America the Hyperpower

Kevin of The Smallest Minority fame has posted an interview with Amy Chua, the author of Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance–and Why They Fall. Fascinating stuff if you are interested in that sort of thing.

I was having a discussion a year or so back with a career academic (an astronomer, if it matters) who was bemoaning how the Global War on Terror has caused anti-American feeling to grow in many Western countries. His position was that it was bad for the US militarily since many democratic governments could not openly aid us if the voters back home were opposed.

I thought this was a totally unrealistic view since just about every Western democracy except the Australians and British have gutted their defense budgets to the point that they no longer have the ability to project military might, and the Brits and Aussies were aiding us anyway. Why should anyone care if the people who can’t help don’t approve? What are they bringing to the table to offer us if we should pay attention?

Prof. Chua is the very first person since 2001 who offers a realistic justification as to why we should care about anti-Americanism. She says that the main reason that we enjoy being so far ahead of the rest of the world in just about every category is due to the fact that the best and the brightest from other countries wanted to come here. The flow of talent from every corner of the globe towards the US is the only reason we were able to pull ahead.

Go ahead and watch the interview. I think I’ll have to pick up a copy of Prof. Chua’s tome and give it a read.

(Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)

James McCormick’s review of Chua’s World on Fire.

20 thoughts on “America the Hyperpower”

  1. I’ve been following the European demographics for the past decade.. There’s an exodus coming out of Europe of the best and brightest.. is your professor taking that into account?

    Whenever discussing the attraction/repulsion of America it’s always best to keep in mind the rapid changes going on around the world. Europe is in decline even if they deny it. Russia , China, and India are not really immigration magnets.

    Where else is there to go for either a place to flee to, or military assistance?

    It’s really immaterial if they like us or not… they’re going to need us a lot more than we need them.

    On my webpage

    is a letter that an Ex-pat in Paris wrote to Mark Twain saying how America’s image has been destroyed in Europe due to the Spanish American war.. his response is awesome. You’ll see Eureopan anti-americanism in the face of our wars is nothing new. Europe will get over it

  2. The thing I found most interesting about Ms. Chua’s interview (and I’m going to have to read her book, too) is that the problem we face isn’t so much a decline in the influx of ambitious and intelligent people coming to the U.S., it’s that those people aren’t coming here to become Americans. They want the advantages that our society provides, “the pursuit of happiness,” but because they dislike America’s political/military/social whatever, they have no desire to assimilate into that society. When that happens, and the non-assimilating immigrants become a significant portion of the population, you no longer have a stable social or political system.

    A good example for this instability is The Netherlands, where the traditional Dutch culture is being severely stressed by non-assimilating immigrants.

    Dr. Chua argues that hyperpowers get to be hyperpowers by attracting, accepting and integrating the best and brightest from every culture they contact. In fact, a nation cannot become a hyperpower unless it does assimlate, thus she says modern China cannot become a hyperpower because it is a society based upon ethnicity rather than ability. But when a society loses its ability or willingness to assimilate, this signals the impending failure of that hyperpower.

    It’s an fascinating theory.

    And thanks for the links!

  3. One of the biggest factors which reduces the attractiveness of America to talented potential immigrants is simply the growh of opportunities in their home countries. Indians, for example, contributed tremendously to building Silicon Valley, but now there are many more opportunities for technology workers/executives/entrepreneurs in India than there used to be, so the argument for leaving family & friends behind to come to the US is much less strong than it used to be.

    On the other hand, the bureaucratic obstacles to entrepreneurship are still strong throughout much of the world, including Europe, and this will continue to make the U.S. attractive to many people. If a junior executive in (say) France is frustrated with the job opportunities that exist for him in that country, then the anti-American opinions of professors and journalists are not likely to keep him from coming here to pursue his career.

