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Subject: American Decline rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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I have recently been thinking about America's supposed decline and the debates over it. Many theories are put forth, and as of late I have run into three articles that really made me think about this topic.

The first one is Not Fade Away. In it Donald Kagan, one of the smarter neocons, lays out a good reason to deny that decline is inevitable, pointing out the limits of American power in the past. It is a sobering essay for those who think we were a nation that, until recently, usually got is way on the world stage.

The second is from Walter Russell Mead and is part of an ongoing series: Beyond Blue

Mead fascinates me like no other conservative thinker. Some of it is the commenters who, until recently, were the biggest right wing echo chamber I had yet encountered. The best among them is a dilgent fellow named WigWag, who points out Mead's errors and is torn apart by the groupthink. i know, RSP jokes will soon follow.

Mead though is persuasive and has a good grasp of history. His obsession is with the death of the "Blue Social Model" of the Progressive state. To this end he finds any evidence he can use for his point and conveniently drops things that might prove him wrong. He rails against government corruption and incompetence, but barely pays attention to the corporate variety. He seems to think the GOP is on some cutting edge, outside of their social politics. Yet on one central point we both agree: American liberals are often backwards looking, pining for the golden era of the New Deal Coalition. Perhaps that, and his obvious intelligence is why I read his stuff, even if I grit my teeth at his cover ups, errors, and slavish devotion to a narrow definition of the Anglo-American model and the primacy of capitalism as the alpha and omega of our times.

Yet, it is that very model that now seems under question. Since 1815, the British model, which combined elements from other nations, in particular the Dutch and French, has dominated the world and set the tempo. I do not mean to overstate this, for it is more a western achievement than a British one, but this idea has merit. Mead, and to a lesser degree Kagan, see it as still powerful. In it is a belief that English speaking nations will bear the light of freedom and do much of the innovation. Mead even makes the usual weak arguments about English speaking nations being more stable by presenting the American Revolution as orderly. There is even a bland paean to British composure by recounting a bad poem about Marlborough in the Battle of Blenheim. My problem with this is what he ignores: imperial conquest, the American Civil War, and a whole host of massacres and riots, from the Gordon riots and Peterloo to Rodney King and the recent fun times in London. Therein lies another rub. The system, as defined by Mead is one of liberty and free markets. While I always like some nuance, and I think the stability argument is bunk, liberty and free markets does mostly define us.

Regardless, this British system seems to be coming under attack from within and from without. Regardless, where is that set in stone that such a model will prevail? After all, Britain was only an emerging power after the English Civil War, and only dominant after 1815. To this end I think Adam Curtis, a left-wing British filmmaker, is on to something. His recent blogpost underlines what I think Kagan and Mead are missing: our economic system is turning in on itself. He describes this through a discussion of the cruise industry: We're All in the Same Boat - Aren't We?

So whereas Kagan and Mead see America and this particular way of life as sustainable, Curtis sees it as fatally flawed.

Now, having been as long winded as ever, I ask you guys do you think America is declining? If so can it rebound? Is this system of ours sustainable?
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Karl Rove was offended, but I like Clint

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Clint Eastwood is telling us we should all lobby for massive government bailouts?
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degamer wrote:
Clint Eastwood is telling us we should all lobby for massive government bailouts?


I think he's more saying that we should use tax money we pay to invest in America. Since Americans can't be trusted to do so on their own.

Yes I mean all you reading this post on a device built in China, driving a car built in Japan, wearing a shirt made in India, and shoes made in Viet Nam.


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degamer wrote:
Clint Eastwood is telling us we should all lobby for massive government bailouts?


The car company bailouts were better than the bank bailouts. GM went bankrupt with investors losing thieir money and the company Chrysler was owned by lost their investment. This is what is supposed to happen. The car industry was deemed too important to lose, so the government got them back running and that action is looking better all the time.

