Despair over the United States of America

I have long loved the USA. It has been the powerhouse of the world in both thinking and economics for over 150 years. Its flexibility has allowed it to rebound after any number of disasters. It has been the bastion of liberty, the free market, innovation, productivity and culture. The encapsulation of liberty and the enlightenment can be found in the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and the Federalist Papers.

Yet latterly I have turned to despair. Instead of self-reliant, resilient and enterprising people, we are observing the emergence of the conceited and the narcissists. A society that wishes to consume but not produce. Superficial and self obsessed. Happy to be led like sheep.

I may be wrong. I hope I am. But it seems that the USA is headed to the precipice and is ill-prepared for the years ahead. Its present course will lead inexorably to the end of US hegemony. Yet the US people seem unwilling or unable to grasp the extent of the problems which they confront. They seem unwilling to change the political structure, or to seriously address excessive government spending.

There are two exhibits that best expound these problems.

The first by Mark Steyn. In which he discusses the nationalisation of the family and the bureaucratic dictatorship.

And the second by Penn and Teller about self-esteem (read narcissism).

Am I being too pessimistic?

About Samuel J

Samuel J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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51 Responses to Despair over the United States of America

  1. incoherent rambler

    Never underestimate the USA.

    They were a basket case at the start of WWII and they quickly got their act together. I have faith they will do it again.

  2. james

    All great societies end. Considering its relative commitment to historically reckless levels of innovation its amazing the USA has lasted this long with only a single civil war.

  3. Craig Mc

    IR, what we’re seeing is the difference between The Greatest Generation, and The Least Generation.

  4. Mayan

    I will bless … I will will curse …

    Americans must decide what they wish to bring upon themselves, and they will deserve what they get.

  5. JC

    SJ

    I thinks it’s wrong to look at The US as one would a European country. The US is vast with rather large regional differences. Texas is booming for instance, while California digs a bigger hole. That’s just one large state and there are quite a few other states like that.

    Don’t count the US just yet.

  6. Cool Head

    I am an Aussie expat working in a startup in the US. The US world that I inhabit is rich and vibrant. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. In this area Australia is a back water. My son has a start up back there and the financial structures around startups in Oz are primitive to non-existant.
    Here we have the best and brightest people from all around the world. At least half of the people I encounter in business are foriegn educational super stars, here we have the best and brightest from around the world.
    In terms of energy there is a boom in cheap energy here lead by fracing.My energy costs in an expensive state are less than a third of my Aussie energy bills (I still have a home in Oz).
    There is a downside as the article points out, the dependent part of the economy is huge and growing. What the outcome will be is hard to predict, will the leftiods win and destroy the place or will the boom in cheap energy combined with innovation/education win?

  7. Free Advice

    Relax. All things come and go in waves. Sooner or later the next Ronald Reagan or Maggoe Thather will come along and right the ship again. Nothing is forever. What is that saying?

    “For things to stay the same they have to change” I think that’s from “The Leopard”.

    As I keep saying to the Catastrophists, “Sure as night follows day, flood will follow drought”.

    Every generation has it’s “The end is night” nutters in the main street!

  8. Ant

    No, you’re being realistic.

    Superficial and self-obsessed is Obama in a nutshell, and he’s surrounded by radicals (Jarrett, Holder), fanatics (Sebellius) and morons (Biden, Kerry and Hagel), all there through very deliberate choice.

    The US Constitution is held openly in contempt.

    His judicial and agency appointments alone guarantee that the country’s trajectory cannot be significantly altered after he’s gone.

    Their Republican opposition is timid, weak and cowardly, blind to the inevitable, but hostile to the relatively few conservative voices in their ranks warning of what’s happening.

    And most crucially, those entrusted to safeguard against it – the news media – are instead actively covering it all up.

  9. Ant

    FA

    I’m sure Rome had its catastrophists. They may even have been called “nutters”.

  10. Free Advice

    And what’s more, floods are far more dangerous than droughts.
    I’d be far more worried about too much rain than not enough!

