Third World Economic Development [Editor's note: Forty years ago the developing countries looked a lot more like each other than they do today.
No, I mean really glum.
In April, a new poll revealed that 81 percent of the American people believe that the country is on the "wrong track. Other polls, asking similar questions, found levels of gloom that were even more alarming, often at and year highs.
There are reasons to be pessimistic—a financial panic and looming recession, a seemingly endless war in Iraq, and the ongoing threat of terrorism. But the facts on the ground—unemployment numbers, foreclosure rates, deaths from terror attacks—are simply not dire enough to explain the present atmosphere of malaise.
American anxiety springs from something much deeper, a sense that large and disruptive forces are coursing through the world. In almost every industry, in every aspect of life, it feels like the patterns of the past are being scrambled. And—for the first time in living memory—the United States does not seem to be leading the charge.
Americans see that a new world is coming into being, but fear it is one being shaped in distant lands and by foreign people. The world's tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing.
Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood.
Once quintessentially American icons have been usurped by the natives. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year.
America no longer dominates even its favorite sport, shopping.
The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn't make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world's ten richest people are American. These lists are arbitrary and a bit silly, but consider that only ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.
These factoids reflect a seismic shift in power and attitudes.
It is one that I sense when I travel around the world. In America, we are still debating the nature and extent of anti-Americanism. One side says that the problem is real and worrying and that we must woo the world back. The other says this is the inevitable price of power and that many of these countries are envious—and vaguely French—so we can safely ignore their griping.
But while we argue over why they hate us, "they" have moved on, and are now far more interested in other, more dynamic parts of the globe.
The world has shifted from anti-Americanism to post-Americanism. Their interest, I have to confess, was not in the important power players in Washington or the great intellectuals in Cambridge.
People would often ask me about … Donald Trump. He was the very symbol of the United States—brassy, rich, and modern.
He symbolized the feeling that if you wanted to find the biggest and largest anything, you had to look to America. Today, outside of entertainment figures, there is no comparable interest in American personalities.
If you wonder why, read India's newspapers or watch its television. There are dozens of Indian businessmen who are now wealthier than the Donald. Indians are obsessed by their own vulgar real estate billionaires.
And that newfound interest in their own story is being replicated across much of the world. Well, consider this fact.The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College is a non-profit, nonpartisan, public policy think tank.
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