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"Declinist Pundits"

"Declinist Pundits"

Op-Ed, Foreign Policy

November 2012

Author: Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security


America may not actually be declining, but those predicting it are ascending.


There is a simple three-step secret to success in political punditry: Identify a trend that is already happening, predict it will continue, and then, as the trend progresses, proclaim success. Of course, you have to make sure that you identify a real trend, not a cyclical change following which things will revert to the norm. If you make that mistake, you wind up with egg on your face and have to hope that people forget. So it is with "declinists," one of America's great renewable resources.

Recessions are cyclical. Some are deeper and last longer than others, but eventually the cycle turns. Elementary logic, however, did not prevent many from proclaiming that the Great Recession was evidence of the decline of the United States. For example, in 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the crisis showed that U.S. global leadership was ending, proclaiming that "the times when one economy and one country dominated are gone for good." Germany's finance minister made a similar pronouncement, as did many Chinese leaders. A Harvard University historian even wrote in 2010 that America was like Greece and the dollar was at risk of imminent collapse....

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For Academic Citation:

Nye, Joseph S. "Declinist Pundits." Foreign Policy, November 2012.

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