A conversation with a student prompts this question:
Suppose all the countries in the world today are arrayed before you like spaces on a craps table. You have to put all your chips on one country. The time horizon is your life span, plus that of your children, plus that of your grandchildren. Allowing reasonable overlap and life expectancy, let’s suppose that horizon is 100 years. So: if you have to put all your chips in a single bet on one country’s success from 2010–2110, which country do you choose?
Let’s make this question personal. You are a responsible and conscientious person, and you take seriously your obligation to do the best for your family that you can. Decisions you make about where to live will have an enormous effect on your, your children’s, and your grandchildren’s life prospects. So this decision is about you and your family: the “chips” are all of your economic, social, and family capital. The question is not only about money; it is about everything.
In 1810, I think the clear choice would have been England. In 1910, I think the clear choice would have been the United States. In 2010, however, I think—I fear—there are two good reasons not to be bullish on the United States:
(1) Our looming fiscal crisis is worse than in many other countries because we do not have us to free-ride on. My pessimistic prediction, unless our course is dramatically changed, is that we will see a series of international bailouts: the EU’s bailout of Greece will be only the first in a series; when the EU begins to teeter, the US will bail it out, as it will have done for several states within the US. When the US begins to teeter, its multiple layers of astronomical debt, with no back-ups, bailouts, or cushions available, its fiscal collapse may come swiftly and painfully.
(2) The United States will be one of the primary targets for various kinds of antagonisms, terrorist and otherwise. And as Marc Steyn has said, a falling camel attracts many knives. My emendation: a big falling camel—indeed, the biggest, baddest, most resented falling camel—will attract all the knives.
So which country do you think offers the best prospects of liberty and prosperity for you and your family over the next 100 years?