  11. JC

    It took 48 years for Reagan to appear after Roosevelt was elected. It was around 56 years from when Cal Coolidge was elected prez. Free market presidents weren’t in oversupply in the 20th century and certainly after the Depression.

    I’m not suggesting it can’t happen in 2016, but how do you win an election with the promise to severely cut spending. I don’t see it as there are two areas of the budget which is locked in… social security and welfare.

  12. daggers

    Well self esteem seemed to work for Muhammed Ali for a while.

  13. GC

    Having just returned from 5 weeks in the US, it just reminded me how ingenious and enterprising they are. When one considers what they have given to the world to make our lives better is extraordinary. Mark Steyn’s book After America is a great read, which expands upon this topic. They will bounce back, their economy is a massive machine like no other.

  14. C.L.

    headed to the precipice

    Headed?

    It fell over the precipice years ago.

    Or haven’t you been paying attention to it’s world-historic, un-repayable debt?

  15. Fisky

    If Chile could rebound from disaster, then so can the USA. There is already a Doctrine in nascent constitutional form, waiting to be implemented. But 2016 will be crucial. If the Democrats win that election, it may well be as bad as the Democratic victory in 1856. Scalia and Kennedy will only just make it through Obama’s second term. No way will they survive one or two terms of Hillary. So the Republicans MUST win to replace their ageing judges, and to replace Ginsburg, then it will be 6-3 and the Doctrine is good to go.

  16. There is a move to get a convention of the states (Article 5) to alter the constitution. Amendments proposed by Mark Levin, amongst others, include term limits for Senators.

    I’m not watching weather the proposals get up, I’m more interested in weather or not they’re still interested in the constitution to get a convention going to debate it.

    At the moment their constitution is being trashed at every turn without a shot being fired, let alone that shot being “heard around the world”.

    No, you’e not being too pesimistic, Samuel. I fear the USA as an idea is over. There are examples of success and recovery in various States, Texas, Wisconson, North Dakota, that are being totally ignored or worse, a narrative invented to vilify the success. That’s not what made the USA the powerhouse it once was.

    We may find the USA in smouldering heap soon. For a variety of reasons, the most prominent of which is the complete and utter usurpation of their constitution and the ideals behind the declaration.

    I tell ya what!… I’d like to know to where Australaia turns when there is no one over the horizon prepared to back freedom with a big stick? We’re not, and we don’t have one!

  17. And most crucially, those entrusted to safeguard against it – the news media – are instead actively covering it all up.

    This is the one major ingredient we haven’t had before. This is the one that makes the difference. On the other hand, the mainstream TV and print media are no longer the only sources of news, which is a mitigating factor.

    There is going to be a backlash from all this. The Democrats might, just might, manage to keep a lid on it for the midterms this year. But after that? No. I foresee a landslide defeat of epic proportions for them in 2016. And if they think they can get away with suspending the Constitution, sorry, no; they need the military for that and they’ve been pissing in the military’s face from the start, both as an organisation and at the demographic group that fills the boots on the ground.

  18. Blogstrop

    The facts of life are conservative.
    Producing stuff trumps humanities studies.
    Culture trumps politics.
    The media does matter.

  19. Tel

    It has been the powerhouse of the world in both thinking and economics for over 150 years.

    Roughly 1800 to 1960 plus a bit.

    A society that wishes to consume but not produce. Superficial and self obsessed. Happy to be led like sheep.

    The triumph of Keynesian economics.

  20. Honesty

    Jeb Bush is the only one that can beat Clinton, but he doesn’t want to run. If his mind can be changed the US might be saved otherwise another Democratic four years would see them plummet.

  21. Tel

    I might also point out that IF China can get control of the corruption situation and put a lid on inflation, and bring in some reasonable rule of law… they could do very well.

    As Singapore demonstrated, you don’t require real democracy to make a thriving environment for business. All you need is stability, and predictable laws with respect for private property. China could remain a one party system and follow the Singapore model.

