As you our readers may know, The New Criterion collaborates with The Social Affairs Unit, a London-based think tank, in a yearly conference, alternating between a New York City and an English venue. This year, the conference will be held in New York, and will address the topic, “Is America in Decline?”—a subject that could hardly be timelier.
It has become the fashion to proclaim that the West in general and the United States in particular are in long term and irreversible decline. The future, it is posited, belongs to the rising East and, in particular, China. A week does not seem to go by without a major publisher bringing out a new book about the inevitability of the twenty-first century being China’s century. The leading historian Niall Ferguson has recently pronounced, “What we are living through now is the end of 500 years of Western dominance.”
Our conference will seek to interrogate these prognoses and the assumptions that underlie them. We will question whether there is indeed an inevitability to the decline of America and the West, and ask whether its apparent decline is merely the product of the policies pursued by many European and, more recently, US governments—an apologetic, guilt-ridden foreign policy; an ever growing, encroaching state; a bloated welfare system. We will critically examine whether the East, and China in particular, have their own deep-seated structural problems and whether these issues will stand in the way of their rise. We will ask if the apparent decline in US power can be reversed by adopting a more assertive, global leadership role and re-embracing domestic policies more in tune with its anti-statist traditions.
Finally, we plan to investigate an extremely important question: if the doomsayers are right, what does this mean for Western values? The values which made the West, especially the Unites States, dominant — private property; a limited state; an impartial, disinterested legal system; a strong civil society; an open and free market — still seem to be the only values which can build and maintain prosperous, thriving, contented societies for the long term. To what extent have the supposed rising powers inculcated these values? And if they have not, how sustainable is their prosperity and more importantly, what is the future of our civilisation?
Conference participants include: James Bennett, Jeremy Black, John Fonte, Michael Gleba, Simon Greene, Daniel Johnson, Roger Kimball, Andrew McCarthy, Michael Mosbacher, Charles Murray, John O’Sullivan, James Piereson, William Shawcross, and Keith Windschuttle
This conference will be open to the Friends and Young Friends of The New Criterion. Please visit our events page for details.