A monopoly obtains when one firm is free to set prices and output while keeping ambitious newcomers out of the market. The best example is Standard Oil in the late 19th century. Ruthlessly undercutting competitors, the company ended up controlling 90 percent of refined oil flows in the United States. The United States never had that kind of overweening power in the international “market.” It may have come close to unipolarity in the 1990s when its mortal rival, the Soviet Union, had committed suicide. Yet the contemporary world is no longer unipolar. Neither is it bi- or multipolar.
The global strategic landscape is moving away from the primacy that America achieved over the last century. New terrain includes the possibility of great power competition, a return to the bipolarity that policy-makers in the immediate post-Cold War said must never happen again. Current sentiment in the U.S. illustrates that there are worse possibilities than bipolarity.
By traditional measures—military strength, economic wealth, population size—the United States remains the world’s preeminent superpower. Its economy continues to expand; it deploys the largest military in the world; it is home to a growing population; and American laws and capital flows encourage a vibrant ecosystem for innovation.