  22. American Nations — a map that provides a degree of explanation as to the many different faces of the Unites States.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see the United States disintegrate into 3-5 major regions that are far more cohesive as units than what we see currently.

  23. As Singapore demonstrated, you don’t require real democracy to make a thriving environment for business. All you need is stability, and predictable laws with respect for private property.

    We have a tendency to lump the good things of modern society into ‘democracy’, when really, it has been a negative everywhere it has been implemented.

  24. Rabz

    Bush* is the only one that can beat Clinton*

    Steyn covered the sheer absurdity of this concept the other day.

    *Jeb V Hillary.

  25. Rabz

    I might also point out that IF China can get control of the corruption situation and put a lid on inflation, and bring in some reasonable rule of law… they could do very well.

    The CCP would also have to be kaput.

    The factors above also represent some key to our own future security, should the US implode.

  26. Token

    It took 48 years for Reagan to appear after Roosevelt was elected. It was around 56 years from when Cal Coolidge was elected prez. Free market presidents weren’t in oversupply in the 20th century and certainly after the Depression.

    This underlines how critical it is that when the sun is allowed to come out from the toxic smog haze that the left creates it must act quickly and decisively with a clear purpose to ring fence the critical freedoms during their terms.

    The reality is that the majority will re-elect the squandermonkeys to waste away the benefits and it is only those critical freedoms which allow a break of the crony capitalist / socialist coalition governments.

  27. Watching It Unfold

    If any country wants to see how to sow the seeds of hope, look Australia. We have weathered a leftist govt. and most of us are encouraged by the aspirations of our new govt. – its not too bad, we just have to be on our toes. And we gotta keep chewing away at our debt.

  28. A Lurker

    I’m not an expert of all things American, however as an observer my opinion is that America will sometime in the next one hundred years, experience a second Civil War. At the end of the war there will be a geo-political division of the states into two countries, There will be one that believes in what the US used to be, what it used to stand for, and will attract all like-minded people; and then there will be the rest, which will become in time, yet another failed socialist welfare state.

  29. bobby b

    Obama won his first term through brilliant use of new technology. He used that technology to reach an audience far more vast than the people who made up the audience for politics pre-”social media.”

    As a result of convincing hordes of very young, very uninformed people who would not normally have been concerned about politics that he represented The Good, and that he was fighting hard against The Evil that had been responsible for everything bad in their lives, he constructed a huge army of idiots who saw morality in lying, stealing, and cheating for his benefit.

    He has continued his campaign fundraising without pause through his entire fist and second term, because he needs to continue generating a huge social media campaign to keep his army believing in his goodness, and in the evilness of his opponents.

    But, generally, even stupid people will eventually pick up on the fact that the real world isn’t the way they’re being told it is. In our case – in the USA – it is somewhat likely that many of those cult zombies will tire of the effort of maintaining the hatred and vitriol necessary to continue supporting Obama.

    Sadly, though, after Obama’s miserable performance, Hilary Clinton is going to appear to be a very rational choice. So, unless Obama’s cultists tire of politics and completely opt out, they’re going to feel like they’re redeeming their own view of their high self-worth by supporting her.

  30. Token

    The CCP would also have to be kaput.

    The CCCP can not reform, it only exists due to its control. Like all totalitarian governments, the CCCP is playing an endless game of whack-a-mole to maintain control. The problem is that it is easy to follow the Putin route and attack Japan & Taiwan for insiders than address the critical cultural & systemic issues.

    The factors above also represent some key to our own future security, should the US implode.

    If the US implodes we’ll see the return of pirates on the seas as poor and badly managed governments engage privateers to “stimulate their economies”. Let us hope the people of the US have a little of the pride which keeps Russia powerful and desperately poor.

  31. Paul

    Clinton vs Bush for 2016? Democracy hands itself over to Dynasty.

  32. Ant

    Jeb Bush is pushing amnesty for illegal immigrants – one of the fundamental problems the US faces.

    It will be just like their ‘legalisation’ of millions of illegals under Reagan. Did that solve the problem? If so, looking at the situation today with at least 11 million more illegals and a lawless administration hell bent on facilitating it, how so?

