Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Path of Great Nations

Our ongoing debt crisis is raising tempers throughout our political chattering class. Hidden away, however, are several underlying trends that are threatening to crack our political fault lines in ways that should send shudders through our collective consciousness. Instead, it will likely lead to boredom within a matter of weeks, as most people return to their own lives in hopes that the Future will take care of itself. Unfortunately, the cliff we occasionally sense ourselves approaching isn't terribly far away, and we're still heading toward it.

A friend of mine recently commented that Capitalism was, in many ways, an extreme form of economics in that only the financially strong survive. He is, of course, right in many ways, though his prescription (a more socialistic economy and political structure) strikes me as completely wrong.

Cruel as it is, Capitalism seems to reflect the Darwinian world in which we live, where the strongest, most adaptable survive. Socialism, on the other hand, recalls to mind Churchill's observation to the effect that Capitalism was the unequal sharing of prosperity, while Communism was the equal sharing of misery. Hoping to split the difference, Socialism seems to prevent prosperity, while being unable to escape the misery that comes from trying to maintain a perpetual state of equality in an inherently imperfect world.

Equally depressing are Alexander Tyler's observations on the ebb and flow of human forms of government:

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

"The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

"From bondage to spiritual faith;

From spiritual faith to great courage;

From courage to liberty;

From liberty to abundance;

From abundance to complacency;

From complacency to apathy;

From apathy to dependence;

From dependence back into bondage."

If I had to place America in the early 21st Century, it would be somewhere in Tyler's Stage 5: Abundance, heading toward Complacency (though an argument could be made that we've shot past Companency and are rushing headlong toward Apathy...possibly due to the proliferation of video games in modern times). From that point, I think Rome took about 400 years to fall; though I'm enough of a hopeless romantic to think we might be the first civilization to escape their fate, I'm not sure we'll last as long.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel Clouds of Darkness, the compelling third volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

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