Even so, the United States is still the world’s only superpower, and so it will remain for the foreseeable future. Its economy is more than twice the size of second-place China’s. Only America can project military power in every region of the globe: It has a military presence in more than three-quarters of the world’s countries and spends more each year on defense than the next 17 nations combined. This security role lets Europe and Japan spend less on defense and more on other priorities. The U.S. Navy safeguards important trade routes, enabling global commerce, while American aid bolsters poor and disaster-stricken states.
2. America’s economic future is bleak.
Part of the reason the United States is less willing to engage abroad is because it has its hands full with economic concerns at home: spiraling federal debt, high unemployment, lower wages and a growing disparity of wealth.
But while the U.S. economic outlook may not shine as bright as it once did, it is hardly grim. America’s higher education system is unparalleled, with a record 725,000 foreign students enrolled at U.S. universities last year. No country has a greater capacity for technological breakthroughs: The United States is the destination of choice for aspiring entrepreneurs, it’s the research and development center of the world, and Silicon Valley’s start-ups and venture capitalism are exemplary.
On energy, innovation in unconventional oil and gas resources has been the biggest game-changer of the past decade, with U.S.-based companies leading the charge. The United States is now the largest natural gas producer in the world. It is also the world’s largest food exporter, giving America some leverage against food price shocks or shortages.
Demographically, the United States is better off than other large economies. The U.S. population is expected to rise by more than 100 million by 2050, and the labor force should grow by 40 percent. Compare that with Europe, where the population is slated to shrink by as much as 100 million people over the same span, or to China, where the labor force is already contracting.
3. America’s political system is broken.
Gridlock in Washington makes all of America’s problems seem even more intractable. Many believe that Congress is too divided to ever pass meaningful legislation again. But let’s not forget that the first two years of the Obama administration saw more significant legislation passed — such as the stimulus, the health-care overhaul and the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reforms — than any period since the mid-1960s. Whether or not you like the direction in which Obama took the country, the system is hardly broken.