Saturday, June 16, 2012
Time to think!
Book Review: Non-fiction/ Time to start thinking: America and the spectre of decline by Edward Luce,Hachette/Little Brown , 292 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
Edward Luce, formerly the Financial Times’ south Asia bureau chief based in New Delhi and now the paper's chief Washington correspondent, have done a remarkable job through this book by chronicalising the painful sides of the US with illuminating details. Luce’s meticulously researched work makes a strong case that those who doubt that the US is in decline are holding an unjustifiable position. If the decline of the US is a cause for concern, the failure of its policy establishments in responding to the change in their country’s fortunes is not less worrisome.
He vindicates a political system that is run and being motivated by money and its primary stakeholders are chasing the source of big money to stay on the ground of politics. And the mass US citizen appears like a perfect combination of apathy and fanaticism-however both the state of mind falls short of their potential and destined to rove in confusion.
The vicious combine of economic recession and political waywardness placing welfare schemes in backyard, and leaving social mobility on alarmingly low. Politicians are commonly believed as catalyst behind this whole mess, which shaped the US for a rare multitasking of trouble-making and trouble-shooting. The Republicans are single mindedly block legislation aimed to reform while promoting the interests of their wealthy cohorts.
Luce observes deadlock in Washington as the side effect of America's obstinate constitution. This constitution was framed for the system of government in pre-industrial times could not possibly be taken suitable at this age. That makes constitution ignored in practice, which further stop the reformist stances of government. Trillions of dollars have been spent in Afghanistan and Iraq, the principal result being to crush few enemies and more sovereignty of the nations. Luce here fails to see the foreign policy disasters that have caused for the US to fall from grace-this is a non-escapable weakness with this book.
The US leads the world in trade-still many agrees that companies such as Google and Facebook could emerge only in the US. However, danger is quite acute of losing its competitive edge, not least because many of the technical minds who come to the US to study are choosing to go out after they qualify rather than make a career there. This is partly because of the restrictive immigration policies but also because pay and prospects in emerging economies are starting to match or even pass those in the US.
Luce's book is a call to thinking, but the US is grappling through impractical ideas and myths. The country once has celebrated globalisation as a new process in which the US capitalism was replicated throughout the world. But as new synthesis of capitalism come on to the scene in the course of time, America's relative economic position is set to decline. Even if the US could somehow be reformed and its policy-making reset, this would not change much now.
The author’s take that challenges are not unique for the US seems right. Indeed its difficulties are not radically distinct from those all developed countries face in responding to the new global economic structuring. Only fundamental difference in the US has from the rest other that it can strive to defy the normal course of history that is unfortunate and out of reach from any course correction. Book is worth of serious read; those who still dreaming American dreams can find it little extra harsh!
Atul Kumar Thakur
June 16th, Saturday 2012, New Delhi