Thursday, July 03, 2008

Let's see the end of end-of-America books 

Historian Thomas Madden surveys the declinist books in his local Barnes & Noble, and tries to explain their obvious popularity:

As a historian, I find this trend fascinating. After all, since humans climbed out of the trees and began surveying the lion-infested Savannah, none have ever lived in a period more prosperous, secure and stable than Americans do today. The U.S. is not only the wealthiest and most powerful country on earth now, but in all of history. There's never been a better time and place to be alive than America in the 21st century.

So why all the decline theorists?

Here's my theory: Prosperity and security are boring. Nobody wants to read about them. The same phenomenon occurred in ancient Rome, the last state to acquire such a firm hegemony. By the second century B.C., Roman citizens were affluent and their empire no longer had any serious rivals. With the dangers past and the money rolling in, they developed a taste for jeremiads. If you had a stylus, ink and scroll you could hardly go broke telling the Romans their empire, culture and way of life were yesterday's news.

Polybius blamed pandering politicians, who, he predicted, would transform the noble Republic into mob rule. Sallust claimed that Rome's vicious political parties had "torn the Republic asunder." Livy wrote his entire "History of Rome" just so that his fellow citizens could "follow the decay of the national character . . . until it reaches these days in which we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies."

I extend this to my general attitude. Whenever I get to fretting about my own personal situation, I compare myself to the rest of humanity. Is there a luckier time or place in all of history to have been born than in the United States in the second half of 20th century? The answer is so obviously "no" that it cheers me right up! Not just born on third base, but born knowing what the heck third base is. Does it get better than that? I submit that it cannot.

The Fourth of July is our real day of thanksgiving.

CWCID: John J. Miller.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 03, 09:07:00 AM:

I laugh when I see the bumper sticker that says, "The worst day fishing is better than the best day working".

I need to make one of my own that says. "The worst day in Orange County, CA is better than the best day in most of the rest of the world". It doesn't quite roll of the tongue, but it's true. Thanks to all of our fore bearers who made it all possible. Happy Independence Day, to all who are capable of enjoying it. Long live the American Revolution. God bless our family fighting overseas, and the sons and daughters with badges who protect us here at home.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 03, 09:10:00 AM:

What I love about Americans, is their delusional self-esteem. A typical trait of Americans is that their country is the best. No matter what, their country is the best. I believe this is the mentality all governments try to indoctrinate their citizens with. THAT, is what needs to be studied. Americans always think their country is the best, even when they have ABSOLUTELY NO SAY in how the country is run. Keep the illegal invaders rolling in and keep telling yourself we're the best. I guess all the Statistics about the current condition are fabrications? If they're true, do they signal a healthy country? Please explain.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 03, 09:24:00 AM:

I love our free speech, and the fact that I have the freedom to ignore people who the foreigners who are wrong.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 03, 09:44:00 AM:

I know what 3rd base is too.

Anon at 9:10, the fact that we have illegal invaders enter into this country and for the most part want to take part in the freedoms of our economic system is a clear example in itself that our "delusional self-esteem" is not unsupported. I don't see a stream of Americans running for the borders of sister nations looking for the benefits those nations provide whether it is cheaper gas, a lower legal drinking age, or social medicine. The reverse is true.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 03, 10:13:00 AM:

I've lived in Europe and spent time in Mexico and points south... America is by far more secure domestically than those places and more prosperous. Our poor are nothing like the grindingly poor of Mexico. Our middle class are far better off than the narrow strip of worker bees in Europe if only because they're freer to move up should they so choose.

One big difference of course is that our media does nothing but carp and complain about how terrible we are and how horrible life is like here, while in other lands the state-run media is all aglow with how splendid life is. Idiot leftists take obvious propaganda at face value - both the agit-prop here at home and the 'worker's paradise' BS from abroad.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 03, 11:03:00 AM:

I have a better answer to the question "Is there a luckier time or place in all of history to have been born than in the United States in the second half of 20th century?"

Not yet.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 03, 12:04:00 PM:

Whenever I get to fretting about my own personal situation, I reach for my copy of "The Gulag Archipelago".

Amazing what a little context and perspective can do.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Thu Jul 03, 12:55:00 PM:

Many idealists (or idealogues) on the left and the right are perfectionists, and for them, the "good" literally becomes the enemy of the perfect.

Part of this is just human nature: we have a vision of how we want things to be, and reality is never quite equal to that vision. I read a funny sports article recently that talked about Red Sox fans being upset about trailing the Rays in the AL East, and some of these same fans admitted that they had promised that they would never complain again if only the Sox would finally win a World Series (which, of course, happened in 2004 and then again last fall). To mix sports metaphors, the goalposts are constantly moving.

