Recently, I've been around the world and then back to the US of A. And what strikes me is how fast many parts of the globe are forging ahead — and how decrepit coming home can feel in comparison (JFK airport, I'm looking at you). It's got me wondering: what is America still the best at?
Consider this thought experiment. If you were really, really, really rich — say, not just part of the routinely opulent 1%, but a card-carrying member of the eye-poppingly decadent .01% — what part of your life would be American? If you had the money, I'd bet you'd drive a German car, wear British shoes and an Italian suit, keep your savings in a Swiss bank, vacation in Koh Samui with shopping expeditions to Cannes, fly Emirates, develop a palate for South African wine, hire a French-trained chef, buy a few dozen Indian and Chinese companies, and pay Dubai-style taxes.
Were to you have the untrammeled economic freedom to, I'd bet you'd run screaming from big, fat, wheezing American business as usual, and its coterie of lackluster, slightly bizarre, and occasionally grody "innovations": spray cheese, ATM fees, designer diapers, disposable lowest-common-denominator junk made by prison labor, Muzak-filled big-box stores, five thousand channels and nothing on but endless reruns of Toddlers in Tiaras — not to mention toxic mega-debt,oxymoronic "healthcare," decrepit roads, and once-proud cities now crumbling into ruinsThe mightiest adversary that snaps great empires like twigs isn't chimerical "globalization" — it's glittering hubris, bedecked in the finery of denial. Hence, if the whispered rumors of our imminent decline are worth leaning in and listening to, then perhaps it's worth trying to diagnose the depth of the plunge and the slope of the cliff before we scrabble for a handhold. If, as I've argued, we've got a bad case of Reality Deficit Disorder, then it might be time for a gentle reality check. According to nationmaster.com the United States is #1 for: Oil Consumption Assault by Rifle, Shotgun or Larger Firearm Drunk Neighbors Death by Reptile Car Thefts Obesity Divorce Rate Defense Budget Television Viewing External Debt (Owed to Other Countries)