Investors in poorly run banks didn't lose a dime after they caused much of the problem. Some bad banks even tried to pay dividends right after taking the money. That was a bad lesson and I hope the new regs will allow it to work differently if it happens again.
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I've always liked Eastwood. Then recently I looked up sandra lockhart and read the history of their relationship and man-- what a major asshole. At least as bad as Arnold - in some ways worse.

Doesn't change the political point. Just was on my mind.
 
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Ed Bradley
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Unless the rich western nations do the following, collapse is inevitable:

1) Admit there are problems with the financial system as it stands. These are the problems that caused the current crisis and have not been addressed.
2) Investigate those problems.
3) Address those problems.

The current system is cannibalising too much of the meat of our civilisations in pursuit of useless cash.

I'm not talking about eradicating capitalism or replacing it with a communist utopia or any of that shit. I'm talking about repairing and improving capitalism to make it more fit for purpose.

The problem we have at the moment is that the elites that run the show haven't even made it to step (1).
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Fwing wrote:
Unless the rich western nations do the following, collapse is inevitable:

1) Admit there are problems with the financial system as it stands. These are the problems that caused the current crisis and have not been addressed.
2) Investigate those problems.
3) Address those problems.

The current system is cannibalising too much of the meat of our civilisations in pursuit of useless cash.

I'm not talking about eradicating capitalism or replacing it with a communist utopia or any of that shit. I'm talking about repairing and improving capitalism to make it more fit for purpose.

The problem we have at the moment is that the elites that run the show haven't even made it to step (1).


bankers reckon it is fit for purpose.
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muntmeister wrote:
Fwing wrote:
Unless the rich western nations do the following, collapse is inevitable:

1) Admit there are problems with the financial system as it stands. These are the problems that caused the current crisis and have not been addressed.
2) Investigate those problems.
3) Address those problems.

The current system is cannibalising too much of the meat of our civilisations in pursuit of useless cash.

I'm not talking about eradicating capitalism or replacing it with a communist utopia or any of that shit. I'm talking about repairing and improving capitalism to make it more fit for purpose.

The problem we have at the moment is that the elites that run the show haven't even made it to step (1).


bankers reckon it is fit for purpose.


Yeah but their purpose is to get stupidly rich and fuck everyone else.
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Fwing wrote:
Yeah but their purpose is to get stupidly rich and fuck everyone else.
QFT.

I think one of the unlearned (despite all the evidence) lessons is that a lightly or completely unregulated free-market economy will always tend towards excess.
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gittes wrote:
In it Donald Kagan, one of the smarter neocons
There is no such thing.
gittes wrote:
While I always like some nuance, and I think the stability argument is bunk, liberty and free markets does mostly define us.
If i didn't know better, I'd say you've been visiting Ron Paul rallies.
gittes wrote:
Now, having been as long winded as ever, I ask you guys do you think America is declining? If so can it rebound? Is this system of ours sustainable?
I find the question to be deceptive: It is not that America (or even "The West") is declining, it's that we've done such a good job of exporting our free-market attitudes that the rest of the world is catching up. And the more truly free trading partners we have, the longer the USA (and "The West") will survive and prosper.

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fightcitymayor wrote:
I find the question to be deceptive: It is not that America (or even "The West") is declining, it's that we've done such a good job of exporting our free-market attitudes that the rest of the world is catching up. And the more truly free trading partners we have, the longer the USA (and "The West") will survive and prosper.



Then I think you're either misinformed or crazy.
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Warrior Soul - Four More Years



Playing wild, the dying children
From the gutter they spawn
A life created of indignation
Pride and seeker pause
Pig city, oil creation
Oversexed dose, the junk machine crawls
Missing is the laughter, from the death bus
While the eternal human war rages on

Can you believe how little you care?
The friendly face of the empire leader
Conquest of style, ego hate
Walk amongst the dogs
While the violence kills the declining state

Have you eaten today?
I am glad
Your digestion is the sorrow of the hungry
So tired of rejection and stupidity

