Is America in Decline?

by Deirdre Nansen McCloskey
The American Institute for Economic Research

Editorial note: this essay originally appeared in the Des Moines Register, Sept 1990, and a revised version in The Key Reporter, 60 (2, Winter 1994-1995): 1-3. It serves as a helpful reminder of where this country was 30 years ago.

The headlines make it hard not to think about America’s decline. “Yen at All-Time High.” “Japanese Buy Rockefeller Plaza.” “Germans Lose War, Win Century.”

I offer some facts contrary to the Chicken Littles of our times, such as Paul Kennedy, Lester Thurow, James Fallows, and Robert Reich. Kennedy believes that a great power has toppled, Thurow that we have lost a competitive game, Fallows that we’re not sufficiently Japanese, and Reich that we are unprepared for 21st-century capitalism. Fortunately, all of these wise but deeply alarmed men are mistaken.

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