    Perhaps the greatest threat we face economically is the increasing rigidity and bureaucratization of our own society, as manifested in such things as out-of-control litigation and credentialism. I recently saw somewhere a comment by someone who has worked in both German and American companies, and found the former to be less rigid and bureaucratic. Perhaps he was just fortunate in his choice of German companies, and/or unfortunate in his choice of American ones…let’s hope.

  4. I certainly meet Frenchmen and Germans working in Britain who say that it is a more open, more flexible society than their own. Presumably Brussels will put a stop to that.

  5. David:

    I recently saw somewhere a comment by someone who has worked in both German and American companies, and found the former to be less rigid and bureaucratic.

    American companies have to be rigid to survive in a litigious environment. Companies that don`t have rigorously enforced policies in place that aim at preventing sexual harrassment or dicrimination of any sort often lose by default, more or less regardless of the validity of the charges. In oter words, they have to have demonstrably rigid rules. German companies are not operating under such constraints, especially so because white males aren`t regarded with quite so much suspicion.


    the problem we face isn’t so much a decline in the influx of ambitious and intelligent people coming to the U.S., it’s that those people aren’t coming here to become Americans.

    A lot of those people don`t even see themselves as immigrants. This is about globalization, not immigration or emigration. Big firms now have international supply chains and international customer bases. They hire as many locals overseas as they can, but sometimes they have to send their own nationals there, such as executives, engineers and scientists. Those arew going to go home again after some time, or they are going to switch between both countries more than once.

    So it isn`t exactly a braindrain to America anymore, but at the same time you don`t have to worry about instability from that quarter.

  6. Some who come here because of the advantages seem unaware that those advantages are linked to a complex with which they are uncomfortable (guns are a pretty good example, of course). I, too, used to be for more gun control. I still could see some restraints, but this site and others like it have made me more aware that the 2nd amendment is linked with a certain self-reliance. That is becoming clearer and clearer to me – someone whose family has been here – and fervently so – for centuries. We take such interweavings for granted. My children – the conservative ones who back McCain – see little wrong with McCain/Feingold. We certainly don’t discuss all this with immigrants, sometimes out of politeness, sometimes because we don’t even think about it ourselves.

  7. Ginny:

    I, too, used to be for more gun control. I still could see some restraints, but this site and others like it have made me more aware that the 2nd amendment is linked with a certain self-reliance.

    I changed to that view while stil oiver here. You see, it is possible to perfom autoconversions in the comfort of yout own home :)

  8. just a bit f an asside. the grade schools in and around where I live (East coast) are beginning to offezr far fewer courses in French and trying to meet a demand for Chinese (via parents) and that tells me something.

  9. And leads to my comment that some current immigrants may not want to become American, but I suspect that has always been true. But their children are very likely to feel differently. Only the Amish and Hutterites have been able to maintain their cultural identity through herculian efforts.

  10. One difference, though, is that prior immigration did not take place in an environment where a whole industry–hundreds of thousands of academics, journalists, entertainers, etc–was dedicated to the undercutting not only of our country but of civilization itself.

  11. I am not sure what to make of the coment just aboive this. Prior immigration consisted largely (define prior) of poor peoples coming here for jobs, opportunities–Jews, Italians, Irish–and they were not treated as kindly as we like to think. I am not sure who these thousands of academics and journalists etc are that undercut our country but assume they are any and all who do not believe in a “correct” manner–whatever that might be.

    The academics and journalists and entertainers I know, in fact, welcome talent, brains, and inventiveness in any people seeking a new home in the U.S.

  12. David wrote: “…(Immigrants) were not treated as kindly as we like to think.”

    So far as I’ve seen, no one has said that immigrants were “treated kindly.” What they got was opportunity – opportunity they didn’t have in the places they left. Here they got the chance to pursue happiness, or at least their children did. They still do today.

    The people who “undercut our country” are, in part, ones who vilify society for not “treating immigrants kindly.” They see it as just another manifestation of Western society’s inherent flaws, since “fairness” and “equality” seem to be far more important to them than “freedom” and “opportunity.” What so many don’t seem to grasp is that if it’s “fair” it’s not “free,” and if everyone really is “equal” then no one has any “opportunity” to improve.

