Brand America

I came across this interesting debate on the economist. Carried out between Mr. Mark Medish (MM) proposing the notion that American shine is still intact and Prof. Kishore Mahbubani (KM) opposing the notion. There were many interesting points raised with a LOT of interventions by readers which contributed to a very diverse flavor of a discussion.

When it comes to America, i have often been jokingly accused by friends to be anti-American. Which im obviously not. But what i am is an anti-corporate-greed, anti-inequality, anti-suppression and anti-war crime type of bugger. And sadly, during my formative years, America has seemed to me to be a country that leans toward exemplifying most of which i morally stand against.

But first, what is Brand America? MM argues that there are two Americas, not one. One is America the country, the other is America the Idea. The American idea is an idea of freedom, equality, justice and leadership. Which are extremely noble sentiments IMO.

This 'leadership' role though, also in my opinion, seems to have been confused to a certain degree with 'dominance' by the many participants in the debate. Like America needs to be in the forefront of everything in order to preserve its 'brand value'. Which i think is wrong. You don’t have to squash everybody else to be a leader. Taking the lead means guiding everybody else when they cant see. Not hoping that they cant see so that they can be guided. IMO again.

Moving on from that, what was noticeable was the strong rhetoric coming from the proposing side and the equally strong facts coming in from the opposing side. One may thing that facts trump rhetoric any day. But we are talking brand and perception here. People are not only influenced by facts, they are also influenced by sights, sounds, the look of the thing and how they perceive things. Most of which are non-quantifiable.

Also, the Brand that is America, a political/ economic superpower, seems more shaken than ever. And that’s it. It is America's super power status that is in danger here. And I say what the hell? just because you're not a superpower does not mean that you still cant be a great nation right?

On devolution of power (which seems inevitable) a fact also brought up by KM dealt specifically with the 'historical aberration' of 200 years of European domination followed by American domination before which (from year 1 to 1820) the biggest economies in the world were India and China alternatively. And he says that it is only a matter of time before they 'resume their natural place'.

The superiority of America as a 'democracy' seems unanimously agreed upon but its economic superiority? not so much.

It is my opinion that every empire collapses eventually. From the Egyptians to the Romans to the Brits and now, to the Americans. It's like the countries of the world take turns to dominate each other, the decider being nothing other than who comes off on top after the inevitable conflicts/ war.

Check out the debate. I'd love to hear your views.


PseudoRandom said...

I totally agree with your line -

"You don’t have to squash everybody else to be a leader."

If the US wants to be a world leader, it should lead by example, not by force. I think their attitude towards being a 'leader' is one of the reasons their leadership is resented.

Ed said...

I am not as pessimistic. I think a return to focusing on making the promise of Brand America authentic will go a long way to restoring our country's equity in the minds and hearts of the world.

Check out the discussion at