Before I begin this long-winded tirade, please take a few minutes to read this article by Mike Whitney. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Done? First of all, I’d like to mention I believe the article I’ve linked is mostly derivative and alarmist pap, possibly written to scrounge up readership for the Information Clearing House. But the author’s facts are not wrong, if spun wildly for illustrative purposes. After watching housing prices increase at four or five multiples of inflation and salary adjustments for five solid years, it’s readily apparent the trillions of dollars sunk into the morass are essentially forfeit. News reports have surfaced from every corner of the country lamenting slow markets, double-digit percentage price drops, doubling or tripling of foreclosure rates, etc. So how’d it all happen, and where will it lead the once mighty United States?
Sadly, it doesn’t matter. The very concept of an international “superpower” is an artifice. The delineation is merely a descriptive term explaining the exaggerated influence a country wields in proportion to others. We are, or were, the Superman to the world’s Louis Lane, displaying incredible traits far beyond the capabilities of our brethren. This is, and has been, no longer the case for several years, and the reasons are Legion.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.” This is a man who, among others of his caliber, stated in very simple terms that America is to be a free republic. Their cause, to rid themselves of British oppression both religious and economic, may have fueled their ideology, but this tenant is ceaselessly reenforced and restated to leave no possibility of misinterpretation. America was never meant to be a towering hegemony of power and righteousness, but an example of freedom at its philosophical limit. Much like Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto1, though the founders constructed a government inherently untrustworthy of even itself2, it ended in failure not long after the revolution.
One of the first mistakes of the United states was the flawed concept of Manifest Destiny, that the country somehow deserved unlimited expansion across the unincorporated territories to the West. Jefferson’s ideal of leading by example was lost the minute this became prevailing opinion. Eventually the government implemented a fervent mission to beg, borrow, or steal land or influence to reach “from sea to shining sea.” James K. Polk and his ilk perpetuated this unabashed enforcement of false will, until America “acquired” a satisfactory conclusion. Whereas the original 13 colonies joined of their own volition, after much debate, to put forth an ideal. This expansion and envelopment marked America’s maturation into an imperialist enforcer, thereby slaughtering the Jeffersonian concept of truth advocating itself.
Lincoln himself ended government reigns3, with the final gasp snuffed-out by Roosevelt4. These well-meaning changes allowed men such as Joseph McCarthy to attack supposedly conflicting governing and economic ideologies out of paranoia or to further his career. That one man, not even the president, could inspire a nationwide witch-hunt, illustrates the new power Senators could wield through public opinion and law enforcement. The US as a republic, and the Electoral College5 ceased being relevant when the government began utilizing mob mentality to further its own goals.
The most damning presumption pits Communism against Capitalism in a false dichotomy. The Constitution is a multi-faceted document detailing the strength of liberty, not a Capitalist Manifesto. Yet the government was and is willing to methodically pulverise competing philosophies, even beyond its own soil. The Cold War is indicative that the United States reached another landmark, that of a protectionist imperialism. This new, lofty status attained, the Drug War increased its frontal assault on personal liberty. Though initially a failure in Prohibition and the 18th amendment, this nonsensical assault on chemical consumption has only gained momentum since roughly 1937, the year Marijuana replaced alcohol as the Demon De Jour.
Prohibition, in one form or other, has reduced America to a police state, where unapproved behavior is met with stiff jail sentences. The United States boasts the highest prison population in the world per 100,000 people. Further, the United States is currently ranked 56th in freedom of the press by Reporters Without Borders. Such questionable stature hardly indicates a predilection for honoring freedom. Coupled with state and local legislatures willing to ignore vote results6, infinite potential exists for abuse. Worst yet, the prison system employs hundreds of thousands of workers, flushing thousands of industries with financing, all of which may potentially act to protect their vested interests for power or monetary compensation. Lobbyists can further influence this relationship by colluding with House or Senate members, passing specific laws and bills to further propagate or protect these established cathedrals of incarceration.
