- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The doom-and-gloomers own the field right now with this global financial panic - no surprise there. But gleeful proclamations about the “death” of globalization, capitalism, the West, America, America’s superpower status and so on are a bit much. A lot of celebrated experts, starting with Karl Marx, have made such claims before.

When you separate out the anti-American voices emanating from countries already feuding with us, you find the bulk of this end-of-the-American-world-ism springs from our closest friends and not from those countries or regions that have recently been fortunate enough to be “enslaved” by our international “empire.”

No surprise there either, for when your “empire” empowers and enriches individuals, expect their gratitude along with your old friends’ complaints that you’re making this world too competitive too fast - at their relative expense.

Yes, we’re now tacking into a different regulatory wind. That much is clear. But as we endure this course correction, beware the following five fallacies that I consistently spot among the “End Times” crowd.

First, there’s the old white-guy technical expert who, now that he’s reached the end of his career, has become convinced that nothing less than a complete revolution in world affairs - centered solely around a quantum-leap advance in his field, mind you - is required to avoid the end of life as we know it. It’s either a Manhattan Project or Armageddon and nothing in between.

So if he’s a financial expert, we need to reinvent economics. If he’s an oil expert, then we need to reinvent energy. Whatever the subject, we’re headed for a crash and only he knows the answer! The hubris here is monumental and generationally self-centered: This guy is convinced that his demographic cohort is the last generation of “indispensable men.”

That leads me to a second, literally related fallacy: the old white-guy expert is convinced his kids are “idiots” doomed to trash the planet. This one is timeless. Virtually every generation in human history has been convinced their kids had it “easier than we did” and thus they can’t muster the brains and effort for what lies ahead.

Third, there’s the senseless extrapolation - ad infinitum - of current trends. The most prevalent one: If everyone in the world joins a middle class modeled on our own, we’ll need multiple planets to accommodate all their resource demands, the assumption being that standard of living is rigidly tied to consumption. But of course, that’s never been the case. Technology always advances, meaning we accomplish more with less.

Tied to that fallacy is the fourth that says, “We Europeans were smart enough to raise our standard of living these past two centuries, but those non-whites now coming onboard are surely not clever enough to improve on that record, meaning we’re all doomed!”

I don’t know about you, but having traveled to both India and China, I don’t just see 2 billion mindless consumers, but 2 billion new brains added to our global toolkit. So please, go easy on the soft racism, because necessity tends to birth invention no matter what your skin tone.

Finally, there’s that slippery-slope mania that says, any changed tack equals a complete shift to the extreme opposite - to wit, ban assault rifles and “every American’s right to bear arms has vanished!” We face this fallacy everywhere now, my favorite being that any state intervention into the financial sector equals total “socialism” - pure and simple!

Right, comrade, you run with that one.

America’s capitalism is changing, as is our national leadership. At my age, you’ve seen American capitalism shift itself more than once, along with at least six turnovers in White House control.

And yet, life somehow goes on, as does our republic, as do markets, as does globalization, as does the world’s increasing prosperity.

Remember that in the “Beginning Times” to come.

Thomas P.M. Barnett is a visiting scholar at the University of Tennessee’s Howard Baker Center and author of the forthcoming book “Great Powers: America and the World After Bush.” This column was distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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