The World That’s Waiting for Jonathan and Adam

As they usually do over the Christmas holidays, my two grandsons, Jonathan and Adam, came to visit Sandra and me with their parents, Frank and Grace, who live in Miami. It’s a five-hour drive but they dutifully make the trek every year, and I appreciate it.

boysThey are big boys, my grandsons, both about six-feet-two, broad-shouldered and full of confidence. Jonathan (at left in photo) is studying postgraduate accounting at Florida State; Adam (photo at right) is graduating from high school this year, hoping to go to the University of Florida. Sandra and I have watched them grow over the years, marveling at the job Grace and Frank have done in raising them.

Sitting in the family room, watching them lounge about, laughing and talking – apparently without a care in the world – I wondered what they will find when they emerge from the family cocoon. They are Americans, and for more than half a century, Americans have been assured a place in the global sun, backed by massive military power and the almighty dollar.

But the world is changing. And Americans – including Jonathan and Adam – will have to cope with the changes. Trade is now irretrievably global, and the power structure is shifting. What will that mean for my grandsons? Will they have to learn Chinese to get ahead, for example?

Probably not.

A service called Truthout distributed an article this morning by Michael T. Klare, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College. Klare looks at the decade ahead and determines:

Some unforeseen catastrophe aside … the U.S. is not likely to be poorer in 2020 or more backward technologically. In fact, according to the most recent Department of Energy projections, America’s GDP in 2020 will be approximately $17.5 trillion (in 2005 dollars), nearly one-third greater than today. Moreover, some of the initiatives already launched by President Obama to stimulate the development of advanced energy systems are likely to begin bearing fruit, possibly giving the United States an edge in certain green technologies. And don’t forget, the U.S. will remain the globe’s preeminent military power, with China lagging well behind, and no other potential rival able to mobilize even Chinese-level resources to challenge U.S. military advantages.

What will change is America’s position relative to China and other nations – and so, of course, its ability to dominate the global economy and the world political agenda …. In 2005, America’s GDP of $12.4 trillion exceeded that of all the nations of Asia and South America combined, including Brazil, China, India, and Japan. By 2020, the combined GDP of Asia and South America will be about 40 percent greater than that of the U.S., and growing at a much faster rate. By then, the United States will be deeply indebted to more solvent foreign nations, especially China, for the funds needed to pay for continuing budget deficits occasioned by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon budget, the federal stimulus package, and the absorption of “toxic assets” from troubled banks and corporations. 

Klare also sees the less developed countries of the world becoming more important. Here’s how he puts it:

The second decade of the century will also witness the growing importance of the global South:  the formerly-colonized, still-developing areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Once playing a relatively marginal role in world affairs, they were considered open territory, there to be invaded, plundered, and dominated by the major powers of Europe, North America, and (for a time) Japan. To some degree, the global South, a.k.a. the “Third World,” still plays a marginal role, but that is changing….

Second-tier states of the South, including Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey, are on the rise economically, and even the smallest and least well-off nations of the South have begun to attract international attention as providers of crucial raw materials or as sites of intractable problems including endemic terrorism and crime syndicates.

Reading Klare’s thoughtful piece, I was reassured. I have been looking over my shoulder at China’s recent maneuvering, and I was worried about the world that’s waiting for my grandsons. Obviously, life will be more challenging for them than it has been for me. When I set out from Jamaica in 1957 to seek my fortune in Canada, the world was a simpler place. But I was not as well equipped as these boys will be.

Each new generation adapts to face new circumstances. I am confident that Jonathan and Adam (and the rest of their generation across the globe) will square their shoulders and tackle the complex conditions they have inherited with confidence and competence. The world will undoubtedly change. But it will keep on keeping on.

To read Klare’s article, click: