Monday, October 06, 2008

How to restore the "idea" of America

Remember Francis Fukuyama of the "end of history" fame? His argument that liberal democracy has triumphed and, therefore, history as a struggle among alternative organizations of society has ended? Well, he wrote that just after the Berlin Wall fell, and American economy was growing by exploring new electronic frontiers.

Now, Russia is again getting aggressive. China has worked out a strange system that mixes economics and politics in ways we won't dream of (I hope). The Islamic world is trying to figure out how to balance religion, economics, and politics. Latin America seems to be off on its own with Venezuela and Bolivia marching to a different beat. So, what does Fukuyama think now?

Well, he says that America as a "brand" has undergone some serious damage. I am thinking, hey, I wrote about this in two opeds a few months ago. Reminds me of one of my graduate school professors who remarked that who you are when you say something is often more important than whatever important you might have to say :-)

Anyway, Fukuyama notes that
Ideas are one of our most important exports, and two fundamentally American ideas have dominated global thinking since the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was elected president. The first was a certain vision of capitalism—one that argued low taxes, light regulation and a pared-back government would be the engine for economic growth. Reaganism reversed a century-long trend toward ever-larger government. Deregulation became the order of the day not just in the United States but around the world.
The second big idea was America as a promoter of liberal democracy around the world, which was seen as the best path to a more prosperous and open international order. America's power and influence rested not just on our tanks and dollars, but on the fact that most people found the American form of self-government attractive and wanted to reshape their societies along the same lines—what political scientist Joseph Nye has labeled our "soft power."
It's hard to fathom just how badly these signature features of the American brand have been discredited.

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