Thursday, April 24, 2014
Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...
Whether we like it or not, America is an empire, casting its influence across the globe. That influence can be economic, as we have enjoyed the benefits of capitalism and thus the world's strongest and most resilient economy throughout the majority of our history. That influence can also be from the projection of our military might that has served to stabilize volatile regions and as a peacekeeping force.
Now, you may not agree with this assessment of our nation as an empire, but our country fits the classical definition.
Looking at history, we know that all empires eventually come to an end. They may not be destroyed (although some were), but their power and influence is greatly diminished (think; Great Britain).
So if we are going to learn from history, we should ask, "How does an empire collapse?"
The most obvious is that is vanquished by stronger nations or empires. More often, however, empires collapse from within as vision, purpose, resolve, and vitality are diminished if not eliminated.
What are the processes that bring about these conditions?
Here are some that I think play a major role in the collapse of great empires.
Each institution in the system of governance loses sight of its original purpose of serving the people and becomes self serving.
Serving the common good as the driving ethos behind the function of governmental entities is replaced with a drive for bigger budgets and greater power irrespective of results. We see this happening with the power of the EPA, the IRS, and the Bureau of Land Management to name a few. These changes do not typically happen overnight, but incrementally as more power and money is ceded to these entities and control is wrested away from the people they are supposed to serve.
Self serving institutions select leaders whose skills are not competency or leadership, but the ability to con others.
Sounds like most any politician, especially the current occupant of the White House. Democrats and Republicans have become glib spinmeisters that are proficient with words and sounds bites but have little substance. We are told that things are running well when in reality they are failing. No greater example of this if found in the proclamation that Social Security is solvent, when in reality it is bankrupt. This spin crosses into nearly every are that the government touches.
Institutional memory and tradition prohibits and punishes innovation and creative solutions to problems.
Difficult problems require bold, innovative, and sometimes painful solutions. Entrenched institutionalism makes it difficult if not impossible to bring these types of solutions to fruition. The internal resistance to change, especially radical change, is enormous. Instead, there is more doing of what has already failed spectacularly.
Incompetence is rewarded; competence is punished.
Lois Lerner, Eric Holder...need I say more. Cronies and con artists are promoted to leadership positions and then they are subservient to those that put them in those positions, serving their wishes rather than the common good. While this type of behavior happens in every political system to some degree, it becomes toxic when the leadership ranks are comprised of almost exclusively these types of people.
The cost to run the system rises dramatically, making the entire system extremely fragile.
Building in higher costs because of increased debt and burgeoning social programs makes the political infrastructure vulnerable to a drop in revenue (taxes) The solution is never to cut expenditures but to raise taxes on the people and businesses that are productive.
The voice of the people is ignored as elites and highly vested interests control the decision making process.
When the voice of the people is marginalized or ignored, decisions are made in response to the demands of those that have access and represent vested interests. This makes the decisions narrowly focused on those interests and estranges those that have to live with the consequences of those decisions. This is often the way unrest or even rebellion is fomented within a seemingly stable society.
I'm certain there are many other factors or conditions that come into play when an empire falls or a great nation sees its power and influence significantly curtailed. Yet, if one looks at history, some if not all of these factors are threaded throughout their demise.
And if this sounds forebodingly like our country today, then you are an astute observer of our current condition.
And that, my friends, is my view.