When I picked up my morning paper (The Philadlephia Inquirer) from the driveway yesterday, a good example of the sentiment cited by Madden was contained in this column by former Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Page Editor Chris Satullo, who stated that "This year, America doesn't deserve to celebrate its birthday. This Fourth of July should be a day of quiet and atonement. For we have sinned." Etc.

As one can imagine, the comments section is more entertaining than the column itself. The people cancelling their subscriptions is a nice touch, particularly because the Inquirer might already be in some difficulty, which is an amazing thing, considering their monopoly position (the group that acquired it from Knight Ridder not too long ago was in technical default -- out of covenant -- on its debt within the last month or so). Maybe Satullo doesn't like the ownership (the lead partner has raised lots of money for Republicans) and he is trying to give it the kiss of death, kind of a scorched earth policy for the paper. Or maybe he really feels what he wrote.

I'd like to think that most folks slightly to the left of center would still like to celebrate the Fourth, and understand that that birth of our nation is an event which shouldn't be overshadowed by contemporary problems, whatever one's view of those problems may be. For those on the extremes who want to undo the work of the Founding Fathers, I suppose July 4 isn't a reason to celebrate.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 03, 03:58:00 PM:

"That we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights..."

That phrase, however you parse it, separated the Idea of the United States from almost every form of government before. Not government, wise men, mandarins, generals or kings could grant or take away the inalienable rights of a man (or men).
The fact that it took a second American Revolution (1861-1865) to BEGIN to redeem the truth of that promise, and that every generation has had to struggle to maintain and expand on that idea, is not a bug, but a feature.
Every generation has to invest in the here and now, and in the future.
We, as individual Americans, are not better, smarter, prettier, or more virtuous, than the rest of the billions that populate this world. Some people in this country would surely like to renege on the promise of that line in the Declaration of Independence.

But those words, and the meaning they carry, are a keystone idea of this Republic. Every man, woman and child, is guaranteed that they have an intrinsic value that the government cannot take away (though sometimes in history the government and its officialdom have mightily tried).
The rule of law, and the dignity and value of one human being, inspires and uplifts the great number of Americans to be the best kind of citizen they can be, at least once in while. And some are inspired to do truly great things to vindicate that promise, and those words.

"....that this government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Have a Happy Fourth of July! And especially remember those patriots who are a long way from home who continue to vindicate that promise and those words, not just for us, but for millions who have lived under the boot of Tyrany, whoever and whatever name he takes.


By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Thu Jul 03, 05:03:00 PM:

Don't get too cocky. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an expression in Europe to describe a wealthy man: "He's as rich as an Argentinean."

Because of the destruction of European and Japanese factories and cities during WWII, the U.S. had little competition in the global marketplace for almost 30 years (except for Volkswagen, Japanese cameras, etc.). That gave us a big head start. Those days are over.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Jul 03, 05:27:00 PM:

That's just fine. Competition and the progress that springs from it are part of the American way as well.  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Thu Jul 03, 05:50:00 PM:

DF82: "are part of the American way"

Give the Democrats control of Congress AND the White House and watch how fast things can fall.  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Thu Jul 03, 06:25:00 PM:

P.S. In my experience, DF82, Americans are not the best businesspeople in the world.

Who are the best? IMO, the Overseas Chinese (the Chinese outside Mainland China) are No. 1. In the West the Dutch probably are the best. What do they have in common? Patience.

What is America's weakness? Impatience. (Example: The demands to withdraw from Iraq.)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 03, 09:28:00 PM:

"I extend this to my general attitude. Whenever I get to fretting about my own personal situation, I compare myself to the rest of humanity. Is there a luckier time or place in all of history to have been born than in the United States in the second half of 20th century?"

What a pathetic rationalization, Tigerhawk. Remember that Lamborghini in Frankfurt? It's not yours! And that Tiger Orange Lamborghini in Princeton? It's not yours, either! LOSER!

See, America really does suck, and the end of its day in the sun is upon us. You just can't face it, because YOU DON'T have the Lamborghini you deserve!  

By Blogger Polybius, at Fri Jul 04, 01:46:00 AM:

I still believe that the greatest threat to continued American prosperity is pandering, professional politicians encouraging mob rule and class warfare.

But that's just me.  

By Blogger kreiz1, at Fri Jul 04, 04:49:00 AM:

Great post, TH- especially Hammond's line that "prosperity and security are boring". Of course they are- dependably so.  

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