Because they are mega-everything, states like China and the USA become test paradigms for what can go right and wrong in managing humans. Consider these:
1) The US has the world’s largest and most sophisticated assembly of spying organizations. They collect what is laughably called “intelligence” on all of us, legally and often illegally. However this vast mass of intelligence assets has repeatedly been unable to anticipate attacks upon its own integrity by its own personnel (who are surely more spied upon than anybody else): in the first instance from information leaks by thoughtful and conscientious insiders (Manning, Snowden, John Kiriakou … there are others too), as well as from a long history of soldiers shooting fellow soldiers; or on a much larger scale from the “war on drugs” – read failure to evaluate the real meaning of “intelligence” from massive surveillance – which has generated an explosion of violence and criminality (shades of the 1920s-30s Prohibition); and of course a from long list of wars with failure sourced in endless misinformation and self-deception; and about to break: a tsunami of lost business for US corporations which are now regarded as agents of US spying and no longer trusted worldwide.
2) The US has the world’s most “sophisticated” health care system. Result: also the world’s most expensive health care system. Its outcomes have resulted in rising mortality, an increase in diseases, and ever-falling life expectancy for US citizens relative to those in other countries, and about 62% of bankruptcies due to medical emergency (so this is “intelligence”?).
3) The US has the world’s best universities. A few. It also has one of the world’s most fragmented and least successful education systems amongst advanced nations, with graduates indebted for decades. It would be tiresome to list the failures here, but basically the mess is an ideologically driven, hysterical melt-down, best understood by the populist contempt for teachers.
Issues 4), 5), 6) … why go on?
So Dagwood Bumstead, prepare a simple solution, an executive summary in 50 words or less for your lobotomized neighbourhood director… Well Mr Dithers, the problem is partly that nobody really knows how to manage anything as complicated as a large, technically advanced country. Spin doesn’t cut it. Exceptionalism is another word for arrogance. But there are other basic missing ingredients too, such as out of fashion ideas like honesty (from which comes real trust), genuine respect for others (don’t spy on them), cooperation (not coercion), and actually wanting to do your job well (CV fluff and salary level are not evidence). Oh, and leadership the rest of us can believe in…