In essence, America is not the country it claims. It has long since strayed from its original ambition of becoming a Beacon of Liberty, and is now, at best, just another country, albeit one with considerable global influence. But this influence, as suggested by the recent downturn in the value of our dollar, is now a mere bargaining chip for the owners of America’s debt. Why is this? The United States, certainly not lacking in service economy, manufactures little. Electronics are produced in Asia, Steel in China, lumber primarily in Canada. Manufacturing infrastructure has been steadily dismantled as profit centers were moved offshore. Several critical imports are controlled exclusively by countries which also own US debt. It’s possible America has been propped up only by our propensity to import materials at great volume; however as other countries learn our industries and corporations become global, this last vestige of superiority becomes moot, as those countries need raw materials for their own burgeoning industries.
Thus the eventual sale of US debt is inevitable, especially as our buying power diminishes with every foreclosure the economy is forced to absorb. Essentially, the real-estate bubble’s messy obliteration will chime the death-knell of our established supremacy. But that only reinforces America’s final role as a mere also-ran in the global picture. This is important because without its status as Superpower, lacking any notable manufacturing or export capabilities, the US may actually over-correct while retooling for its new stature. The trick for the remainder of the world, is to accomplish this without accidentally sparking a panic which will cause everything to happen at once, which would be an utter disaster to their own economies. It’s in everyone’s best interests that the US economy does not collapse, so it won’t. But it will deflate, possibly even sharply, until even our label of superpower, is a laughable farce.
That final bastion of fame demolished, the US is left with neither liberty, nor happiness, leaving us only with the banality of life itself. The terrorists did win on 9/11, in that their attack dealt a heavy financial and psychological blow, prompting the Administration to adopt–through opportunity or paranoid reaction–a ridiculous forfeiture of civil liberties and common sense. We’ve spent billions spying on ourselves, hundreds of billions on a questionable link between Iraq and terrorism, and billions more contracting companies (at no bid) to rebuild the damage incurred. Then we tried to cover the shortfall with imaginary real-estate value, which fueled itself in a cannibalistic orgy of house swapping. The United States is caricature of its once great ideals, mouthing the words of a constitution it no longer understands or upholds, fueled by a populace mollified by its own short history as a utopian Democracy. Without the pacifying influence of prosperity, while our economy may be protected by external interests, our reduced standard of living would mean political and social turmoil.
Maybe that’s the chance America needs to finally see how far astray it has traveled. Perhaps that’s the blood of Patriots and Tyrants of which Jefferson spoke. Maybe it won’t happen at all and my tirade is just as much meandering drivel as the article that prompted this train of thought. Either way, the next decade will definitely be interesting to watch–maybe from afar.
1: Marx was an unfortunate proponent of idealism. His manifesto detailed a very rosy view of human nature, where Socialism was only meant to facilitate Communism as an intermediate phase. The fact that all past and present Communist governments never progress beyond Socialism is a strong indication unlimited power will eventually be misused.
2: With many branches of government set against one another, a constitution relegating all power, by default, to the populace unless explicitly granted to said government, written in unambiguous language such as, “shall not be infringed,” a certain subtlety of thought is assumed. In this, Lincoln’s “A house divided against itself can not stand!” is a misnomer. The founders clearly desired a government so distrustful of itself, wholesale subversion of liberty would be impossible. In this, their estimation of human nature was the exact opposite of Marx’s.
3: Lincoln was indeed a great man and a better president. However the misguided desire to deflect Southern Secession ultimately proved the 10th amendment a mere suggestion. At the time, there was no language in the constitution disallowing withdrawal, making the Civil War an illegal act which directly conflicted with the 9th and 10th amendments.
4: Roosevelt single-handedly launched the idea of the welfare state. Considering the depression, his reaction is easily understandable and appeals to our better nature. However this step also greatly increased the size and strength of the government, which quickly began granting itself more powers and creating several other agencies to safeguard each.
5: The Tyranny of the Majority is a very real concern. However utilizing propaganda in media or strawman logical fallacies, the government may influence public opinion with daunting precision. Mob mentality is a psychological trick illustrated by several studies on the subject, providing even better accuracy in manipulating the masses.
6: Massachusetts voters were blatantly subverted when they attempted to lower the state income tax. Voters in Montana received similar treatment after passing an initiative to allow medicinal use of Marijuana.