The decline of the United States

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By PAULO NOGUEIRA BATISTA JR.*

The decline of the United States is inevitable, despite the country's resistance. However, as in Greek tragedies, resistance to destiny does nothing more than accelerate its fulfillment.

Today I want to deal with a long-term topic, of a “structural” nature, so to speak. I am referring to the decline of the West, more specifically its main part – the decline of the United States, the superpower that until recently dominated the planet. This decline has several dimensions and appears to be inexorable. However, the United States, its allies and satellites resist accepting it, resisting it systematically and fiercely. As in Greek tragedies, resistance to destiny does nothing more than accelerate its fulfillment.

Accustomed, for several centuries, to calling the shots, dictating rules and imposing their will, Americans and Europeans do everything they can to deny reality, even though it is objective and implacable. The year after year drop in the relative weight of the USA and co. in demographic and economic terms it is clear and crystalline. The population of high-income countries accounts for just 15% of the world's population and tends to continue falling. China's economy has been larger than that of the United States for some time, in terms of purchasing power parity (the most correct way to make international comparisons).

In China, the USA finds its greatest rival, more threatening than other rivals it has faced in other times. The Soviet Union was a military rival, but not an economic one. Japan was an economic rival, but not a military one. China is both things at the same time.

The Chinese, for many years, proclaimed the hope that their rise could be peaceful. I don't know if they really believed it – the Chinese are very secretive – but they proclaimed the mantra of their “peaceful rise” all the time. This hope was shattered during the Trump period. It has become evident that the US is willing to block and harm China's development, even if this may harm its short-term economic interests. The watchword is to obstruct, if possible suffocate, China's economic and political expansion. Joe Biden maintained this policy, even deepening it.

The results have been poor. China's economy has seen some slowdown, in part because of the economic sanctions imposed by the US, but it continues to grow more than Western countries and more than the world average. Reflecting its growing economic power, China is growing politically and is present in all areas of the world, including the Western Hemisphere. The US struggles, but is unable to stop the Chinese wave.

And they make major mistakes, which accelerate their economic and political decline. The main one was starting another major confrontation – with Russia, over Ukraine. Overestimating their strengths and capabilities, the Americans believed themselves capable of confronting China and Russia simultaneously. Russia and China have the upper hand so far. Furthermore, American hostility brought Russians and Chinese closer together than ever before.

These confrontations have led the US to extreme measures, including the militarization of the dollar and the Western financial system to severely punish hostile countries. The culmination of this militarization was the freezing of around US$300 billion of Russia's international reserves in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. An important shock for Russia, but also for the dollar. Confidence in the American currency and the Western financial system suffered, already shaken by measures of the same type adopted against other countries. The USA, irony of history, proves to be the dollar's worst enemies.

The decline of the USA has a specifically political dimension, which appears in the low quality of its leaders, the dysfunctionality of its political system and the disbelief of a large part of the population in elections and institutions. No one escapes the fact that money rules. Democracy has become plutocracy. More serious: in kakistocracy the government of the worst. Any questions? Just look at who was president of the greatest power on the planet in recent times: George W. Bush (elected not once, but twice), Donald Trump (elected once, perhaps a second time in 2024) and Joe Biden. Impressive succession of mediocrities.

To complete the adverse picture, the US bears the immense political loss of supporting Israel's criminal behavior in the Gaza Strip. Even registered satellites hesitate a little in accompanying the Americans in this disastrous and costly undertaking. Why is the US willing to incur this extraordinary cost? Basically because of another old dysfunctionality of American plutocracy: the strength of LOBBY Israeli policy, which has long led US foreign policy to be subordinated to Israeli policy. Now, as Israel goes all-out, the US pays much of the price. The Western discourse in defense of human values ​​and rights has never been so demoralized.

In one sentence: loss of US economic, demographic and political expression; China, Russia and Israel; weak and unprepared American leadership. Perfect storm. Bye, bye, Uncle Sam. The US has a lot of resources and the farewell will be long, but it has already begun.

It should not be ruled out that the US and its allies may still be able to react to these unfavorable trends and events. They are always trying and use all resources, including violence. Superpowers are most dangerous, reader, when they decline. But it is difficult to imagine that the historical trend can be reversed. Americans, allies and satellites will continue to fight, but their fate seems to be set.

*Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. is an economist. He was vice-president of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS. Author, among other books, of Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard (LeYa) [https://amzn.to/44KpUfp]

Extended version of article published in the journal Capital letter, on January 26, 2024.


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