Cut away to Grey man
Isolation room, a crowd gathers
Fade to riot, As the furor screams deliverance
The claws of the predatory corporation dig deep
Into the niave religion culture
Acceptance, blind virtue
Their reason taunts the absurd
The beggar, he feeds the anger
As you burn sorrow's last word
Pain create the answer holy
Learn the lesson passion learned
Hate the teachers, oh so saintly
I kiss the pyre as it burned

Our need flows on, but we feel nothing
While emotion kills with no remorseful deathblow from Jesus
Only you can turn the key
To unlock the tortured riches inside your soul
And find the reason we live

Like some sort of God rejection
Place the blame on heads that turn
You watch the dagger rip through masses
As wheat and grain and corn
Dry into a hatred reality,
Screaming into a vengeful pit
Pitiful scream!!

The heart goes forward hating
Wanting life that cannot be attained
Justice seeker, pray for vengeance
The purest life is marred and stained

I want the World to heal
I want the world to love
But it cannot

4 More Years
4 More Years
4 More Years
4 More Years
4 More Years
4 More Years
4 More Years...
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Moshe Callen
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Gittes;

I do think the US's position asa super-power is indeed declining, but I don't think either gentleman linked to in the OP could really explain nor comprehend why-- if only because they disassociate themselves and their ilk from the problem, even if only subconsciously.

US post-war dominance of the politically Western cultural block largely relied on 1. the US powerhouse economy which far outstripped any other nation in the "Western" sphere, 2. overwhelming military might and the commitment to use that might offensively and defensively against real and perceived Soviet aggression and 3. scientific and technological innovation and development far surpassing any other Western nation's.

Each of these aspects has been on the decline for decades. Economists and historians can argue about why but my guess is the complacent assumption of superiority on both sides in the US has undermined slowly the doing of what is needed ot maintain that position.

EDIT: to add--
I don't think the US position as a major position is going to vanish any time soon; I just do think the degree of that influence and power is declining slowly.
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Ken
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gittes wrote:
I ask you guys do you think America is declining?


In my mind, the answer is an unqualified "no." We remain a large, vibrant economy with very strong positives that you can see merely by looking at the number of people that want to move here, invest here, trade here, and engage here. We remain a focal point of diplomacy, although we've hurt ourselves here over the last decade or so, and still enjoy freedoms that many in the world are envious of.

But that's different than saying "everything is perfect." We've managed to create a tax system that's so convoluted and complex that it's nigh-on impossible to reform without stepping all over some ideologue's idea of "what's right" and results in structural deficits without end in sight. We've managed to polarize our debate on so many issues from so many different perspectives that we can't get the basics accomplished. We're so sensitive to government spending that we're horribly under-investing in infrastructure, research, and development which will come around to haunt us in the future. Our education system is burdened with waste, inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and excessive "top-down" control which then becomes a form of excessive investment when one gets to the college level and drives the price up without a commensurate increase in quality. We provide little in the way of vocational, technical, or specialized education to address the modern manufacturing workplace or alternatives to high-end white collar jobs.

America isn't in decline - the rest of the world is merely on the rise as technology, finance, economic, and social changes sweep throughout the third world to improve their place in the world. And we either adapt, reform, and restructure to respond or we risk a real decline over time.

Sadly, we seem to have lost the ability to define consensus or demonstrate leadership in the political spectrum and instead allow ourselves to be bombarded with marketing and propaganda masquerading as discussion or news. We create safe districts and abhor political moderates who fail to toe a party line and look for effective compromise. We look for representatives that reflect the ends of the political spectrum without the skill, desire, or willingness to compromise to move the common ball forward.

If we're declining, it's in the way we are approaching solving problems. Anyone who looks at our deficit or debt and states "We should only cut taxes" or "We should only cut spending" is sufficiently delusional that we shouldn't put them in office because those policies both cannot work practically and fail to capture the majority view of the populace.

