A voguish Dem theme is that America's reputation in the world has been eroded and that the next Dem president will restore it. Hillary Clinton has gone so far as to propose appointing Bill as a "roving" [I'll say] ambassador for such purposes. We can safely ignore such fluff as so much presidential-season silliness. A great nation's reputation is forged not by its goodwill ambassadors, but by its actions.
But while the bad-mouthing of America might be written off as so much election-year posturing, there is in fact an important, ironic lesson to be drawn, and it was on display during today's "Morning Joe." For her "must-read" of the morning, Mika Brzezinski chose a USA Today column by Alan M. Webber, "From afar, America resembles a 2nd-rate power", and paraphrased this paragraph from it:
View video here.
The Europeans who come to this conference are worldly people who track what's happening globally with an impartial eye. To them, China's growth and dynamism is the most compelling story of the 21st century. "Dynamism" was the sort of word people once used when talking about the United States. Now, they watch us like rubberneckers driving past a car wreck. "You used to be such a great country," they say. "Not even a country. What happened to the great idea that once defined America?Let's leave aside Webber's risible notion of "impartial" Europeans and focus on his central point: China is where the economic action is, and America has lost its defining "great idea."
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I'm just sitting here thinking "if only we could be as open and dynamic as China."
MIKA BRZEZINKSI: You know what, that arrogance is not going to help. We really have to -- I think there is an arrogance that --
SCARBOROUGH: All I am saying is that I hope one day I can wake up and the idea that was once America --
BRZEZINKSI [warning tone in voice]: I would be very careful --
SCARBOROUGH [continuing]: could be replaced with the idea that is China.
Joe was presumably alluding to the repressive regime that rules China, and making the point that he would never trade America's freedoms for any current Chinese economic advantage.
But for present purposes, let's give Mika and Webber their due, accept that there is something to what they're saying . . . and consider the causes and implications.
Thus, for example, the IMF has just raised to a booming 11.5% its forecast for the growth of the Chinese economy in the coming year. In contrast, the U.S. economy is muddling along at a modest 3%-or-so rate.
What explains the gaping difference? The irony is that whereas the Chinese enjoy virtually no political freedom, economically the country is in a period of "cowboy capitalism" that might have been the envy of our great 19th-century entrepreneurs. You might say that China is leaping ahead because, at least when it comes to their economy, they adopted our "great idea."
To be sure, there is rampant corruption in China, and no doubt considerable government meddling that interferes with pure market forces. But on the other hand, there capitalist energy is largely unbridled. Whereas Chinese entrepreneurs are largely free [subject, presumably, to greasing some government palms] to pursue their market dreams, in America Henry Waxman is the face of governmental attitudes toward business, and NIMBYism is so rampant and influential as to have prevented the construction of any new oil refineries in the country for the last decade.
Dems like Mika are complaining of the results of the very policies that they have enacted, the very burdens on our economy to which they now propose to add with their proposals for "free" health care and a laundry list of other expensive goodies. The "great idea" to which Webber referred and which Brzezinski spoke of wistfully was that of self-reliance, rugged individualism and free-market capitalism. I'm nostalgic for it too. If only the ears of Mika, Webber & Co. could hear the words of their mouth.