I have recently discussed two new books which are pessimistic about the future of world democracy and America’s role in leading it.
- Robert Kagan’s “The Jungle Grows Back” rightly points out that the amazing progress of the past 75 years is the result of a unique set of circumstances. “The question is not what will bring down the liberal order but what can possibly hold it up. … The liberal world order is as precarious as it is precious.”
- Jonah Goldberg’s “The Suicide of the West” makes the case that “we are living in a miraculous time” which is “not normal in humanity’s natural environment. … We stumbled into this miracle without intending to and we can stumble out of it.”
As much as I respect the knowledge and scholarship of these two authors, I reject their pessimistic outlook for the future. I am an optimist for the following reasons:
- There is a general consensus, by Kagan, Goldberg, and many other authors of the enormous human progress which has taken place in the past three centuries. Prosperous people have more leisure time to appreciate freedom and work to improve their form of government.
- The U.S. has many strengths in the continuing struggle to support and expand democracy. Russia is declining, both in population and economic output. Chinese population will peak by 2027 and China will soon have more old than young people. The U.S. continues to increase its population by admitting a million (legal) immigrants per year.
- The future of democracy is bright. The biggest threat to the American way of life is complacency.
Summary. Despite all of America’s serious problems, it has so many inherent strengths, that it is likely to maintain its free and prosperous way of life for many years to come. As long as we are vigilant and don’t take it for granted!