The problem with American exceptionalism, as one side of the gun control debate shows, is that it stops you learning anything from other countries.
Exceptionalism is also in for a shock (‘The China Shock’) in around 2018 when China becomes the biggest economy in the world, which it achieved by letting go of Chinese Middle Kingdom exceptionalism and learning from…wait for it…the rest of the world. Big insular exceptionalist countries don’t do well in the long run…and the US is around 4.5% of the world’s population so it can learn from the other 95.5% if it would listen.
I am reading Ezra Vogel’s excellent book on the transformation of China: ‘Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China’. The current state of the USA reminds me of China in the later stages of the Mao era as Vogel describes it. One of America’s major parties, the Republicans, has given up on science and being data-driven, just like the conservative Maoists. While the insurrectionist antics of the NRA and the Tea Party remind me of the Cultural Revolution and the Red Guards, who shut down China’s universities and bullied intellectuals into silence, like talk radio tries and fails to. Paradoxical that those who call themselves conservatives should act like Maoists?
What all this suggested to me, is that the USA needs a profound modernization. It needs a Deng Xiaoping (who of course had his faults; I am not talking literally) to move America into the 21st century. Deng saw scientific and technical education as the key to China’s future and America needs to do the same. Rather than wait for the China Shock to the American city on a hill exceptionalist system of China actually overtaking the US as the largest economy; why not start right now and radically improve the scientific and data driven nature of education, with a view to using this strategically to boost real value add sustainable wealth creation. Move the economy away from the Wall Street Casino and aim to create a large number of manufacturing and hi tech start ups around science driven solutions to improving health care, elder care (given the growth in proportion of the population who will be elderly), transportation, energy supply, and the products we need, not to mention efficient services and food supply. Such a drive should appeal equally to moderate Republicans and most Democrats and maybe start melting the political grid lock.
And as for the countries to learn from? Well maybe Finland with the best education results in the world. Switzerland with the best value for money health care? The UK for the lowest gun crime. Germany for hi tech manufacturing. Israel for defense sector efficiency/value for money sans pork. And of course China for dealing with conservative/Maoist reality denying extremists and so on….
What do you think?