BARELY a quarter century ago, one of the best-selling books was by Jean JacquesServan-Schreiber, The American Challenge. It raised the alarm throughout Europe that U.S. corporations so dominated trade that Europeans would forever be subservient economically.
What a difference a few years make. Today the pessimism is about the coming subservience of the United States to Europe and Japan. In the 1980s, you could read many headlines like this in The Washington Post, which went,"Kiss No. 1 Goodbye, Folks."
American business is now under tremendous pressure from overseas competitors - from Japan and other Asian nations to the newly emerging European Economic Community, or what we affectionately call "Fortress Europe." Then there is a reunited Germany, the emerging Soviet Bloc nations and, more in the future, China and India.
But most of this pessimism is what the lateClare Booth Luce called "globaloney." To be pessimistic about our future, we would have to ignore the very formidable strengths of America.
We still have the world's largest economy - larger than all of Europe's economies combined - and twice the size of Japan's. We account for a fourth of the world's total economic output - a share that has held steady since the 1960s.
The cheaper dollarcan take a lot of credit for this. But the real change has come because American business in the 1980s learned that we are in the global economy for keeps - that we can no longer depend on our huge domestic market.
In short, we've come through a decade that was gut-wrenching and difficult. But we also came through it wiser and with renewed strength. It's rather like what Winston Churchill oncesaid, that there is nothing quite so exhilarating as being shot at - and missed. As we look at the 1990s, we can see tremendous opportunities for growth, especially for direct response advertisers. The global boom that started at the beginning of the last decade continues today - with dramatic boosts from unexpected sources.
Many of us see the 1992 measures in Europe as a way to exclude outsidecompetition, but that ignores the much greater benefits to us when the 12 nations of the European Economic Community drop barriers that once impeded the flow of goods, services, money and people.
For example, in two years, we will be able to fly to a European city, pass through customs once, then travel freely to I I other countries without once seeing another immigration or customs official.Goods we ship there will require just one document, instead of up to 70 separate customs forms required today among the 12 countries. Shipments between these countries will take far less time. The growth which these and other measures will stimulate will create countless more opportunities for American marketers.
Then there is the added boost from the collapse of communism in the formersatellite countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This brings into our market economy 140 million more people - all of them eager to earn more and spend more.
The recent events in the Soviet Union are even more dramatic - with the institution of President Gorbachev's 500-Day Plan to privatize the vast majority of Soviet business and agriculture. That holds the potential for 290 million Soviet peoplejoining the world market economy, opening up vast new opportunities for themselves to produce and consume - and for Americans, especially American direct marketers, to take part.
For more opportunities, we have only to look at the booming economies of Asia, where growth has been three times faster than much of the rest of the world. By the year 2000, we can expect world economic output to come...