A History of Our Time: Readings on Postwar America

By William H. Chafe; Harvard Sitkoff et al. | Go to book overview

Part 8
FACING THE NEW
MILLENNIUM

In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, commentators rushed to predict that everything about American life—from popular culture to foreign policy—had been changed forever. The attacks were unprecedented, and lives were forever changed—especially those of people who survived the attacks or who lost loved ones that day. But fairly quickly, for the vast majority of Americans, life returned to a semblance of normality.

The attacks, though, pointed to an irrefutable fact about the world at the beginning of the new millennium: its peoples and nations are increasingly interconnected. Political and national borders are compromised by global economies, by global communications, by the global environmental impact of national decisions, and by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Despite unprecedented power, the United States is increasingly subject to global forces, and to the consequences of decisions made and actions taken in far off places.

In the last decades of the twentieth century, the United States led the world in the development of a “new economy,” one driven by global capital, heavily reliant on new technologies, dynamic, flexible, and highly competitive. By the dawn of the twenty-first century, the economies of the world had become increasingly interdependent, with the economic fortunes of the United States tied directly to a growing number of nations. Europeans created a common market, moving to a single currency in January 2002, and the United States opened trade borders with Mexico and Canada in the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA).

Throughout the 1990s, the American economy showed unparalleled sustained growth. The stock market climbed steadily and rapidly;

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