Freedom from Blog

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Monday, March 01, 2010

No More American Decline

I am too lazy to link to David Ignatius's ludicrous column in yesterday's WaPo, but let me just say that if I ran an op-ed page, I'd have a "no more American decline" rule. Here's worst paragraph:

It's usually a mistake to bet against America, as financier Warren Buffet likes to say, given our flexible economy and adaptive political system. The American system seemed at an impasse in the years before the Civil War, and again during the presidency of Herbert Hoover, and once again during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. But it survived these crises and went on to prosper as never before.

Now, I would hesitate to say that we currently have "an adaptive political system." Sure, it adapts quite well to universal, suspicion-less surveillance by the NSA, and to justification of torture, but the current "impasses" over health care, climate, the deficit, etc., suggests some limits.

But the weird thing to me is to compare three "crises"--Ignatius's word! The years before the Civil War, maybe an impasse, but something more serious. The Great Depression, not really an impasse. Hoover didn't propose sweeping changes, his party lost the midterms and then he wasn't reelected. That's how the system is supposed to work, actually.

And . . . I have no idea how 1977-1981 is on the same level, in anyone's mind, with 1856-1860, or 1929-1933, as a time of national crisis. Sure there was disco, but that problem was largely solved. Kidding aside, the talk of American decline then was largely a product of the right-wing noise machine, a focus on looming Soviet military superiority--how did that work out? The economy was bad, but in many respects it's worse now. I just don't get it.

So Civil War, Great Depression, and Jimmy Carter--if we survived those "crises," I guess we can get through this!

Keep in mind that Ignatius is one of the least bad Post columnists.


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