By Alan Caruba
One of the great parlor games of pundits, politicians, journalists, and just about everyone else is predicting the future.
There’s a wonderful book, “The Experts Speak”, that is filled, page after page, with predictions and pronouncements by people of presumed wisdom and knowledge, all of which turned out to be often hilariously wrong. In 1913, regarding Einstein’s theory of relativity, Ernst Mach, a professor of physics at the University of Vienna, said, “I can accept the theory of relativity as little as I can accept the existence of atoms and other such dogmas.”
I prefer optimists to pessimists and the co-authors of “America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century—why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come”, James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus, are optimists.
In his foreword to the book, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, better known as the “Instapundit”, cites the late economist, Herbert Stein, who said “Something that can’t go on forever, won’t”, noting that “The American 2.0 approach, which delivered stability and prosperity to many for decades, is now more problem than solution, as banks fail, bureaucrats flounder, and the economy fails to deliver the jobs—or the tax revenues—needed to keep the whole enterprise going.” Reynolds, however, agrees that “The Jeffersonian individualism that was embodied in in America 1.0 never really went away.” And that’s the good news.
Bennett and Lotus begin by saying, “We are optimistic about the long-term prospects for American freedom and prosperity. You should be, too.” They do not believe the nation is “on an inevitable road to tyranny and poverty. Predictions of the end of America are deeply mistaken,” but they do say that “The current politico-economic regime is falling apart.”
I think most people will agree with that as a deeply divided America struggles to deal with slow economic growth, a Marxist President, and the final gasp of a government that has expanded to a point of demonstrating the wisdom of the Constitution’s limits on its size and role. The Tea Party movement and the founding principles of the Republican Party are all about those limitations.
As Obamacare fails dramatically, Americans across the political spectrum will want to return to a more manageable, less intrusive government. They did that when they elected Ronald Reagan. America needs a leader to emerge who will bring the two factions together and, if history is a guide, they will find one. It will not be easy because two generations have passed through the liberal indoctrination of its schools and because the nation’s media, composed of those graduates, is dominated by liberals.
Another factor is demography, the study of populations. Americans are living longer and the effects of that are undermining the future of progressive programs such as Social Security and Medicare. At some point they will have to be reformed, along with the rising costs of medical care.
Americans, since the early years of the last century have gone back and forth between progressive programs and a yearning for less control from centralized government. The income tax, the government’s “safety net” introduced following the Great Depression, the growth and decline of unions, and even Prohibition demonstrate this ambivalence. Obamacare is likely to be repealed just as Prohibition was.
America 1.0 stretched from the century the preceded the Revolution and extended to the Civil War. It was a largely agrarian society of farmers with the emphasis on individual responsibility. It was, as well, a society based on the nuclear family, a structure that remains today, though is under attack by liberals. America 2.0 saw the rise of industrialization and, following World War Two, the nation as a superpower in the world.
America 2.0 is crumbling, say the authors, and that “we are in the midst of slow but wrenching transition to an emerging America 3.0.” It will be “an even bigger transition, from industrial to an individualized-and-networked economy that we are undergoing now.”
One of the elements of the transition that the authors recommend is the abolishment of the federal income tax and replacing it with a national consumption tax, saying that “The required disclosure of personal economic information required in filing tax forms constitutes perhaps the largest single invasion of civil liberties in America, violating the spirit of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against search and seizure of personal information without a judicial warrant.”
Here again, putting the Internal Revenue in change of enforcing Obamacare will likely trigger a backlash against it, the income tax system, and generate a return to the individual rights enumerated in the Constitution.
Then, too, the world is also changing as Islamism seeks to drag its population back to a dark age of feudalism and slavery. The wave of terrorism is generating a backlash, even in nations where Islam is the dominant faith. America, in the process, has learned it cannot export its unique democratic system and engage in “nation building.” The original faith in the United Nations to deter wars has faded and the growth of various regional organizations will likely replace it.
The co-authors of “America 3.0” say “We can sketch only the bare outlines of what an America 3.0 defense and foreign policy might be like in reality. But those policies must be consistent with what can actually be achieved by American power, with a renewed focus on securing the global commons for trade, maintaining our alliances, and defending the American free and prosperous way of life.”
We are living in times of both rapid and slow change, and America has the mechanism—the Constitution—to make the changes needed to adjust and the strength to protect itself from enemies, domestic and foreign, in a global economy. It won’t be easy and it will not be fast enough for most, but America will remain a dominant agent for change.
© Alan Caruba, 2013
On a personal note, I think it’s good mental and emotional health to be an optimist in general, provided a one’s optimism isn’t based on an unwillingness to face reality. As for those who are in a continual state of pessimism, they seem to be in a perpetual state of unhappiness, and it appears to me that they find some strange form of contentment in others misery. I think rational optimists will see reality more readily than a natural born pessimist, since they look for solutions, where pessimists don’t believe there are any.
