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What is my take on the rate of decline and fall of the US?"

Sig Carlsen: 04 Jan 11


After all I am not going to send you a "learned" attachment to this email as promised, and most certainly not a book, in reply to your question: "What is my take on the rate of decline and fall of the US?" Rather I will take the easy path and make a few observations as follows:

1. It seems to me much too obvious to belabour the point that a serious decline let alone a"fall" of the US will inexorably take, not the World perhaps, but certainly Canada with it for good measure. In my opinion the two nations are now much too closely interlinked in way too many spheres, and their relative difference in size and economic importance is so compelling that to assert otherwise borders on the absurd in my opinion. Therefore it seems to me that Canadians (and I am also one) should approach the US question rather circumspectly and not at all self-righteously for our respective fates will be fully shared.

2. I am also of the opinion, as I have expressed on the Class website, that given the right, reasonable and pragmatic social and economic policies, disaster (but not hardship for a limited time) can readily be avoided. This is to say that the US has not yet reached the point of no economic return by any means. But true enough, we are getting ever closer to that point and therefore time is admittedly relatively short. Just don't ask for how long, for there are too many moving pieces to know the answer to that. In this connection it is surely prudent to recall Churchill's observation that Americans always try to do the right thing after they've tried everything else. Just maybe that will prove to be true this time around.

3. Contrary to what most people seem to think, the nub of the US problem is first, foremost and above all POLITICAL and NOT ECONOMIC. For ease of writing in taking that position, I unashamedly adopt by reference the research, findings and the general (but not all) conclusions of Hacker and Pierson in their If Winner-Take-AIl-Politics" published this year. So yes, without such fundamental and basic reforms that they advocate, I am of the opinion that the inexorable results of current political/economic policies will with near ABSOLUTE certainty lead to the "fall" of the US. In fact that is nothing more than a penetrating glance to the obvious. The question then becomes: Are such political and social reforms (and therefore by extension economic reforms) possible within the time constraints available before an economic point of no return is reached? And at this point in time any answer is simply speculative because it is not knowable.

4. Of course IF the remedies above mentioned are NOT at least convincingly and seriously commenced upon within the time element necessary, I can easily, but unnecessarily, describe the economic disaster scenario that will inevitably follow. But so can, and have so many others, to the point that the whole thing has almost become a cottage industry, and I am sure that you must now be quite familiar with it. What makes the task of understanding and analyzing the present US problems so irritatingly difficult is the sheer mass of so called "information" and "statistics" out there. So much of it are obvious (and/or near) lies, twisted hyperbole, idiotic propaganda, ideological bullshit etc. that it would all do Joseph Goebbels proud. In fact there is so much of it that it is now a monumental task of sorting the wheat from the chaff. And from the point of of view of the general public (and therefore public/political opinion) this is made all the more difficult by the fragmentation of the new and the traditional news medias. In turn that means that the public (and way too many of their leaders) are terribly badly informed. Not a good sign in these difficult times!

5. There are some obvious caveats that should be borne in mind that could affect, temper and seriously modify what I have set out above as follows:

a. the size, weight, and importance of the US relative to the rest of the nations of the World is bound to shrink as a function of the enormous economic developments elsewhere. There is nothing unhealthy or abnormal about this, and therefore in and of itself cannot be treated as a "decline" or "fall" of the us. Here the obvious question of the definition of "decline" and "fall" arise. To me that is not so much a question of the relative size or importance of the US to the rest of the World, so much as it is a question of the preservation of a meaningful Democracy (at the moment we only have the form but not its substance) and of the general well-being and quality of life of a broad majority of the citizens of the US as fairly measured against citizens of other nations. And no, that is not a moving of the "goalposts"; rather I submit, it is a rational method of evaluating any issues of decline and fall. Otherwise one falls into an illogic error of reasoning (circular or primitive reasoning if you like) simply to insist that any "decline" of the US relative to an ever growing World amounts ipso facto to a "decline" of the US, because that wrongly assumes as a premise that the US is entitled to and inherently must as a natural course of human events always be and remain the absolute dominant power in the world despite it's relatively smaller size as measured against the whole rest of the World based on it's population, area and natural resources. Thus the post war World of roughly 1945 to 2000 cannot ever be considered to be the norm. I know it is very difficult for lots of people to accept that simple fact, but even a passing acquaintance with history should furnish that self evident proposition even to the most chauvinistic of folks. (There is of course serious speculation that there is something terribly "unhealthy" about this new and rapid worldwide economic development because at least as I see it the earth is quite simply unequal to sustain let alone yield the additional resources necessary for such "development". I certainly am very much of that opinion, and therefore I cannot imagine a worse fate than having to live in a World in some 30 years or so in the future.)

b. sudden and perverse global climate changes could well condemn our species which obviously makes other human concerns moot.

c. some enormous geo-political or terrorist event.

d. the drifting into another stupid war. Above all a war with China must be avoided, and at all cost, most particularly if that nation continues on its present path of development. One does not deliberately engage an enemy if the choice boils down to defeat or the destruction of humanity. Well for what little it is worth, here you have my answers to the question that you first posed above. In short, it would seem to me that the fate of the US delicately hangs in the balance at the moment, and it may well be that we shall live to see the outcome.

Sincerely, Sig.

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