Still the greatest

U.S. voter at polling station in New York City
Nov. 8, 2016: Early voter turns out at a polling station in New York City (source: dpa)

Tomorrow we can be sure that nearly half of all American voters will be greatly disappointed or even angry. The other half will not be particularly pleased, either, even though “their” candidate won.

The fact is that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were very unpopular. No matter who wins, today’s election is not going to bring Americans together or add to the national sense of happiness and well-being.

However, if we forget about the four-year election cycle and look ahead a decade or two, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Always reinventing

Since the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the United States of America has gone through ups and downs economically, socially and politically. It has survived a bloody civil war and two world wars, Watergate and 9/11. Despite and sometimes even because of all this, the U.S. economy remains the largest and most successful in world history.

No other country has created such wealth. No other country has produced more Nobel Prize winners. No other country even comes close – no matter what economic metric we look at.

In fact, there is little chance that any other economy in the world will overtake the U.S. in our lifetime. To be sure, China has been catching up fast over the past three decades, but in U.S. dollar terms America’s economy is still nearly double the size.

Even if China continues to catch up for a few years or even decades, there is a very good chance that its society will grow old before it becomes rich. The country faces the same demographic headwinds we have seen in Japan over the past 20 years. While the U.S. is not immune to the same forces, America always manages to reinvent itself. It always continues to grow and develop.

The foundation of America’s long-term economic success is not whether its president is named Trump or Clinton

Just look at the U.S. stock market. Some of its very biggest companies – Google, Apple and Uber ­– have been created or enjoyed their fastest growth over the past decade or two. Thousands of American companies continue to be started up by immigrants with little formal education or capital, who flock to the land of the free and the home of the brave in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

This is the secret of the U.S. economy – a capitalist system where anybody can succeed with hard work and a bit of luck. The foundation of America’s long-term economic success is not whether the president is named Trump or Clinton, but rather its unique institutional framework, which ensures the rule of law and sets limits on politics. Fundamentally, it is a free-market system.

The U.S. certainly has lots of flaws and can be rightly criticized for many things – both from a socialist and from a free-market perspective. But ask any poor person living in a developing country of Africa or Asia where they would like to live, and most would not hesitate. More people want to live in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.

That is why Americans should rejoice today. They remain the envy of the world. And even after the second Tuesday in November, they will still live in the greatest country on earth.

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