In this bold history and manifesto, a former White House director of economic policy exposes the economic, political, and cultural cracks that wealthy nations face and makes the case for transforming those same vulnerabilities into sources of strength—and the foundation of a national renewal.
America and other developed countries, including Germany, Japan, France, and Great Britain are in desperate straits. The loss of community, a contracting jobs market, immigration fears, rising globalization, and poisonous partisanship—the adverse price of unprecedented prosperity—are pushing these nations to the brink.
Acclaimed author, economist, hedge fund manager, and presidential advisor Todd G. Buchholz argues that without a sense of common purpose and shared identity, nations can collapse. The signs are everywhere: Reckless financial markets encourage people to gamble with other people’s money. A coddling educational culture removes the stigma of underachievement. Community traditions such as American Legion cookouts and patriotic parades are derided as corny or jingoistic. Newcomers are watched with suspicion and contempt.
As Buchholz makes clear, the United States is not the first country to suffer these fissures. In The Price of Prosperity he examines the fates of previous empires—those that have fallen as well as those extricated from near-collapse and the ruins of war thanks to the vision and efforts of strong leaders. He then identifies what great leaders do to fend off the forces that tear nations apart.
Is the loss of empire inevitable? No. Can a community spirit be restored in the U.S. and in Europe? The answer is a resounding yes. We cannot retrieve the jobs of our grandparents, but we can embrace uniquely American traditions, while building new foundations for growth and change. Buchholz offers a roadmap to recovery, and calls for a revival of national pride and patriotism to help us come together once again to protect the nation and ensure our future.
Buchholz, director of economic policy in the George H.W. Bush White House, examines the forces that threaten to bring down wealthy countries, observing of the modern-day U.S., that "it is hard to get a country to rally around the flag' when everyone stomps off in his or her own direction." He states that it's a dangerous mistake to think societies are invincible just because they have wealth, citing the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires to show that great wealth will not necessarily protect a regime. In search of examples of strong leadership, he turns to Alexander the Great, Japan's Meiji Restoration, Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, and Costa Rican president Jos Figueres Ferrer, among others. He also draws a grim picture of the U.S. as a country hamstrung by an aging populace, trade deficits, debt, a suffering work ethic, and loss of national identity. Buchholz charges that Americans no longer identify as Americans first, but he neatly avoids the trap of whining about the decline of patriotism, focusing instead on quantifiable social and economic change. Some sketched-out solutions are offered, but overall this is less a rallying cry than an interesting view on what makes and breaks a wealthy nation.