Are we in decline? No. There's just some that look at how other nations may be "closing the gap" and mistake this for decline. But if we don't concern ourselves with our people and general well-being in a consensus-based, compromise-focused, and long-term manner we'll definitely get there. We aren't at the point of being unable to sustain ourselves yet, but will be if we don't get serious in the medium term.
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fightcitymayor
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Fwing wrote:
fightcitymayor wrote:
I find the question to be deceptive: It is not that America (or even "The West") is declining, it's that we've done such a good job of exporting our free-market attitudes that the rest of the world is catching up. And the more truly free trading partners we have, the longer the USA (and "The West") will survive and prosper.
Then I think you're either misinformed or crazy.
Hmmm... a little from Column A.... aaaaaaand a little from Column B!

But seriously, what part about free-markets making the gains of the 20th-century possible did you dislike?
Quote:
Poverty reduction, or poverty alleviation, has been largely as a result of overall economic growth. Food shortages were common before modern agricultural technology and in places that lack them today, such as nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation methods. The dawn of industrial revolution led to high economic growth, eliminating mass poverty in what is now considered the developed world. World GDP per person quintupled during the 20th century. In 1820, 75% of humanity lived on less than a dollar a day, while in 2001, only about 20% do.

Your lack of faith in free markets is disturbing.


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perfalbion wrote:
Are we in decline? No. There's just some that look at how other nations may be "closing the gap" and mistake this for decline.
I already said that.
And a British chap called me crazy.
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fightcitymayor wrote:
But seriously, what part about free-markets making the gains of the 20th-century possible did you dislike?


Your quote would be more convincing if it were sourced and it didn't manage to ignore the fact that living on under $1/day works just fine if you're a subsistence farmer or live in a community where that's the overwhelming form of employment. Which the vast majority of the world was until the industrial revolution hit (and largely still applies to huge portions of the world today once you move out of the industrialized nations).

Free market demagoguery is about as useful as communist propaganda - not at all.
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fightcitymayor wrote:
But seriously, what part about free-markets making the gains of the 20th-century possible did you dislike?


It depends on what you mean by free markets. Do you mean that you let corporations do whatever they want and everything will be great? Or do you mean letting market forces work within the bounds of laws and regulations to protect individual and national interests? The former always seems to end in disaster.
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I believe we are in decline, but I don't look at that as a bad thing, nor do I believe that it is an absolute direction, more like a parabola. After the fall of the Soviets, we had global dominance. Now China is on its way to becoming a Super Power and India and perhaps Brazil are stepping up. Is that terrible that we lose hegemony? I don't think so. When we had absolute control we were willing to get involved in unnecessary wars and fetter our future away. Having another power around that you don't want to piss off keeps us honest; good fences and all. So, I think that we have recessed to the point of being a manageable empire. As long as we don't do something stupid like start a war with Iran or N. Korea, we might take the next 12 years to work our way out of the hole that the Republicans spent us into.
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fightcitymayor wrote:
Fwing wrote:
fightcitymayor wrote:
I find the question to be deceptive: It is not that America (or even "The West") is declining, it's that we've done such a good job of exporting our free-market attitudes that the rest of the world is catching up. And the more truly free trading partners we have, the longer the USA (and "The West") will survive and prosper.
Then I think you're either misinformed or crazy.
Hmmm... a little from Column A.... aaaaaaand a little from Column B!

But seriously, what part about free-markets making the gains of the 20th-century possible did you dislike?
Quote:
Poverty reduction, or poverty alleviation, has been largely as a result of overall economic growth. Food shortages were common before modern agricultural technology and in places that lack them today, such as nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation methods. The dawn of industrial revolution led to high economic growth, eliminating mass poverty in what is now considered the developed world. World GDP per person quintupled during the 20th century. In 1820, 75% of humanity lived on less than a dollar a day, while in 2001, only about 20% do.

Your lack of faith in free markets is disturbing.




