The United States is already in steep decline. At least that’s the sense that Russia Today (RT), the Kremlin’s official voice in the West through the Internet, wants to convey.
More than propaganda, is it true? After all, every hegemonic power will someday see its end. France, which had a magnificent 18th century, or Spain and Turkey, which reigned in the 16th and 17th centuries, are now shadows of what they once were.
Presumably, within five years, the English army will be no more numerous than the New York City police force. The United Kingdom, which was the major world power in the 19th century, is progressively shrinking, decade after decade, and it’s possible that it will disunite and lose Scotland.
How can you judge the strength of a society, including the state that is divided by it?
In my opinion, the major factor that you must take into account is the psychological profile of the majority of the people that make it up. The greatness or insignificance of every society depends on the perceptions, beliefs, values and attitudes of the people that compose it.
In the United States, according to surveys and simple observations, individuals freely and voluntarily support whichever fundamental option of liberal democracy they choose (Democrats, Republicans or Libertarians).
The extremist or collectivist candidates to the right or the left of this political spectrum – and they do exist – do not receive even the slightest popular endorsement.
Society, justifiably, complains bitterly about Congress and suspects the politicians, but it doesn’t attribute the shortcomings to the republican system consecrated in the Constitution of 1787, but rather to the people who run it. Those people are replaced every so often in periodic elections.
This renewal strengthens the institutions and creates an extremely high level of reliability and trust. Almost no one in the United States fears a sudden, unexpected future. On the horizon, they see laws and regulatory changes, not revolutions.
This predictable, stable characteristic of the United States has enabled the country to develop modestly, but constantly, with an annual average rate of 2 percent growth since it elected George Washington as the first president in 1789.
That factor, propelled by compound interest and the energy generated by achieving the “American dream,” have triggered steady growth in which millions of immigrants, entrepreneurs and dreamers of all types have been included.
There have been crises, bubbles and setbacks, but the nation grew from its humble origins to become a major economic power at the end of the 19th century.
Half a century later in 1945, when World War II ended, it had become the leading economic power, followed closely by the USSR in military strength.
The census of 1790 counted a total of 4 million residents located in the 13 ex-British colonies; now, in 2015, there are 320 million. (Along the journey, it must be said, through legitimate land purchases, forced acquisitions and plundering, the territory grew from 2,310,629 square kilometers to 9,526,091 square kilometers).
No fewer than 15 consecutive generations of growing quotas of freedom, uninterrupted work, accumulation of capital and legally protected investments, all of it rooted in the British world view and in a good legal system, have given rise to the constant creation of wealth, despite stretches hindered by crisis that, in the end, are always overcome.
The key, astonishing fact is this: That U.S. society has multiplied its extremely hegemonic population 80 times, with the smallest interruptions, except in the bloody Civil War from 1861 to 1865, while gradually bettering living conditions for almost everyone.
In that period, the United States not only made a huge demographic leap, but it also built the best universities in the world, the most powerful armed forces, the most creative and advanced centers of scientific and technical research and the most developed business network.
How long will this uncontrollable hegemony last? I return to the beginning of this essay: As long as people believe in the system, find space to develop their dreams, receive moral incentives and notice a reasonable material reward for their efforts, then the United States will continue its triumphant march through history.
If, at some point, the process goes off-track, and the people stop positively evaluating the system they live in, if they no longer find it suitable and try to violently substitute it for another, then the decline will begin. Humans are not what they eat, but rather what they believe.