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“The crisis of the American mind”

Projecting power: the US aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis. Lt Steve Smith/US Navy/Getty

A “good deal of scoffing” has been blowing its way across the Atlantic recently, says Jemima Kelly in the FT. Not only have Americans been mocking the “pomp and pageantry” of the King’s coronation, they’ve even been deriding the British version of Chinese food. There’s something interesting about the “increasing regularity” with which members of America’s commentariat poke fun at the UK. Could this mockery be masking an anxiety? Britain “once ruled over a quarter of the Earth’s surface” but has since lost its status as a great power. Now, America is “terrified about losing its own global dominance”.

A recent survey found that 71% of Americans think the US will be “less important in the world” by 2050, up from 60% in 2018. And 58% already say that life for people like them is worse than it was 50 years ago, up from 43% in July 2021. The country is still a “huge economic, military and cultural power”, but it faces “grave internal problems”. Their political divisions put Britain’s in the shade. And soaring rates of drug overdoses, obesity and gun deaths have contributed to life expectancy falling off a cliff. It all adds to what University of Pennsylvania professor Jed Esty calls “the crisis of the American mind” – caught between “a Chinese future and a British past, and feeling a sort of moral panic”.