Mark Mills and Julio Ottino recently opined in the Wall Street Journal that the USA enjoys a bright future in new technologies:
In January 1912, the United States emerged from a two-year recession. Nineteen more followed—along with a century of phenomenal economic growth. Americans in real terms are 700% wealthier today.
In hindsight it seems obvious that emerging technologies circa 1912—electrification, telephony, the dawn of the automobile age, the invention of stainless steel and the radio amplifier—would foster such growth. Yet even knowledgeable contemporary observers failed to grasp their transformational power.
In January 2012, we sit again on the cusp of three grand technological transformations with the potential to rival that of the past century. All find their epicenters in America: big data, smart manufacturing and the wireless revolution.
“Big data” is intriguing and IBM claims that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years, so Mary and I went to a big data meeting in San Jose 6 months ago. Only about 25% of the audience spoke English as their native language, compared to about 50% in a typical San Jose meeting, and it was amusing to watch the featured speaker and the audience misunderstand each other, speaking English as a second language. It is easy to forget that learning a language is the hardest task you will ever accomplish and are unlikely to repeat the feat.
Analyzing data requires advanced math and statistics, attracting foreigners, while USA natives are the Facebook kings of idle chatter. Massive government subsidies have allowed many more people to graduate from college in the USA than 20 years ago, but are educated less than their predecessors, and graduates in statistics and other technical majors has failed to increase because few people want to work hard.
The average person understands simple English similar to an eighth grade child, as indicated by the Presidential State of the Union Addresses, compared to the tenth grade level of Ronald Reagan’s speeches 30 years ago and the 12th grade level of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.
The USA of 1912 easily serviced the small debts it had incurred; celebrated the stories of Horatio Alger, known for his many formulaic juvenile novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to prosperity through hard work; enjoyed stable money without inflation based on the gold standard; imposed no income tax to punish people who labor and invest, and people that didn’t work went hungry or dipped into their savings.
Today, the USA cannot repay massive debts and the dollar is devalued by the Federal Reserve; the income tax punishes people earning an honest living and vexes them with complex calculations and reporting requirements; unemployment insurance and food stamps reward people who do not work; and the government disburses many business subsidies and rewards failed banks and auto manufacturers with bailouts after mismanaging their enterprises.
Technological wonders will enrich humanity in the coming years, but only the paranoid survive, so the USA will not indefinitely remain rich. The majority are as complacent as Wall Street Journal contributors Mark Mills and Julio Ottino, and socialism is so deeply embedded in their collective psyche that asking them to change is like asking Arabs to renounce Islam. A prudent young person should consider living in a growing Latin American country such as Chile or Panama, or a capitalist Asian country such as Hong Kong or Singapore.