    Bush is also supporting the nationalisation of the the education curriculum. Hardly a federalist, more like a big government centrist, just like his brother and father.

    No, Bush 41 and 43 were disasters economically. The first by running scared from the great Reagan’s numerous achievements and the second by his massive government expansion and spending.

    Only a conservative who operates within the confines of the US Constitution can save the US. And even then, he or she will likely face a hostile Congress and a media class just itching to launch assault after assault on every move they make.

    Basically, they’re stuffed. There might be a small respite if they can make significant inroads in debt and unfunded liability reduction, and restore some international respect, but it will only be temporary.

  33. james

    If Chile could rebound from disaster, then so can the USA.

    That DID take a Junta however.

    Sometimes surgery is needed but it is nice if it can be avoided.

  34. Rococo Liberal

    When the Western Roman Empire fell there were pockets in some of the provinces where civilisation went on for 100 years just as it had before. No really great ideas or culture arose from these areas of calm in a sea of turmoil and change , but they were pleasanter places to be than the ravaged city of Rome or other parts of the Empire that were run by the Barbarian invaders.

    This reflection came to me on reading the comment above from the Australian expat in start ups. One or two people of my acquaintance have said the same thing as him. To the entrepreneur Australian (and I believe there are a few hundred thousand of them) the US is a land of opportunity and miracles. JC too is right that some States in the US are really doing well, whilst the more socialistic ones are not.

    And yet …

    I don’t think the US will fall in a heap in the near future. However, it will decline into a European style State. And like the Romans, the US white upper middle classes will cease to breed. The country will then be swamped by immigrants of lesser abilities and ambitions.

  35. .

    It will be just like their ‘legalisation’ of millions of illegals under Reagan. Did that solve the problem? If so, looking at the situation today with at least 11 million more illegals and a lawless administration hell bent on facilitating it, how so?

    No, because it wasn’t a problem. Reagan’s economic record re: growth, unemployment and real wages in the context of a large intake shows this to be so.

    The idea they can’t repay the debt is fatuous. Greece also could have paid her debts, but chose not to.

  36. .

    I don’t think the US will fall in a heap in the near future. However, it will decline into a European style State. And like the Romans, the US white upper middle classes will cease to breed. The country will then be swamped by immigrants of lesser abilities and ambitions.

    Except the immigrants were more capable and ambitious. They faced more competitive restraints.

  37. Boambee John

    “I fear the USA as an idea is over. There are examples of success and recovery in various States, Texas, Wisconson, North Dakota, that are being totally ignored or worse, a narrative invented to vilify the success.”

    I suspect that one of the reasons that Obama has roused himself from his torpor over Crimea is that he is worried that the population of what the politically correct so-called “progressives” call ‘Fly-over country’ or ‘Jesusland’ might decide that secession isn’t such a bad idea.

    As Driftforge and A Lurker have suggested (1248486 and 1249005) a break-up of the US into two or more nations, with different political philosophies, seems a likely outcome.

  38. .

    PS

    I love how Penn is getting angrier and angrier….

    “What the fucketty fucketty fuck fuck…..”

    Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean….

  39. .

    More gold:

    Roy Baumesiter…hang on, is that Dr Zaius!?

  40. dalai lama

    Leftist politics does not go away, no matter how many failures. That’s the appeal of the seeming ‘free lunch’.

    WRT Chile, just give them time. They’ve been doing well – at least from a South American perspective – but they have gradually been shifting further to the left as the years go by.

    The recently elected president, Michelle Bachelet, comes from a family of communist academics and spent her childhood & was educated in East Germany, where her parents were in exile during the Pinochet era. She won the election on the platform of higher taxes on business and more ‘free’ stuff for the masses. Does that not sound familiar?

    And for those who think that somehow the US Republican party are a party of small government, I would say ‘wake up’. The fact is neither the Democrats nor the Republicans, apart from a few individuals here and there, have any real interest in scaling down the size of government. Just like Labor and Liberal here, the argument is all about which preferred constituents are to receive the benefits of government largesse. With the Dems it’s labour unions and the welfare sector, with the Reps it’s defence.

