begin..