Jim Manzi?s recent piece ?Keeping America?s Edge? for the new journal National Affairs is one of the most-discussed essays in political economy right now. Commentators from left to right are weighing in on it, in venues ranging from the New York Times and Washington Post to National Review (where I first met Manzi, a fellow contributor) and The New Republic. Check it out for yourself. Here?s a key passage:

The past year, spanning the final months of the Bush administration and
the opening months of the Obama administration, has produced a stunning
transformation of America’s political economy. The first major
initiative of the new president and Congress was the artfully labeled
stimulus bill, which will have the federal government spend nearly $800
billion over the next ten years ? less than 15% of it in fiscal year
2009. More than a short-term emergency measure, the stimulus represents
a medium-term transformation of the character of federal spending ? and
government action ? in America.


Seen together, these initiatives ? shifting government spending away
from defense and public safety toward social programs; deeper direct
involvement of the government in the operation of large corporations
across a substantial portion of the economy; energy rationing in the
name of managing climate change; more direct government control of
health-care provision; and higher tax rates that probably include a VAT
? point in a clear direction. The end result would be an America much
closer to the European model of a social-welfare state, which
prioritizes cohesion over innovation.

Of course, the European model is not an inherently terrible way to
organize human society. It is, however, a model very poorly suited to
America’s current strategic situation, and would leave us in a far
worse position to deal with the challenge of balancing innovation and
?cohesion. We do not have the luxury of drowning our sorrows in
borrowed money while watching our power and influence wane.


As for my own take, I think parts of Manzi?s article are brilliant and parts are based on questionable assumptions. But it is thought-provoking and well worth your time.