Quora Question: Will the United States Remain a World Power?

A U.S. soldier takes a break during a night mission near Honaker Miracle camp at the Pesh valley of Kunar Province in this August 12, 2009 file photo. Reuters

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Answer from James Altucher, author, entrepreneur, podcaster, and Wall Street investor:

My six-year-old daughter asked me, "What's so great about the United States anyway?" And I didn't know what to say to her.

I'm from the U.S. But there's many problems in how the U.S plays out its role both at home and in the world. How to answer about a country that engages in horrific wars, had slaves, has a 15 percent poverty rate, and yet has always called itself "the land of opportunity" and with reason.

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There are really two question: how do you define "world power" and is this a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it's better to be a small power and still have lots of wealth and conveniences (think: Luxembourg).

First: are we a world power? Yes, the United States is by far the biggest world power and nobody is close;

  • GDP (the amount of dollars the U.S. makes): is $18 trillion dollars. The entire world is $75 trillion. That means, we are almost 25 percent of the world's economy even though we only have about 4 percent of the people.
  • Military Power: There's no right or wrong way to assess this. But let's assume that a country is a military power if it can quickly gather forces into any region and engage. You do this with aircraft. The U.S. is #1 in the world with over 13,000 aircraft. The next eight countries: Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, France, Egypt, Turkey all added together are about the same as the United States. We are number one in nuclear submarines, destroyers, cruisers, etc.
  • Science: The U.S. ranks #1 in citations (how many times scientific papers cite papers written in the U.S.) with 35,000,000 between 1993–2008. I know this seems outdated but it covers a long period and demonstrates the strides in biotech, chips, robotics, AI, plant-based foods, energy, etc. (I have an entire post about it here).
  • Athletic prowess: Again, despite being only 4 percent of the world population, the US is #1 in Olympic medals with over 2,800. If you add up the Soviet Union + Russia you still get only around 1,800.
  • Where do people go? Despite however the world feels about the U.S., the U.S. is where people go on vacation. Again, despite how tiny the U.S. is versus the world: the U.S. is #1 in tourism with $200 billion spent here by tourists. versus #2 China with $108 billion.
  • Gold. People say, what if the dollar is not the #1 currency? Doesn't matter. The world defaults to gold when that happens. The U.S. has 8000 tons of gold reserves. Number 2 is Germany with 3000 tons.

Trump? Clinton? Who cares. Pundits have been predicting the decline of the United States since 1792 and innovation outside of government has always outpaced the government's ability to destroy the United States economy. (See the great book, The Myth of America's Decline.)

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You can say the U.S. is not #1 in esteem held by other countries. I agree with this. I don't think the U.S. should police the world. I think we should stop engaging in any wars.

I have a 17-year-old daughter right now. There is basically zero condition that would allow me to say to her, "I think you should pick up a gun, go to a strikingly poor country, and murder other 17 year olds." No matter what was happening in that country. And yet the U.S. has 800 military bases in 70 countries around the world.

The last time the U.S. "legally" declared war according to the Constitution was 1941, when we entered World War II.

And yet we are in involved in at least six wars right now and we have special operations going on in 134 countries according to The Nation.

I am naive about war and killing and helping other countries that might need it. But this seems like a disaster to me.

What will happen in the future?

Why do we need countries at all? They only lead to nationalism, trade wars, immigration problems, dictatorships, corruptions (name me a single government that is not corrupt?).

Facebook has quietly bonded 2 billion people together across their single platform. I talk to people from at least 50 different countries a day across social media.

We once were nomadic tribes of 150 people. Then when we had to protect our wheat so we became villages. Then villages developed specialities and developed into cities. Then cities merged into kingdoms. Then empires. (See the book, "Sapiens" by Yuval Harari.)

The United States is by far the biggest empire ever.

But there will be a next. Evolution of government structures over the past 12,000 years requires that there will be a next. Economics requires that there will be a next. (See the book, "The Evolution of Everything" by Matt Ridley.)

Global communication requires that there will be a next. The relatively recent discovery that racial and ethnic differences are much smaller than people believed requires that there will be a next.

The expansion of technologies that will have global footprints (biotech, virtual reality, faster transportation) will tighten the stitches that hold us all together. There will be a Next (here's how to be prepared).

I'm signing up now. I'm a Citizen of Next.

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Quora Question: Will the United States Remain a World Power? | Opinion