Will the Center Hold?

Changes in tax, regulatory, or budget policy can be rescinded – albeit with difficulty – by a subsequent administration. A perception that the US is no longer prepared to stand up for its allies in the international community is much less reversible.

CAMBRIDGE – The most important question facing the United States – and in many ways the world – after the events of 2017 is this: Will Yeats’ fearful prophecy that “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold” come true? Will it continue to seem that “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity”? It is hard not to be concerned, but it is too soon to anticipate failure.

The US now has a president who regularly uses his Twitter account to heap invective on leaders of nuclear-armed states, the American news media, members of his own cabinet, and religious and racial minorities, while showering praise on those who traduce the values of democracy, tolerance, and international law.

Countries such as China, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are more authoritarian, more nationalist, and more truculent on the world stage than they were a year ago. And then there is the surely more belligerent and possibly more erratic leader of North Korea, a country on the brink of developing the ability to deliver nuclear weapons at long range.

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© Project Syndicate

© Project Syndicate

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