I plan to repost the four-part series I wrote detailing why the United States of America will emerge from the global financial crisis as the world’s economic leader. These articles will bolster your spirit and the third one will make you proud to be an American. I hope you enjoy rereading these as much as I did. If this November turns out the way I hope, perhaps the prediction will come to pass that much sooner. In any event there are only 833 days remaining in the Obama presidency. Thank the Maker!
The United States of America will emerge from the global economic crisis as the world leader: Part I.
An optimist is a person who sees only the lights in the picture, whereas a pessimist sees only the shadows. An idealist, however, is one who sees the light and the shadows, but in addition sees something else: the possibility of changing the picture, of making the lights prevail over the shadows.
It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.
Few Americans think about how we got from there to here. Where was “there.” “There” was a piss ant group of 13 colonies threatening one of the most powerful empires that ever existed on earth. “There” was a group of political visionaries that hoped they could create the framework that would enable a Republic to survive longer than as footnote in history. Where is “here?” “Here” is the Nation that is the richest in all of history. Although the great wealth of this Nation is not equally divided, the opportunity to move between classes is. “Here” is the most powerful Nation in the history of the world. People sneak into our country. The other powerful nation over the last 60 years was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. People sneaked out of that country at every opportunity. They were not true Republics but nations under the thumb of totalitarian rulers. They were, however, socialists. They divided the wealth instead of the opportunity. Where is that country now – well, it doesn’t exist. They are the footnote in history, and a bloody one at that.
Recently, I began to give a great deal more thought to the issue of where America will emerge when all of the shouting caused by the Great Recession is done. Like you, I suspect, I was pessimistic. I believe we have been going in the wrong direction for a long time. But then I read an article entitled “The Geopolitics of the United States: Part I: The Inevitable Empire,” published by STRATFOR, and I had an epiphany. The article was in a newsletter by John Maudlin, a man who is increasingly getting my attention. The article made me aware that the stature of America wasn’t achieved solely because of our “rugged individualism.”
The United States is blessed with geography. When we asked, “God bless America,” he did! We marvel at the beauty of our Nation, but do not tend to think about the fact that our geography was the primary reason the United States became a global superpower. (Yeah, me too. What the hell?!?!)
“The American geography is an impressive one. The Greater Mississippi Basin together with the Intracoastal Waterway has more kilometers of navigable internal waterways than the rest of the world combined.”
“The American Midwest is both overlaid by this waterway, and is the world’s largest contiguous piece of farmland. The U.S. Atlantic Coast possesses more major ports than the rest of the Western Hemisphere combined. Two vast oceans insulated the United States from Asian and European powers, deserts separate the United States from Mexico to the south, while lakes and forests separate the population centers in Canada from those in the United States. The United States has capital, food surpluses and physical insulation in excess of every other country in the world by an exceedingly large margin. So like the Turks, the Americans are not important because of who they are, but because of where they live.” Sorry, if you thought we were great because of people. I did too.
We are centered in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, but are large enough to reach the Arctic in the north and have fully tropical States to the south. The jet stream passes over us in a way that yields excellent rain distribution. The American Midwest comprises both the most productive and the largest contiguous acreage of arable land on the planet. We have a large, flat coastal plane to the east combined with numerous ports added to the fact that transportation by water is far and away the cheapest way to transport goods and you have the beginnings of a global superpower. Across that ocean were well developed European nations hungry for American goods and produce.
“The most distinctive and important feature of North America is the river network in the middle third of the continent. While its components are larger in both volume and length than most of the world’s rivers, this is not what sets the network apart. Very few of its tributaries begin at high elevations, making vast tracts of these rivers easily navigable. In the case of the Mississippi, the head of navigation — just north of Minneapolis — is 3,000 kilometers inland.”
“The network consists of six distinct river systems: the Missouri, Arkansas, Red, Ohio, Tennessee and, of course, the Mississippi. The unified nature of this system greatly enhances the region’s usefulness and potential economic and political power. First, shipping goods via water is an order of magnitude cheaper than shipping them via land.”
“Navigable rivers by definition service twice the land area of a coastline (rivers have two banks, coasts only one). Second, rivers are not subject to tidal forces, greatly easing the construction and maintenance of supporting infrastructure. Third, storm surges often accompany oceanic storms, which force the evacuation of oceanic ports. None of this eliminates the usefulness of coastal ports, but in terms of the capacity to generate capital, coastal regions are a poor second compared to lands with navigable rivers. Second, the watershed of the Greater Mississippi Basin largely overlays North America’s arable lands. Normally, agricultural areas as large as the American Midwest are underutilized as the cost of shipping their output to more densely populated regions cuts deeply into the economics of agriculture. The Eurasian steppe is an excellent example. Even in modern times it is very common for Russian and Kazakh crops to occasionally rot before they can reach market. Massive artificial transport networks must be constructed and maintained in order for the land to reach its full potential. Not so in the case of the Greater Mississippi Basin. The vast bulk of the prime agricultural lands are within 200 kilometers of a stretch of navigable river. Most important are the lines of barrier islands that parallel the continent’s East and Gulf coasts. These islands allow riverine Mississippi traffic to travel in a protected intracoastal waterway all the way south to the Rio Grande and all the way north to the Chesapeake Bay.” And let is not forget that the Great Lakes are the largest concentration of fresh water on the planet and provide further navigable waterways for commerce.
The geography that propelled our Nation to greatness, is not going to change because of the Great Recession. Our nation has many other great strengths that I will address in subsequent postings on this subject. Suffice it to say that those nations well positioned to survive in the current economic uncertainty will emerge stronger and armed with the best lessons learned – those learned though the school of hard knocks! My friends, I have concluded that we are well positioned to continue our role as world leader – the nation that all others look to for strength and guidance; the country they wish to emulate. We just need one more election to finish the work begun in 2010.