The bit after about 1980 when the solid gains of the previous century started to be destroyed by a ludicrous monetarist experiment.
Then the bit after 1986 when deregulation went bananas and accelerated the whole process. When all our industries started shipping labour overseas and starting this insane race to the bottom in taxation and fair wages.

Yes the other nations are catching up and I think that's great. But the rich west is sinking and slavish faith* in "free markets**" is speeding the process, not slowing it.

* Faith. That word again. Stop having faith and start engaging your other faculties.
** point to one. I mean in the sense that is outlined in the neoclassical economic doctrine you so readily parrot.
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Ken is dead on I think. America is not so much declining as much as that other, more populous, nations are developing at a much greater speed until they too, hit a point of diminishing returns. Economically that will likely be somewhat on par with the West and the US (in terms of GDP per head, living standards etc), but they are still FAR removed from that point. Politically and eventually militarily they will at some point outstrip the US by the sheer weight of massive populations.

But all of these have a long way to go. China et al have only begun to assert their power diplomatically, and did not even start militarily. The US still has a great advantage in that your political system IS better than what China and Russia have. In the long term they need to deal with that, or their need to spend significant resources dealing with internal control issues will prevent them from truly catching up.
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Venga2 wrote:
Ken is dead on I think. America is not so much declining as much as that other, more populous, nations are developing at a much greater speed until they too, hit a point of diminishing returns. Economically that will likely be somewhat on par with the West and the US (in terms of GDP per head, living standards etc), but they are still FAR removed from that point. Politically and eventually militarily they will at some point outstrip the US by the sheer weight of massive populations.

But all of these have a long way to go. China et al have only begun to assert their power diplomatically, and did not even start militarily. The US still has a great advantage in that your political system IS better than what China and Russia have. In the long term they need to deal with that, or their need to spend significant resources dealing with internal control issues will prevent them from truly catching up.


I see China very slowly and very carefully releasing its communist system. It already has in many parts of its country. Russia is politically still very immature and behaves as if the cold war is still going.

The US is not declining. As someone said others are catching up and have every likelihood of passing it.
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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fightcitymayor wrote:
gittes wrote:
In it Donald Kagan, one of the smarter neocons
There is no such thing.
gittes wrote:
While I always like some nuance, and I think the stability argument is bunk, liberty and free markets does mostly define us.
If i didn't know better, I'd say you've been visiting Ron Paul rallies.
gittes wrote:
Now, having been as long winded as ever, I ask you guys do you think America is declining? If so can it rebound? Is this system of ours sustainable?
I find the question to be deceptive: It is not that America (or even "The West") is declining, it's that we've done such a good job of exporting our free-market attitudes that the rest of the world is catching up. And the more truly free trading partners we have, the longer the USA (and "The West") will survive and prosper.


First, good afternoon Mayor!

I was just waiting for someone to pounce on my backhanded compliment to Kagan!

Dr. Paul and myself would disagree about the definition of liberty or the utility of free markets. Certainly there are times when we did not live up to either ideal. Before FDR we were a protectionist nation and of course there is that whole Confederate States of America thing. Overall though, these are the ideals pursued both in here and America. I just don't think they necessary create stability the way Mead sees it. Much of that stability is product of nearly 250 years of Anglo-American domination of the high seas.

But if I had to pin what I think is best in this anglo-American system it is the faith in liberty and the defense of individual rights, and the arguments within the anglosphere about those rights and liberties give it more richness than Mead's narrow definitions. I think we've gone too far, and I can see how individuality can destroy us, but in the end the ideals are right.

The last point you make is one I do wonder about, because it follows the logic that trading partners do not battle each other and indeed they prop each other. The trouble is not just the cases where war happened anyway, but that the rise of the east is coming at our expense. If someone can say how my perception is wrong please do, because I wish it were not so.
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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fightcitymayor wrote:
Your lack of faith in free markets is disturbing.


laugh

But really, isn't this like making Saruman, Noah Cross, Ming the Merciless, Mr. Potter, and Dracula your mascot?
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