America’s Decline At The Micro Level

Posted by Bob Lord

The debate about America's decline has been going on for years. It's predicted from both the right and left. Pat Buchanan's books, Where The Right Went Wrong and Day of Reckoning, both are excellent, if you put aside the racist screed in Day of Reckoning. Kevin Philips', American Theocracy, is excellent as well.

The debate takes place at the macro level. The focus is on developments such as military over-engagement, contraction in the manufacturing sector, a bloated, unproductive financial sector, or the dependence on an outdated form of energy. Those who believe we're in decline draw parallels to the decline of earlier societies. Buchanan made the point that both Britain and Germany ensured their own declines by exhausting themselves in World Wars One and Two, and America is doing the same now with its endless wars. Philips points out how America, like Britain and Spain before it, believes it can survive economically by acting as the banker of the world, while it consumes more than it produces. 

But what happens at the micro-level?

How do individuals change? Ravi Batra, an economics professor at SMU, describes four phases of society, based on the mentality of those who dominate: hunter gatherer, warrior, intellectual, and accumulator. The accumulator stage is inherently unstable. When it collapses, society may revert to any of the three prior stages. Of course, the timing of the collapse is not known until it occurs, nor is the stage to which the collapsed society reverts.

America undoubtedly is in the accumulator stage. We know this at the micro-level. We know this becuase we tolerate the inequality that exists today. We know this when we see elected leaders advocate tax cuts for billionaires at the same time they advocate cuts to a food stamp program that often is the only source of nutrition for children. We know this because, over and over, we see people, like Steve Cohen of SAC Capital, who already have achieved vast wealth yet feel compelled to engage in criminal activity in order to further their gains. We know this because people who already are set financially are willing to risk the future of mankind to the devastating effects of climate change in order to acquire additional wealth they never will need. 

if you pay attention, you can see America's decline at the micro level in your own everyday life. I know I can in mine.

Can we arrest the decline, then reverse it? I hope so. If we can, the process must start at the micro level. 

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