Faster than you think

Immanuel Wallerstein’s concise reflections on geopolitics, sent straight to one’s inbox, make for an illuminating start to each month. (Sign up by emailing

His November essay, “Consequences of U.S. Decline”, reviews the speed with which the very idea of US decline has gone, in barely 10 years, from being laughable to a subject of serious debate within the US itself.

More to the point, Wallerstein believes that the next stages of decline will not only be unexpectedly punishing for the majority of US citizens but also that they will take place sooner than most people anticipate – that is, in this decade.

He concludes:

Finally, there are two real consequences of which we can be fairly sure in the decade to come. The first is the end of the U.S. dollar as the currency of last resort. When this happens, the United States will have lost a major protection for its national budget and for the cost of its economic operations. The second is the decline, probably a serious decline, in the relative standard of living of U.S. citizens and residents. The political consequences of this latter development are hard to predict in detail but will not be insubstantial.

Did I mention he’s also a master of understatement?

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