By Aditya Ramachandran, Contributing Writer
The fact that we have been talking democratic free market values for decades and yet we can’t seem to govern ourselves has an impact. We have been very happy for decades to go around the world telling other people how they should govern themselves…We’ve got to stop doing that…We need to try humility.” These were the words of Dr. Ian Bremmer, one of the United States’ foremost political scientists and public intellectuals, following the 16-day government shutdown that sent American society into paralysis.
Indeed, it has not been a good season for American credibility abroad. “Syria, Snowden, Shutdown” effectively sums up how the mighty nation’s global standing has undoubtedly taken a tumble under the purview of President Barack Obama.
But this specific instance was relevant for the world because of the effect it had on how the United States is perceived internationally. Despite the predictions of American decline by dozens of economists, global strategists, and political scientists, it was not Beijing or New Delhi, which were hitherto looked at through rose-tinted spectacles by average corner store owners in Greece or Bangladesh.
Indeed, the US has always been a country that has set a global standard. In the 1900s, it emerged as the bearer of the world’s reserve currency based on the faith of global markets in its economic system’s underlying principles — effectively its democratic maxims and ability to overcome differences collectively. This is the bastion of American soft power and explains why it has been heralded as a shining city upon the hill by the swathes of the world’s population who inhabit less fortunate areas.
It would be wrong to think that this unwavering faith is still wholly intact following recent events in Washington. The American company Standard & Poor estimates that $24 billion will be taken out of the economy as a result of the shutdown. Furthermore, growth has slowed, making foreign investors and chief executives cautious about investing in the United States.
Thousands of federal workers have felt the financial brunt of the shutdown; small businesses have also suffered from government contracts and business loans, which have been stalled. Furthermore, tourism to the United States has suffered due to the number of parks and historical monuments that have been closed, affecting a significant flow of national revenue
Effectively, it can be said that the short-term damage has been done. It is imperative that, in the coming weeks, the budget discussions at the governmental level show the international community that the American political system can still deliver results. If the leaders of the United States can effectively deliver a good budget in the spirit of democratic deliberation and mutual respect that have provided the foundation of America’s leadership, then the confidence of domestic constituents as well as global investors will be restored — and, with that, the potential for American economic resurgence will also come back to light. Those of us who understand the obvious benefits of American leadership in a turbulent and chaotic world can only wait with bated breath and crossed fingers.