Being laid up for a while has meant that I have caught up with some of my reading.
THE BETRAYAL OF AMERICAN PROSPERITY by Clyde Prestowitz is, far and away, the clearest and most credible account of how this Great Nation has squandered its enormous economic advantages that I have encountered – and it is highly readable into the bargain. Beyond that, it exposes a great deal of economic myth including the fact that American prosperity did not rest upon a nation devoted to Free Trade but instead was largely protectionist for most of this country’s history. In fact, in a cheerful, matter of fact way, Prestowitz shows quite clearly that we are largely victims of own misguided policies and ideologies, with greed and arrogance playing major supporting roles; and that currently we are in serious decline.
The book initially establishes how far we have fallen and Prestowitz’s case is damming. In fact an enduring strength of the book is that the author never advances an argument without supporting data. The books starts off with a disturbing quote:
“Rome lived upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face. Industry is the only true source of wealth, and there was no industry in Rome. By the day the Ostia Road was crowned with carts and muleteers, carrying to the great city the silks and spices of the East, the marble of Asia minor, the timber of the Atlas, the grain of Africa and Egypt – and the carts brought nothing out but loads of dung. That was their return cargo.
WINWOOD READE, THE MARTYRDOM OF MAN
In a damning paragraph, Prestowitz also points out that if one excludes the top 1 percent of earners from all countries, 99 percent of people in countries like Germany, Japan, the UK, and France actually have a higher income than 98-99 percent of Americans.
Prestowitz does offer solutions but makes the point that the interests of American Big Business may no longer be assumed to be identical to those of those country – a fact that our politicians do not seem to have faced up to - perhaps because those same politicians are largely financed by Big Business. Put more simply, it means that this country is no longer led by people who have the Nation’s best interests at heart.
My own book, TITANIC NATION, comes to many of the same conclusions although is more comprehensive in its recommendations for action.
The tragedy is that most Americans, albeit worried about the economy and concerned about the future, still do not seem to understand how far we have fallen already, and how ill-served we are by so many of those who lead us, whether politicians or corporate leaders.
Read and reflect on this saying by Norwegian historian, Geir Lundestad: "The United States is organizing its own decline."