One Billion Americans

One Billion Americans

By Matthew Yglesias


America Is Too Small

The American political(pəˈlidək(ə)l) system has fallen into a state of torpor(ˈtôrpər) and dysfunction(ˌdisˈfəNG(k)SH(ə)n) driven by, among other things, the absence(ˈabsəns) of a shared sense of purpose.

Disagreement and debate(dəˈbāt) are vital(ˈvīdl) in a free society. But it’s also useful at times to have common goals—settle the West, beat(bēt) the Nazis(ˈnätsē), win the Cold War—that structure the disagreements. What we’ve been doing lately isn’t so much debating how to proceed as a country as it is simply fighting with one another. And now the country faces a very real challenge that we must meet: rapid(ˈrapəd) ongoing economic(ˌekəˈnämik) growth in India and especially China is leading to the relative decline(dəˈklīn) of the United States of America as a great power and threatens(ˈTHretn) its position as the world’s number one state in the not-too-distant future.

Contemporary American politicians(ˌpäləˈtiSHən) give no sign of wanting to accept that decline, but they’re also not proposing(prəˈpōz) to do anything about it. There’s no way that all the specific ideas in this book will ever command broad consensus(kənˈsensəs) in American society. But I think the big picture idea of the book, that America should try to stay number one, already does. The question is what follows from that.

For starters(ˈstärdər), it is beyond dispute(diˈspyo͞ot) that there are fewer American people than there are Chinese or Indian people, as is the fact that China and India are trying to become less poor and seem to be succeeding(səkˈsēdiNG). Maybe they’ll just stumble(ˈstəmbəl) and fail, in which case we will stay number one. But it would be unfortunate(ˌənˈfôrCH(ə)nət) for hundreds of millions of people to be consigned to poverty(ˈpävərdē) forever. It’s not an outcome we have it within our power to guarantee. And even if we could, it would be hideously(ˈhidēəslē) immoral(i(m)ˈmôrəl) to pursue it.