Tuesday, October 31, 2006
America's Middle Class Has Become Globalization's Loser
A superpower declining
By Gabor Steingart
At the beginning of the 21st century, the United States is still a superpower. But it's a superpower facing competition from beyond its borders as well as internal difficulties. Its lower and middle classes are turning out to be the losers of globalization.
There are essentially three exclusive characteristics whose simultaneous development have served as the foundations of the United States's success up until now -- and they only appear in this particular combination in America. They are not only the country's biggest strengths, but also its greatest weaknesses. It's worth scrutinizing them more closely.
First, nowhere in the world can you find such a high concentration of optimism and daring. America is the country that strives hardest for what is new -- not just since yesterday (like Eastern Europeans) and not just for the last three decades (like the Chinese); rather from the very instant settlers began arriving. Unabashed curiosity seems to be hardwired into the nation's genetic code.
The steady influx of the adventurous and hard-working -- which helped increase the country's labor force by about 44 million people since 1980 alone and continues today -- ensures a constant replenishment of daring. After all, it's not just the additional people that make the difference. The mere addition of 17 million people into Germany following reunification in 1990 - newcomers more concerned with preserving their guaranteed rights than with making the extraordinary effort necessary for success - did nothing to foster the kind of daring you see in the United States. Indeed, the result was exactly the opposite, and it has been a painful lesson for Germany.