Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Medidation on the Decline of American Power, Part I

For quite some time now (perhaps since the Democratic National Convention in July 2004) I've believed that the future of our country will, quite literally, ride on the outcome of the 2008 elections. In 2003, former president Bill Clinton noted, "We need to be creating a world that we would like to live in when we're not the biggest power on the block." We have not, in the interim, been exhibiting the sort of humility that President Clinton suggested. To the contrary, we've eroded the trust of our allies and sometime collaborators worldwide, our credit practices have caused the dollar to plummet, and our military--though still the most advanced in the world--is stretched dreadfully thin and cannot sustain the current deployments indefinitely. Domestically, we have sat idly by while watching as our elected representatives have traded in on our fears and expanded their powers; as Ben Franklin observes, perhaps we deserve neither liberty nor safety. Short-sighted attempts to solve the energy crisis with ethanol will make food and fuel prices continue to rise. We're scared of our food, and rightly so, because we don't know its provenance.

Most Americans are literate on some level. More than fifty percent of our economy is based in the service industries. Ubiquitous technologies such as internet and cell phones have made easier migration from family homesteads. Many Americans work to have enough money to have a place to stay and a way to get to work, and we don't seem worried about not saving. We are, in summary, creating a highly-educated, highly-mobile, poorly-compensated underclass. Marx only said that religion was the opiate of the masses because he had never seen TV.

The curious thing about critics of Marxism is that they focus on the failures of Communist states. Though I am decidedly not a Marxist scholar, my brief reading of his and Engels principles suggests that the theory hinges on the dialectical historical process resulting in a shift in the balance of power. Put simply, Marx and Engels weren't creating a business plan so much as making predictions of the future. The ironic part of all of this is that the only place in the world (so far) that has the necessary conditions to play out the Marxist experiment is right here in the good ol' USA. One need not imagine too hard to come up with a scenario that could mobilize a restless underclass: a severe disruption in the activities that take our minds off of our lives, or a steep spike in the cost of food and fuel, which leads to less travel, less eating out, less flying...what made up over half of our economy again? And those nations we bullied, think they'll watch from the sidelines as our country falls apart?

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