In This Review

The Myth of America's Decline: Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies
The Myth of America's Decline: Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies
By Josef Joffe
Liveright, 2013, 352 pp

From the Sputnik panic to the global chorus claiming that the 2008 financial crisis would spell the end of the U.S. model of capitalism, pessimists have been predicting American decline for 50 years. In this brave and bracing book, Joffe treats these repeated failed prophecies to the merciless debunking they deserve. Envious foreigners and nervous Americans alike have predicted the imminent demise of American power due to an allegedly failed educational system, the superior performance of foreign rivals, budget and trade deficits stemming back to the Kennedy era, imperial hubris, and assorted other maladies. Joffe makes a strong case that a mix of Chinese vulnerabilities and American strengths means it is unlikely that China will replace the United States anytime soon as the center of the global system. Yet, as Joffe notes, constant anxiety about the United States’ prospects might be one of the cultural forces responsible for the country’s persistent strength; rather than resting on their laurels, Americans continually and even neurotically poke at their social fabric, looking for tears that need mending.