Sunday March 11, 2001
New Ways of Thinking
By George P. Shultz
STANFORD -- Albert Einstein observed that the advent of nuclear
weapons had changed everything except our modes of thinking.
If even so dramatic a development as the nuclear
revolution has taken a long time time to be fully understood, how
much longer has it usually taken to understand he implications of
the more subtle, intangible historical changes taking place around
The international order at the end of this
century is certain to be far different from the pattern of world
politics when the century began. The distribution of power and the
dynamics of international relations have undergone continuous transformation,
driven by many factors - technology, economic and social changes
and the often underestimated force of ideas.
This process goes on; history never stops.
As we head toward the 21st Century, Einstein's observation
takes on new relevance: our ways of thinking must adapt to new realities;
it is imperative that we grasp the new trends and understand their
The United States of America is not
just an onlooker, however. We are participants and we are engaged.
America is again in a position to have a major influence over the
direction of events -- and the traditional goals and values of the
American people have not changed. We have a duty to help shape the
trends as they evolve, in accordance with our ideals and interests,
to help construct a new pattern of international stability that
will ensure peace, prosperity and freedom for coming generations.
The implication of all this is profound:
it is that the Western values of liberty and democracy, which some
have been quick to write off as culture-bound or irrelevant, or
passť, are not to be so easily dismissed. These values are
the source o our strength, economic as well as moral, and they turn
out to be more central to the world's future than many may have
After more than a century of fashionable
Marxist mythology about economic determinism and the "crisis of
capitalism" the key to human progress turns out to be those very
Western concepts of political and economic freedom that Marxists
claimed were obsolete. They were wrong. Today -- in a supreme irony
-- it is the communist system that looks bankrupt, morally as well
and economically. The West is resilient and resurgent.
And so in the end, the most important new
way of thinking that is called for in this decade is our way of
thinking about ourselves. Civilizations thrive when they believe
in themselves; they decline when they lose this faith. All civilizations
confront massive problems, but a society is more likely to master
its challenges, rather than be overwhelmed by them if it retains
this bedrock self-confidence that its values are worth defending.
This is the essence of the Reagan revolution and of the leadership
the President has sought to provide in America.
[Editor's Note: Former Secretary of State, George
P. Shultz complete comments first appeared in Foreign Affairs[Vol.
63 No. 4, Spring 1985] published by The Council on Foreign Affairs.
Shultz is a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution.
He was sworn in on July 16, 1982 as the sixtieth U.S. Secretary
of state and served until January 20, 1989. In January 1989, he
rejoined Stanford University as the Jack Steele Parker Professor
of International Economics at the Graduate School of Business and
a distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He was awarded
the Medal of Freedom, the nationís highest civilian honor, on January
19, 1989. He is also a recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize (1992)
and the Koret Prize for Contributions to Economic Reform and Development
in Israel (1996). His publications include Economic Policy, Beyond
the Headlines, 2nd edition, co-written with Kenneth Dam (University
of Chicago Press, 1998) and his best-selling memoir, "Turmoil and
Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State" (Charles Scribnerís Sons,
1993). Shultz graduated from Princeton University in 1942, receiving
a B.A. degree in economics. That year he joined the U.S. Marine
Corps and served through 1945. In 1949, Shultz earned a Ph.D. degree
in industrial economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.]
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