Will America lose its superpower status?

A viewer asked this question on 3/26/2000:

In your opinion, will America loose its 'superpower' status, as countries before have? What is your reasoning behind your answer?

JesseGordon gave this response on 3/26/2000:

Yes, we will lose our superpower status eventually. While I respect my colleague Mr. BudgetAnalyst, I have to say that his answer is only true in the short term. In the long term, of course we will decline -- but we should WANT to decline, because one of our goals as a free country and world leader is to bring the rest of the world up to our level.

"Superpower" means we are the undisputed world leader. I think in the next 15-20 years, we will become first among relative equals, as Japan, China, Russia, the European Union, and maybe a Southeast Asian union rise to our economic level. Their economic parity with us will mean they also become our relative military equals, and hence we will no longer be an unrivaled superpower.

I think we should start planning for that -- by working towards making our future equals unlikely to go to war with us. Then there is little need for defense against them, and our "superpower" status becomes moot.

In terms of "losing" superpower status in absolute terms, I also think that is possible if we are short-sighted in our defense spending. Paul Kennedy wrote the classic book on that subject, called "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers", in which he says that every "superpower" in the past fell because of military over-extension. I agree that if we continue to spend at our current levels, we will fall. I don't think that will happen because politicians will start to follow the Pentagon's advice sooner or later and stop building unnecessary weapons.

I discuss the long-term relative decline of the US, and what we can do about it, in a lengthy article at .

budgetanalyst gave this response on 3/26/2000:

No. The United States provides many opportunities, so many of the brightest people on Earth end up coming to the United States, and contribute to its technological advancement, which in turn is the basis for economic power. The coming together of technological and economic power is what ultimately supports the "superpower" status. These three factors (borders open to the brightest, technological advantage, and economic strength) coming together is what makes it possible for the U. S. to be the superpower of the Earth. The conjunction of these factors is not what was behind the superpowers of the past.

The United States is also willing (and able to afford) to maintain a large scale military capability, which in fact is what makes it a superpower. This willingness is not likely to change in the foreseeable future because in fact it is necessary for maintaining the level of consumption that the voters enjoy.

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