Why global hegemony was the worst thing to happen to America


Do we need another 672 million people in this country? That’s the argument advanced in Matt Yglesias’s new book One Billion Americans. By accepting a great many more immigrants, and increasing the birthrate with pro-family policy, we might roughly triple our population.

The billion-person mark is basically a loose framing device for a discussion of several of the Vox writer’s favored policies: upzoning cities to allow more housing construction, more public transit, congestion pricing, Matt Bruenig’s Family Fun Pack, and so on.

One might quibble here or there with Yglesias’ agenda, but the individual elements are defensible on their own terms. (Immigration reform and family policy are particularly welcome.) However, they also don’t require a billion people to be worthwhile. No, the actual justification for that particular population mark is mainly nationalist. China is coming back into its own after two centuries of recovering from colonialist meddling, and “against China, we are the little dog: There are more than one billion of them to about 330 million of us,” he writes in an excerpt. “America should aspire to be the greatest nation on Earth.”

I disagree. America’s status as global hegemon has been devastating for both ourselves and the world. It is high time the U.S. accustomed itself to normal country status — a great power to be sure, but no longer drastically more powerful than any other. The rise of China as the first peer nation we have had in decades just possibly might remind America of the value of diplomacy, international institutions, and minding our own business.

Now, as I have written before, Yglesias is correct to note that China is a menacing country. It’s a ruthless dictatorship in the midst of a horrifying ethnic cleansing campaign against its Uighur minority that may well count as genocide. It is slowly crushing a peaceful pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. It runs an incredibly pervasive surveillance system. It is constantly bullying its smaller neighbors, particularly Taiwan. Its “Belt and Road” and other initiatives are clearly aimed at establishing a kind of economic empire by roping dozens of poorer nations into a relationship of dependency on Beijing (in a way familiar to students of the British Empire).

However, America remaining physically the most powerful single country is not the most important factor in whether China will be able to dominate the globe in future, or continue to roast the biosphere with greenhouse gases. (It currently emits twice what the U.S. does.) China is a nuclear-armed power, so physical might has only limited influence on it anyway. What matters is the political character of China’s closest competitors — namely the U.S., the E.U., and India — plus the functioning of the global economy, and the broader diplomatic context.

Absent some kind of disaster, just the historically close bloc of Western Europe and the U.S. could provide an effective counterweight to China for the rest of the century at least. Unfortunately, America has spent the last two decades tearing …read more

Source:: The Week – World


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