To Rebuild America Understand its Decline
By Cameron Macgregor
Talk of American decline is widespread. High employment numbers, wild fluctuations in the stock market, the growing gap between rich and poor, and the S&P downgrade of US treasury bonds are all cited as evidence of our weakening power. This matched with America’s waning influence overseas prompts many to ask what a post-American world will look like. But few are asking why?
It seems people are either missing or perhaps afraid to address the central reasons for our decline, an awareness that is critical to rebuilding America’s prosperity and restoring its greatness. In fact, three pivotal ideas are primarily responsible for the decline in American prosperity and power.
The first and perhaps, the most destructive idea is multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is an outgrowth of the 1960s, an idea designed to help alleviate deep-rooted racial divisions. However, over time, multiculturalism evolved into something far more powerful than repealing segregation laws and destroying unfair racial boundaries. Eventually, multiculturalism symbolized a new American society, a “community of communities.” Multiculturalism rejected the idea that America is a nation that speaks one language, and it refuted the Western values that inspired the Republic and the free market that created our prosperity.
The results are disastrous. A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center on rising wealth gaps in America paints a bleak picture. The economic gap between whites and the rest of the population is the largest in 30 years. From 2005-2009 black and Hispanic wealth fell by over 50%, while white wealth fell just 16%. The white population is nearly 20 times wealthier than blacks and Hispanics. The Pew Research Center unveils an America society that is increasingly bifurcated – a division that is not simply economic but cultural.
America’s cultural divides run parallel to its economic ones. Essentially America increasingly has a first world population and a third world population. The values, social orientation, and community participation of these populations are fundamentally different and in some cases conflicting. Adding to these divisions are the millions upon millions of illegal immigrant populations who frequently don’t speak English, live in balkanized neighborhoods or, effectively, countries within countries.
The second idea is big government. Before the Great Depression government on every level local, state and federal was a tiny fraction of what it is today. Today, government accounts for nearly 25% of GDP, an astronomical number. Government administers education, provides health-care for the poor and the elderly, is responsible for the retirement of 300 million people, regulates everything from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, and manages (or mismanages) countless federal bureaucracies, redistributive programs, contracts, and defense.
One of the many wondrous things that struck De Tocqueville when he came to the United States in the 1830s was the invisibility of American government. For this reason he appropriately said that in America “the state governs but does not administer.” Today, it does the opposite. Thomas Hobbes’ would be immensely proud of the size, power and intrusiveness of America’s “Leviathan.”
During the infamous battle over the debt ceiling, fear of default terrorized the nation. Obama promised doomsday if the Tea Party refused to be “reasonable” and continue enabling more spending. But few outside the Tea Party are alarmed that America has become a nation systemically dependent on big government, a tyranny Jefferson dreaded and Madison hoped to prevent.
The third bad idea is empire. It’s true, today America has nearly a thousand bases in over a hundred countries around the world – no matter how you spin it we are an empire. We maintain troops in central Europe and continue to occupy Japan while we wage wars in Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq for reasons no one really understands and seldom bothers to find out. Of course, the president usually executes these wars without consulting congress, an irritant most presidents usually avoid.
In addition to commanding forces around the world American policymakers and our institutions play God with the internal affairs of other nations. We pick winners and losers, and usually end up creating enemies instead of friends. America’s meddling in the affairs of others is so extreme that during a February “Jasmine” protest in China the conspicuous presence of a US diplomat – one John Huntsman – led Chinese citizens and government officials to believe that Huntsman was secretly engineering the protests to instigate chaos in Beijing.
One might say that America’s empire exists more from circumstance than intent. That may have been true during the Cold War, but it would be hard to defend that position now. It has more to do with what diplomat George Kennan referred to as “national narcissism.” Kennan was right when he said that American foreign policy was more focused on reinforcing positive images Americans had of themselves than national interests. Americans believe that America, like its Navy, is a “global force for good.”
Yes, the divisiveness of multiculturalism, dependency on big government, and the wasteful cost of empire have finally caught up with us. To recover, rebuild, and re-unify the nation these ideas must be refuted and expunged from the institutions, policies, and especially the psyche of the American people where it has done the most damage.
The reasons for US decline are less policies or political parties than the ideas that animate them. Ideas possess an endurance that far exceeds the imprint of any president or congressional policy. We must stop fighting unnecessary wars, perverting American culture and values, and growing the size of government. Revisiting American history should give us hope because it is not our country that is failing but the perverse ideas that have defiled it.
Cameron Macgregor is a former naval officer and US Naval Academy graduate. He is writing his first book, The New American Nationalism.