    In short, I think, the argument is that those “dedicated to undercutting our country” argue from the perspective of Rousseau, and those who defend it argue from the position of Locke.

  13. A couple of thoughts that were provoked by the Chua interview and the comments:

    I don’t think I heard Ms. Chua discuss the fortune the US reaped vs the rest of the world with respect to the aftermath of WWII and how the (more or less) “catching-up” of the rest of the world affects the perception and/or the reality of the US as a hyperpower.

    The best and brightest (BB) may want to continue to come here in something like the same numbers but, to put it bluntly, the BB per capita (of all immigrants), has become drastically smaller. Thus recent immigration becomes a economic drain and a political danger to a relatively free republic with a capitalistic society. The influx of the “users” (a group which does include the worst and the dullest) – the non-assimilators – should be stopped. In general, we should not be afraid to discriminate culturally at this time and place.

    Being “kind”, and politically correct, and valuing diversity do not positively affect assimilation: One set of my grandparents came to this country from eastern Europe in about 1907. Dad was born shortly thereafter into a non-English speaking home. Twenty some years later he spoke without an accent and went on to do pretty well in life. He was, I think, completely assimilated and a result of the “melting pot”. His rough growing-up-experience in the 20s and 30s was pretty common. His results and millions of results like his provide an argument for the idea of “immersion” into a culture (assuming one wants the culture to continue, of course). These immigrants were not allowed the dubious kindness of special classes in their native language and were probably better off for it – the country certainly was.

  14. Prior immigration consisted largely (define prior) of poor peoples coming here for jobs, opportunities–Jews, Italians, Irish–and they were not treated as kindly as we like to think.

    I’m the great-grandson of Italian immigrants.. I don’t know what happened way back then, but to this day my family dislikes the Irish in general.

  15. Our immigration policies are helping to undercut us. Not only do we have an out of control Latin American immigration problem, but we treat our legal immigrants and visitors with something close to hateful disdain when they arrive and depart here. Our customs and immigration agents are the greatest anti-American forces in America, because in humiliating our guests on a regular basis, often at great personal and professional discomfort to them, they place a black mark on the intelligent immigrant or guest’s experience here. I could spend all day recounting the horror stories I witnessed before joining the Navy while I worked at Miami’s airport, not to even begin to discuss what I’ve seen since with not only international business and academic visitors but our own active duty men and women who happen to not yet be US citizens.

    As the American people have largely become more tolerant and welcoming of different cultures and experiences, the American government and numerous elites have regressed into an America for Americans and Americans only attitude that poisons us all.

  16. I agree with Eddie. The behavior of our immigration bureaucrats toward legal visitors and immigrants is too often disgraceful.

    Also, the bureaucratic impediments to legal immigration are excessive. We all hear stories about individuals who are forced to endure degrading, Kafkaesque ordeals in order to gain citizenship or legal residency status that they have worked hard and waited patiently for. And generally they have to wait too long.

    Unfortunately, the constituency for reforming the immigration bureaucracy is diffuse while govt employees are politically organized.

  17. I read Amy Chua’s book “World on Fire” and highly recommend it. She describes very well the problems between different peoples who share the same places (e.g. Chinese and Malays in Malaysia, “whites” and “native Americans” in Latin America, etc.). She covers most of the world, but curiously leaves out a discussion of India.

    However, Amy Chua has drunk too much of the PC kool aid to accept the notion that the causes of these differences are based on differences in cognitive ablities of these different peoples that she describes (congnitive differences practically screams at you between the pages of her book). So, she trots out various “cultural” explanation that do not hold water.

    She has also been conned into the liberal lie that poverty causes terrorism, which was of course disproven by the 9/11 attacks. This is clear when she says we may have to “feed that hand that may attack us” (I believe in cutting off any hand that may attack me).

    Despite these flaws, I still recommend her book.

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