    In other words, there will be no real change until forced by to do so. I.e. – same as what happened in NZ in the 80s, where it was a Labour government (Lange & Douglas) introducing the most far reaching changes with a dramatically libertarian & free-market bent after the place nearly went bankrupt.

  41. Combine Dave

    Except the immigrants were more capable and ambitious. They faced more competitive restraints.

    Not all. As evidenced by boat peeps sitting on welfare here in Australia.

  42. .

    Then the analogy is not entirely analogous… Rome wasn’t offering welfare to non citizens, quite the opposite – it was taxing its citizens so harshly the border dwellers simply hopped over the border or changed allegiance.

    There is a lesson in that for all of us.

  43. Token

    “I fear the USA as an idea is over. There are examples of success and recovery in various States, Texas, Wisconson, North Dakota, that are being totally ignored or worse, a narrative invented to vilify the success.”

    I find listening to programs created by people from across the US addresses that perception. Listen to Minnesota conservatives Hindreraker & Ward here, and another James Lileks here where they note how the boom in North Dakota & the revitalisation of Wisconsin is changing the Senate races in states like Iowa & Wisconsin to be competitive and even forcing changing on the only state that voted for Mondale in ’84.

    When you hear people who live it talk you understand how the US is not yet ruined.

  44. Ant

    Their current debt would gobble up more than entire year’s GDP.

    Their unfunded liabilities are around $100 trillion, and growing around $6-7 trillion annually.

    I don’t we are talking about another Greece or anything like that.

  45. Bruce of Newcastle

    Megan McArdle has a fine article on Venezuela. She would make an awesome blogger (and yes, I humbly ask forgiveness for anything I might have said about her in the past which was negative).

    Venezuela Wants to Spread the Suffering

    I’ve mentioned it here rather than on the open thread for the obvious reason. America, in the same way, is currently dealing with the fly she has swallowed.

    November 8th 2016 cannot come too soon.

  46. .

    Ant – you are correct but they can still pay these things off or balance the books within a decade or less. They lack a decent backbone to do so.

  47. Roger

    Prisons are full of people with high self-esteem.
    Go figure.

  48. Prisons are full of people with high self-esteem.

    We can’t let them have low self-esteem; that would be inhumane!
    Too often they also have “monstrous vanity and colossal selfishness”.
    See Chapter 17 of The Franchise Affair (1948), by Josephine Tey:

    For Robert, being old-fashioned, believed in retribution. He might not go all the way with Moses—an eye was not always compensation for an eye—but he certainly agreed with Gilbert: the punishment should fit the crime. He certainly did not believe that a few quiet talks with the chaplain and a promise to reform made a criminal into a respect-worthy citizen. “Your true criminal,” he remembered Kevin saying one night, after a long discussion on penal reform, “has two unvarying characteristics, and it is these two characteristics which make him a criminal: monstrous vanity and colossal selfishness. And they are both as integral, as ineradicable, as the texture of the skin. You might as well talk of ‘reforming’ the colour of one’s eyes.”

  49. Major Elvis Newton

    The Republican Party need a Reagan-type Conservative to lead it out of the political wilderness.

    Sadly there are none in there at present that could effect a Carter style defeat on the Obama administration.

    America, you had your black president. Got all that Civil Rights and restorative ledger squaring empowerment carp out of your system? All that hopey changey stuff was a crock and you bought it…now you are paying the price.

    As RINO Mitt Romney pointed out: once Joe Public figures out he can rob Treasury through the ballot box he ain’t never gonna vote Republican again. Once the productive class are outnumbered it is lights out for America…as it is in Europe and is fast becoming in Australia.

    Stupidly, the current crop of Republicans believe the only way to victory is through appeasement of people who would never vote for them.

    They are not true conservatives…they can never never be true to the foundations of America as framed by the Constitution; that of limited government and the pursuit of liberty over tyranny by stealth.

    America….what happened?

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