Do you feel that America is having a bad time? That economically, politically, and culturally, we are in a rut? Do you even wish that America had something that some other nation or region currently has?
Be careful what you wish for.
A European study has estimated that the EU economy is only as developed as the US was 22 years ago. This does not even include the newest, poorer members of the EU like Romania and Bulgaria, which would drag down the EU stats even further. Furthermore, the EU has a growth rate slower than that of the US, guaranteeing that the gap will continue to widen.
Related : More on the Decline of Europe.
But China has a rapid economic growth rate, that enables it to catch up with the US, does it not? With China's huge population, it needs to merely achieve a per-capita GDP that is one fourth that of the US in order to surpass the total size of the US economy. That should be relatively easy, no?
China is not permitting new Internet cafes to open in 2007. So much for free-market supply/demand, or supercharging economic growth through participation in the information age. It appears that the question of how high prosperity can rise before the demand for personal freedoms directly forces the PRC to curb progress has been answered. The PRC will continue to face more direct tradeoffs between economic growth and the restriction of personal freedoms. It will be interesting to see which area they choose to make concessions in over the coming years.
How about India, then? India will never restrict Internet access for the public, and has a young, growing population that Europe lacks. GDP growth topping 8% certainly qualifies as enviable. Surely, India has potential.
And it will always have potential. If Europe is 22 years behind the US in economic growth, it would be impossible to calculate how far behind India is by that metric, as the US is only 231 years old (and has never been as poor as India is today). India's infrastructure is so shabby that highways have an average speed of 20 mph, and large cities have to resort to restricting electricity availability to six days a week in order to ease grid overloads. On the UN Human Development Index, India ranks a miserable 127th, even lower than many dictatorships and communist states. India's per capita GDP is just $700 a year, a number which, by American standards, seems scarcely higher than zero. 8% annual GDP growth for the next 30 years will still only bring prosperity in India to where Mexico is today.
But, despite India being the poorest entity in this article, all Americans should note that India is the only entity here that is pro-US, and actually wants to emulate the US, rather than create an alternative model like the EU and China have attempted. India deserves pity, but also encouragement from America.
So there we have the state of three other regions that America is often compared to. I will also throw in this chart of per capita GDP on a PPP basis, over the last 60 years. The biggest takeaway from here is that basic growth appears easy, as a developing nation merely has to copy what was done by advanced nations before, but once a certain ceiling is reached, incremental growth becomes harder. No large country of over 50 Million people and a per capita GDP greater than $20,000 a year has managed to sustain a growth rate higher than the world average (currently 4.5%) for an extended period. Thus, China's rapid growth will moderate long before high per-capita GDP is reached, just as Japan's and South Korea's has. Also note that India was richer than China all the way until 1991, and was probably at parity with South Korea and even near Japan in 1950, until India foolishly allowed itself to fall behind.
Remember, the true measure of a country is the net of how many people want to get in, and how many want to get out. This metric appears to rank America right on top.