No Longer Rome, Not Yet Greece. Andora?

In a press conference today the president vented his frustration at the latest example: partisan cliffhanging about lifting the country’s debt ceiling. The obstacles lie both in Washington, where the heart of the problem is the supermajority hurdle in the Senate, and in many individual states. A magnificent constitutional framework of checks and balances, designed to prevent the return of British tyranny, has atrophied into a system that makes reform almost more difficult than revolution.

And this, too, is familiar from history. Over time, superpowers acquire dysfunctionalities which they can carry because of their sheer plenitude of wealth and power, rather as a super-strong athlete can carry deficiencies in technique. When your strength wanes you suddenly need the technique; but it may be too late to get it back. Beside technique, there is the all-important confidence. But the old American can-do optimism is shaken. Even those who most loudly proclaim American exceptionalism strike a note of cultural pessimism. “It’s breaking my heart,” emotes Glenn Beck, “to see this nation basically going down the tubes.”

One has to be tolerant of Continental Schadenfreude. History’s perverse humor is revealed by Dominique de Villepin and Chirac as our Greek chorus. Timothy Garton Ash actually thinks there’s a way out of the American cul de sac. But he wonders if political dysfunction will win out.

Obama and the Democrats will go to the polls on the message ‘we suck less.’ That was the Peanut Farmer’s, too.


  1. Dr Leo Strauss says

    @Sam Lowry
    Yeah Sam, it began in 1994, when the Movement realized they didn’t need the Bakers and Dubersteins anymore. Dems saw the internal blood letting but were not wise enough to understand what would be the result.

  2. Sam Lowry says

    In 1980 at least the Republican Party was still a political party, not a counter-Enlightenment religious/cultural movement. No chance of getting even a mildly destructive Reagan from them. To me, the American people seem demoralized/distracted/disoriented enough to usher in a Bachmann, Palin or Perry. Maybe I’m wrong? The Democrats’ “we suck less” message might carry the day, averting an outright christian nationalist government. Not that I’m looking forward to the neo-feudalism that the Dems are going to implement. But with them we may at least retain some connection to the Enlightenment. Not that the trains will run on time, but as long as we have high speed internet access and cable I might be able to sign off on it. :-)

    (P.S. Nice Blade Runner reference. I’d venture to guess the Stiftung could preface many a story with “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe”.)

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