Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Next Power

One of my favorite speculations since the end of what Walter Lippmann famously called the American Century concerns the country that will "own" the 21st century. In my last post I proposed the European Union.

Naturally, a European was the first to doubt it. China worried her, as she gave voice to the terror of yore concerning what my parents' generation called the "yellow peril." At the beginning of this decade I thought this would be the Chinese century, too. After all, even now the Chinese are upset their GDP growth slowed to a positive 9 percent last year, poor darlings.

Yet, in the end, modern China is really a bustling coastal shell with a huge very underdeveloped, very poor, very backward inland core. Good luck with that.

And let's not worry about Inja, shall we? India will undo itself. How long can a modernizing country sustain a socioeconomic canyon bolstered by ancient prejudices before it all explodes or the country enters what Marx eurocentrically called "the Asiatic mode of production"?

That leaves the EU, with a landmass about half the size of the United States and a population about one and a half as large, composed almost entirely of skilled workers. Their natural resources include arable land, bauxite, coal, copper, fish, hydropower, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, potash, salt, timber, uranium and zinc.

Who can beat Italian shoes, French wines, German engineering, Spanish olives, skilled and cheap Eastern European labor and British bullshit?

Moreover, because of their 20th century experience of self-annihilation (and their similar history in the 19th and 18th and ...), the Europeans have finally learned the wisdom of nonpower and the prowess of nonmilitary leadership. Who but the Europeans to usher in the eventual EU to end all EUs, the Earth Union?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the 21st century, the European Century.


Geneviève said...

But, why would we need a winner?

Joan said...

I would like to think you are right, but what of the wealthy Arab states who have both resources and increasingly an educated workforce? They are capable of collective action, should they wish.

Cecilieaux said...

You Europeans are a pain in the butt. I take it all back. This will be the second American century ... ;-)

OK, now seriously ...

G: Not a "winner" ... a leader.

J: Once oil is gone the Arabs will be back to roaming in their camels. Nothing has been done to prevent that from happening.

Geneviève said...

OK. Therefore, why would we need a ... leader? Do you think that human nature needs leaders and followers in economy? (I guess your "American century" was in the economy's field, right? - I mean wealth essentially)

Cecilieaux said...

Human society requires some organizing principle and someone or some institution to do the organizing. That applies to every aspect of life. The American century -- it was Henry Luce, not Lippman ... my bad -- was not just about the economy.

He wrote:

Throughout the 17th century and the 18th century and the 19th century, this continent teemed with manifold projects and magnificent purposes. Above them all and weaving them all together into the most exciting flag of all the world and of all history was the triumphal purpose of freedom.

It is in this spirit that all of us are called, each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision, to create the first great American Century.