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The first myth was that the Soviet Union would dominate the U.S.
militarily. The second myth was that the Japanese would dominate the
With the Soviet Union erased from the
present-day map of the world and the Japanese stock market falling to
below levels it last traded at in May of 1986, both fears seem almost
Yet, until a year ago, the conventional wisdom
that Brazil, Russia, India and China -- the BRIC countries -- were set
to dominate the United States was just as compelling.
The U.S. Economic Map: Size Matters
the U.S. political scene dominated by partisan vitriol, soaring taxes
and health care costs and small businesses being crushed by suffocating
regulations, it’s worth reminding ourselves where the U.S. economy
stands in comparison to the rest of the world today.
the high economic growth rates of developing nations, the United States
is by far the world’s wealthiest nation, as measured by gross domestic
product (GDP) -- the broadest measure of economic wealth.
The rest of the world doesn't even come close.
This year, U.S. GDP should hit $18 trillion.
That means that the U.S. economy is about as large as the next
three-largest economies in the world -- China, Japan and Germany --
Since 2003, Earl Fry, a professor of Political
Science at Brigham Young University, has been producing U.S. maps on a
regular basis where the states are renamed with countries that have
similar GDP levels.
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The 2014 version of the map -- which you can see here -- puts the size of the United States’ global rivals in perspective.
On the map, the name of each state is replaced by a country whose GDP
equals approximately that state’s gross state product (GSP).
A quick glance at the map leads to some fascinating -- and unexpected -- comparisons.
If it were a stand-alone country, California would be the
eighth-largest economy in the world and approximately the size of
Brazil's economy. Texas’ economy is half the size of California’s and
its GSP is comparable to that of Canada. Florida’s GSP is approximately
the size of the Netherlands' economy. Illinois’ economy is approximately
the size of Saudi Arabia's. Pennsylvania’s economy is roughly the size
of Switzerland's. New York’s GSP is the size of Spain's economy, and
Georgia’s economy is the size of Norway's. Bill Clinton’s home state of
Arkansas, one of the poorest states in the United States, is
approximately the size of Ireland’s rebounding economy.
The U.S. Economic Map: Three Caveats
Looking at the United States versus the world this way comes with several important caveats.
First, the map is based on nominal GDP -- how much wealth is generated
in dollar terms -- and not how many goods and services those dollars
Economists and the media often prefer to use "purchasing
power parity" (PPP) when comparing the size of global economies. Think
of PPP as similar to a "cost of living adjustment" on a country level.
Within the United States, $50,000 in Kansas buys you a lot more than it
does in Manhattan. That’s why on a purchasing power basis, China’s
economy has already surpassed the United States, while in absolute terms
it’s only about 60% of the size of the United States.
the map does not adjust for population. This has huge implications for
what economic wealth means to citizens. California and Texas have a
combined population of 66 million, while China’s population is 1.36
billion. Let’s say China does become the largest economy in the world in
20 years. Yet, because of its large population, even if it continues
growing at its current pace (a huge assumption), by 2050 it will only be
as wealthy as former Communist bloc countries in Eastern Europe are
Finally, a look at the map frozen in time, while
reassuring, also hides some dynamic changes. When I first looked at this
map in 2007, Germany and China -- at the time #3 and #4 on the list of
the world’s largest economies -- were both smaller than the economies of
Texas and California combined.
Today, the comparison with
Germany still stands. But China is now more than twice as big as the two
largest U.S. states together. In 2007, India’s $800 billion economy was
on par with Florida. Today, India’s economy is 2.4 times larger than
the Sunshine State.
China and India have clearly made great leaps forward in both absolute and relative terms.
The U.S. Economic Map: The Past… and The Future
In 1790, the United States was a new, tiny nation of 4 million, about
the size of Ireland today. Europe’s population was 180 million, while
India’s was 190 million and China’s was 320 million. Only seven cities
had a population of 5,000 or more; just 12 had a population greater than
2,500. The United States had an agricultural economy with practically
I was handed a piece of research from a trusted colleague, who just
spent months compiling multi-sourced data with the goal of pinpointing
the world’s most powerful “financial forces.” As expected, the U.S. and
China rank #1 and #2… but when I read #3, I had to do a double-take.
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Fast forward to 1885, the United States was the world’s #1
manufacturer, producing almost 30% of the world’s manufactured goods to
outpace both the British Empire and Germany. Today’s leading
cutting-edge global industries -- whether taking root in Silicon Valley,
in Hollywood or on Wall Street -- are still products of the U.S.
Despite its challenges, in 2014, the
United States produced 22.5% of the world’s GDP with only about 4.6% of
the world’s population. Although the U.S. economy was not as dominant as
it was directly after World War II, the rest of the world (outside of
China and India) has hardly fared better since the 1980s. The Japanese
economy has not matched U.S. growth rates for the last two decades.
Europe barely ekes out an economic growth rate of 1%. And how
sustainable and real the Chinese economic expansion of the past two
decades is remains to be seen.
The world has been counting out the United States' contribution as far back as I can remember.
That U.S. economic map though provides a vivid reminder of just where the United States stands in the bigger picture.
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ROLAND SAN JUAN was a researcher, management consultant, inventor, a part time radio broadcaster and a publishing director. He died last November 25, 2008 after suffering a stroke. His staff will continue his unfinished work to inform the world of the untold truths. Please read Erick San Juan's articles at: ericksanjuan.blogspot.com This blog is dedicated to the late Max Soliven, a FILIPINO PATRIOT.
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