Tuesday, September 7, 2010

EDD 9200 Comments about Trends CANTON (1)

Notes for discussions...

On the phone, several of us agreed that Canton likes to drop names....

... and he has decided that the future is about America. His link between "America" and "democracy" leads us to believe that no other country can protect individual freedoms or democratic political structures. His past as a consultant to companies (which he takes pleasure in listing) makes the book read like a list of powerpoint slides: here are the problems, here are possible futures, this is how we get to the future where we can shout "USA! Number one!"

Because Canton focuses so much on the USA, several of us have asked, "What is he missing?"

James Canton's book "The Extreme Future" mentions the following points
p. 104
The US will benefit from being an advocate of globalization but must continue to support innovation, global democracy and free trade.
(hmmm...Canton doesn't take time to describe the benefits ... or to describe the losses that hundreds of smaller U.S. cities have endured.

p. 345
America's top future challenges
Learn to collaborate more deeply with nations that hold different values
(Europe? Turkey? Brazil? Pakistan? China? Canton does not make it clear which countries' values differ from the US)

Recognize that globalization shapes global peace and prosperity.
(Globalizing forces have alienated some communities, in USA and in other countries. Could we state that globalization has distorted global peace?)

Canton reveals his bias: On page 346 the secition begins "Many Possible Futures for America" -- if he were serious about collaboration, if he were sincere about understanding other cultures, if he truly worried about the impact of globalization on other countries, his book would have had more chapters about other countries... and the last chapter would have included a discussion of "many possible futures for Europe / Middle East / Africa / Asia / Latin America."

Canton's book focuses largely on these topics
Future of China 31 pages
India 10 pages
Security lessons from South America (8 pages)

p. 325 "The central question of the future for the secuirty and stability of the planet is the extent to which America and CHina will cooperate." Is there literally nothing that Europe, Russia, Brazil and India can do if the US and China conflict?

The index reveals the lack of interest by Canton in exploring other futures

Canada: 3 references
Pakistan: nuclear crisis (is there nothing else to talk about besides nuclear issues?)
Saudi Arabia, 3 references
Singapore, 3 references
Europe 5 pages
Developing nations 5 pages

the following countries and organizations appear once in the index
Tamil Tigers
World Bank

The United Nations (with two references) appears as a separate entry in the index from
UN (one reference)

Canton's focus on innovations (p. 83) shows the strength of the book (and he leaves to the reader to sort out how these innovations will percolate through various cultures and national economies).

In short, Canton's attempt to describe extreme futures is like describing the Milky Way from the vantage point of the Earth: it's a band of stars that surrounds us. Only by mentally taking the camera view millions of light years away from Earth do we see the shape of the Milky Way: a spiral galaxy. In the same way, when we want to see extreme futures for the USA, we need to see extreme futures of many other organizations and countries. Only then can we truly think about "many possible futures for America."

Thomas Friedman in an editorial column in the NYTimes 6 September 2010 wrote the following remarks: We have enjoyed a century in which we could have, in foreign policy terms, both what is vital and what is desirable.


His point about "what is vital and what is desirable" is well-made. James Canton's approach appears to be "here's what we need to do to maintain our position of superpower." Canton does not distinguish between needs and wants ... Canton does not acknowledge the possibility that looking at extreme futures of Pakistan, Turkey, European Union, Mexico, Canada, Brazil and Korea could help us see better the extreme future of the USA. His focus on India and China leave out large segments of the planet's economic actors.

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For your reading convenience, the entire column appears below:

September 4, 2010

Superbroke, Superfrugal, Superpower?

In recent years, I have often said to European friends: So, you didn’t like a world of too much American power? See how you like a world of too little American power — because it is coming to a geopolitical theater near you. Yes, America has gone from being the supreme victor of World War II, with guns and butter for all, to one of two superpowers during the cold war, to the indispensable nation after winning the cold war, to “The Frugal Superpower” of today. Get used to it. That’s our new nickname. American pacifists need not worry any more about “wars of choice.” We’re not doing that again. We can’t afford to invade Grenada today.

Ever since the onset of the Great Recession of 2008, it has been clear that the nature of being a leader — political or corporate — was changing in America. During most of the post-World War II era, being a leader meant, on balance, giving things away to people. Today, and for the next decade at least, being a leader in America will mean, on balance, taking things away from people.

And there is simply no way that America’s leaders, as they have to take more things away from their own voters, are not going to look to save money on foreign policy and foreign wars. Foreign and defense policy is a lagging indicator. A lot of other things get cut first. But the cuts are coming — you can already hear the warnings from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. And a frugal American superpower is sure to have ripple effects around the globe.

“The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era” is actually the title of a very timely new book by my tutor and friend Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert. “In 2008,” Mandelbaum notes, “all forms of government-supplied pensions and health care (including Medicaid) constituted about 4 percent of total American output.” At present rates, and with the baby boomers soon starting to draw on Social Security and Medicare, by 2050 “they will account for a full 18 percent of everything the United States produces.”

This — on top of all the costs of bailing ourselves out of this recession — “will fundamentally transform the public life of the United States and therefore the country’s foreign policy.” For the past seven decades, in both foreign affairs and domestic policy, our defining watchword was “more,” argues Mandelbaum. “The defining fact of foreign policy in the second decade of the 21st century and beyond will be ‘less.’ ”

When the world’s only superpower gets weighed down with this much debt — to itself and other nations — everyone will feel it. How? Hard to predict. But all I know is that the most unique and important feature of U.S. foreign policy over the last century has been the degree to which America’s diplomats and naval, air and ground forces provided global public goods — from open seas to open trade and from containment to counterterrorism — that benefited many others besides us. U.S. power has been the key force maintaining global stability, and providing global governance, for the last 70 years. That role will not disappear, but it will almost certainly shrink.

Great powers have retrenched before: Britain for instance. But, as Mandelbaum notes, “When Britain could no longer provide global governance, the United States stepped in to replace it. No country now stands ready to replace the United States, so the loss to international peace and prosperity has the potential to be greater as America pulls back than when Britain did.”

After all, Europe is rich but wimpy. China is rich nationally but still dirt poor on a per capita basis and, therefore, will be compelled to remain focused inwardly and regionally. Russia, drunk on oil, can cause trouble but not project power. “Therefore, the world will be a more disorderly and dangerous place,” Mandelbaum predicts.

How to mitigate this trend? Mandelbaum argues for three things: First, we need to get ourselves back on a sustainable path to economic growth and reindustrialization, with whatever sacrifices, hard work and political consensus that requires. Second, we need to set priorities. We have enjoyed a century in which we could have, in foreign policy terms, both what is vital and what is desirable. For instance, I presume that with infinite men and money we can succeed in Afghanistan. But is it vital? I am sure it is desirable, but vital? Finally, we need to shore up our balance sheet and weaken that of our enemies, and the best way to do that in one move is with a much higher gasoline tax.

America is about to learn a very hard lesson: You can borrow your way to prosperity over the short run but not to geopolitical power over the long run. That requires a real and growing economic engine. And, for us, the short run is now over. There was a time when thinking seriously about American foreign policy did not require thinking seriously about economic policy. That time is also over.

An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.


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