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Paul Johnson Says the United States Is Finished, Or, Calling Mssrs. Stuttaford and Delingpole

In the current issue of Forbes, the great British historian Paul Johnson:

In one respect, Barack Obama’s reelection is historically appropriate. He’s a weak leader and, by reports, an idle one. Such a man is well chosen to lead America into a period of decline.

Just prior to World War I, the U.S. became the world’s largest economy, a position it has held for more than a century. But the latest report from a European think tank suggest that China will overtake U.S. output within four years. Obama will close a long and glorious chapter in world history, not with a bang but a whimper.

Which leads to a few questions, which I address in the first instances to Brothers Stuttaford and Delingpole, who, after all, grew up in a nation that had already undergone the we-used-to-be-number-one-but-lost-it decline that Johnson now predicts for the United States. To wit:

Query: Does overall national output, the figure in which China will soon overtake us, or GDP per person, in which the United States will sustain an indefinite lead, matter more to national standing and morale?

Query: What, really, was the meaning of the Thatcher years? To what extent was she truly able to reverse British decline? In the end, was she able to restore a sense of national pride? If we could find a Thatcher of our own in 2016–Bobby Jindal? Marco Rubio?–what, realistically, could he hope to accomplish? Merely to retard our continuing decline?

Query: You grew up in an England that had become a minor power–a little England–but that remained, in important ways, wealthy and vibrant, at least for those who made their livings in finance and the few other sectors in which England remained competitive. Yet you surely heard from members of your parents’ and grandparents’ generations about the pleasures and burdens of life in England when the UK remained Number One Country.

Which is to be preferred? If Paul Johnson is right–if America is indeed entering a period of irreversible decline–would our diminishing role in the world really prove all that bad?