Sunday, April 27, 2008

If You Read Only One Article Today,
We Would Humbly Suggest This One

For at least 20 years, since analysts nervously predicted the imminent eclipse of America's world dominance by the juggernaut that was then Japan, we've been treated to a series of learned books and articles about how America's global dominance would soon come to an end. But I can't recall a better, more nuanced exploration of this subject, ever, than this wonderful piece by Fareed Zakaria, in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. Excerpted from his soon-to-be published book, it brilliantly explores the pluses and minuses of America's chances of remaining the world's pre-eminent power in coming decades.

I think he makes a persuasive case that America's steady flow of immigrants and continuing pre-eminence in higher education and such foundational sectors as nanotechnology and biotechnology suggest that the country can maintain its global edge for decades. But he does rightly worry about how our "dysfunctional politics" keeps us from making relatively modest course corrections. "As it enters the twenty-first century, the United States is not fundamentally a weak economy or a decadent society. But it has developed a highly dysfunctional politics. What was an antiquated and overly rigid political system to begin with (now about 225 years old) has been captured by money, special interests, a sensationalist media, and ideological attack groups. The result is ceaseless, virulent debate about trivia -- politics as theater -- and very little substance, compromise, or action. A can-do country is now saddled with a do-nothing political process, designed for partisan battle rather than problem solving."

In any case, I look forward to your thoughts.


At 4:29 PM, Anonymous Jo said...

You did not mention that if we read this article we may not have the TIME to read any others today! However, Zakaria's article was a wise investment of time for me. The issue at hand is at least on the radar screen of concerns for most Americans,and Fareed Zakaria builds his case clearly AND with hope. This was truly an artful deliberation considering history, current events, well done research, forecasting, and commentary. Artistically, his use of the powerful image of "tectonic shifts" in history was masterful.

I DO wonder if his book goes into more detail about constructive directions for our political system, and if he puts more flesh on the skeleton of ideas he begins discussing towards the end of the article. The US DOES need to address ways it has isolated itself from "global standards" and his example of the metric system rejection was a particularly apt one. If this article is any indication (and I'm sure it is), the book will be not only informative, but constructive as well.

Thank you for another excellent link. It is inconceivable to me the amount of time you must spend to find such a wide variety of offerings for your blog. I suppose if I came to one of your lectures I would know this, but besides the regular things you say most writers "check out," do you "run across" a lot of this doing research for your own writing, through other links, as you read following your own curiousities for the sheer pleasure of it all, or all of the above? (not to mention other options I probably neglected)

Either way, I hope you get outside to play a little today too. :)

At 9:10 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Yes, it's all of the above. But mostly, just a result of feeding my hungry mind. And as to how it relates to my writing, that's easy. Reading is the inhaling, and writing the exhaling. It takes both to breathe.

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

Most writers, as I included my procrastinating self here, have lots of time to surf the web -- and even comment on weblogs. Like this one. We're really a community unto ourselves, though we can;t prove it.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Yes indeed, Dave, we certainly are a community. And glad to see a first-time commenter (I think). We'd love to see some of your writing, if you'd care to point us to it. In any event, thanks for stopping by, and double thanks for joining the conversation.


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