I have also found that being a bit pessimistic about optimism is good intellectual health, since so many things seem to wrong so often. Fortunately the optimist who is a realist will expect that and be prepared to deal with it.
Realistic optimists are the doers of the world because they intrinsically believe that things can be fixed if one works hard enough.
The problem today is society is confused as to what it should be optimistic or pessimistic about. Entirely too many are optimistic about government’s abilities and pessimistic about their own. That’s unhealthy over the long haul. The world’s leaders, and the people they’re leading, are repeating patterns of behavior that has been shown to be disastrous all through time. Yet they continue down that same destructive path In spite of all the historical evidence of the outcome. At this point I’m not optimistic!
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - Charles Dickens
Sadly, I don't see the same result.
I am a student of History and a former Military man. With an extensive education in the classics.
An education that includes literature, mathematics and the ability to acquire knowledge, improved behaviour, useful skills and worthwhile values.
One outcome of the above was to spot the lie and propaganda of Global Warming, or whatever label du jour it currently resides under.
When history, reality and known fact collide with the nonsense of the day, then you know which is false.
My point here is the rise and fall of the Empire of Rome.
This Empire was also a Republic, until the Ruler of the Day perverted and corrupted the principals of it's founding fathers.
The Roman propaganda machine first created, then suffered, from it's own perversion and corruption campaigns.
Sadly, the perversion and corruption promoted by the Republic's masters and administrators and it's preference for coarse idolatry preceded it's downfall.
Sadder still, civilisation world wide went backwards for several centuries.
This arose because there was no established alternative Kingdom to replace Rome.
Unlike Rome's usurping the older well established Kingdoms of Egypt and Greece.
What we have now is numerous Barbaric Nation States based on medial tribalism.
Those that aren't, are based on a failed philosophy and aren't really doing well.
When the USA crumbles, Europe will return to being a fractured, failed, third world group of violent and uncivilised Nation States ruled by Despots and Dictators.
The history of China is writ large.
With nobody to sell anything to, the national income will disappear.
Most likely, China will split back into several loose states, with it's population returning to a lifestyle of Peasant Farming.
Russia would need to create an alliance of like minded States for self protection and to establish it's own agriculture, simple technology and energy base.
Pretty much, Nations, Kingdoms and Historical outcomes tend to be quite predictable when compared to each other.
Unless someone manages to burn everything to the ground through their own stupidity.
When comes the grubs of tyranny, so comes the war that cleaves the Nation State and the family.
The destruction of current civilisations then follows.
"The destruction of current civilisations then follows."
Really? Is this inevitable? Should everyone who shares our values breathe a heavy sigh, pour a stiff drink, and sit on the porch waiting for the Mongols to arrive?
My coauthor and I are also students of history.
America has recreated itself repeatedly.
What happens next is not the result of unstoppable historical forces.
What happens next is in our hands.
The prospect of a brilliant future is before us.
We can seize it ... or not.
Conservatives LIKE the idea that we are doomed. It makes them seem wise and worldly, they can strike a pose of regretful pathos over lost greatness.
And best of all it excuses them from doing anything to prevent a collapse or build a better future.
Include me OUT of that kind of conservatism.
See you in America 3.0. You will be surprised to be there, but we won't!
Also, the so-called "lessons" of the fall of the Roman Empire are wrong. The decadent period was centuries before the end. Rome fell because of overwhelming military power coming to bear on them. The defensive perimeter crumbled in the Northwest, and the interior of the Empire had no power of resistance. The Eastern Empire lasted another thousand years.
The USA is not facing an overwhelming military threat. We are facing outdated public institutions that need to be replaced. We can do that and we will.
The doomsaying is a waste of energy. If conservatives started actually promoting alternatives they would start to win over the majority of people in this country. But they need a vision of the future and a goal to work toward to do that.
And that is what our book is all about.
The assertions made here about conservatives and doomsaying are inaccurate. Doomsaying is a product of the left, used to scare the masses into giving them power. Conservatives don’t promote alternatives because they believe traditional values are what count, not another new philosophical flavor of the day, which have been shown to be expensive failures. Conservatives merely note that the end result will be the same as Rome’s if we don’t return to those traditional values.
As for the comments about Rome….they are inaccurate. Rome was always corrupt. As Rome became rich and powerful it just became even more degenerate and corrupt, but the corruption that caused Rome to fall was because Rome became a gigantic socialist state, and in all socialist societies, Rome collapsed because it went broke.
The Eastern Empire did last, but there was a two hundred year period when they didn't coin money. Why? They eventually went broke also until finally the Muslims destroyed all that was left. Constantinople. Remember; when they both collapsed they both claimed to be Christian states, and they collapsed because they both went broke.
Socialism breeds a corruption of the spirit that always leads to dystopia.
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