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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, February 29, 2024

The End of the World Has Just Begun: America sheltered from the storm


As is likely evident from my prior articles, I reject the oft-stated predictions of the decline of American power. In fact, I believe American primacy will remain a fact of international affairs, and not just because many other nations may soon see their gains from globalization wiped out.

The last half decade of domestic politics in the United States has been a circus, with politics becoming increasingly existential, as I’ve previously described. Complaints on both sides of the political aisle, however, may be mostly symptomatic of a wider pathogen in American politics. 

Geopolitical forecaster George Friedman has theorized that America runs on two concurrent cycles, one 80-year institutional cycle and a 50-year socioeconomic one. The most recent institutional cycle began in the Second World War, with FDR’s administration ushering a government of experts — many members of his infamous Brain Trust were experts drawn from universities, setting the tone for a model of government that led to CDC promotion being based on a number of academic papers rather than public health impact, which the current director is trying to change in the wake of a disastrous COVID-19 pandemic response.  

Meanwhile, the most recent economic cycle began with the Reagan administration’s neoliberal policies, which at first caused immense economic growth, but have been linked to skyrocketing economic inequality. For example, CEOs of the largest public firms are now paid about 350 times more than workers on average. 

Admittedly, the two cycles that are converging this decade do not bode well. This is especially true since each institutional cycle ended with a war — the first in the Civil War and the second in World War II — and each socioeconomic cycle ended in a period of mass social unrest, most recently in the ‘70s, a decade of labor-led protests. However, if the past is prologue, the United States will get through this period of discontentment as well.

Meanwhile, geopolitical challenges faced by the United States across the next few decades pale in comparison to what threatens the rest of the current global order. This is first because the United States has remarkably stable population demographics. As I’ve hinted, this demographic makeup allows for consumption-led economic activity to thrive.

Beyond demographics, the United States is almost entirely resource self-sufficient and has otherwise struck deals to make up for any gaps. Geographically, the United States is practically condemned to success. The greater Midwest is one of the most agriculturally productive areas in the world. In a deglobalized world, the United States would be able to grow the majority of its agriculture, even if this could mean more food inflation. And the shale revolution has resulted in increasing levels of energy independence, despite what some may claim about President Biden’s policies destroying it.

We are already seeing the extent to which U.S. economic might is truly resilient in a time of crisis. Manufacturing is already returning to the Midwest following the breakdown of global supply chains, with companies like Intel reshoring and building new semiconductor fabs in the U.S. 

Geopolitical uncertainty will continue to drive reshoring, as challenges like a possible Taiwan invasion drive companies to return to shorter and more secure supply chains. And the other regions of America are unlikely to suffer economically either. The Northeast’s role as a leading educational hub, for instance, is unlikely to be disturbed. In 2021, according to the Niche ranking of U.S. universities, five of the top 10 schools were in New England. Meanwhile, areas in the Sunbelt are all facing manufacturing and energy sector booms that will strengthen the American economy. 

While the unipolar moment may be over, the age of American primacy certainly is not. But even with that said, current and future administrations must do more to encourage continued economic growth and security. Some of the regulations of the last few decades could be done away with in areas like nuclear energy, where permitting takes up to five years, holding back the development of new nuclear technologies, or with the Jones Act, which has imposed needless costs on shipbuilding. Additionally, research and development must continue to be promoted with renewable energies like solar, the main storage systems of which are highly inefficient. By further developing its economic strength, the United States can prepare for an era of global chaos and pave the way for a brighter future on the other side.