Why America crumbles before its time: Congress copies Westminster

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Gonk, Sep 29, 2011.

  1. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    David Frum submitted an op-ed for CNN recently:

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/26/opinion/frum-broken-government/index.html

    There's another blog post pre-dating this that I found interesting as well:

    http://joelmathis.blogspot.com/2011/07/lets-get-rid-of-our-government-start.html


    These links speak to something I had been talking about for a few years now -- that the American government's key problem is that it is being used outside the parameters of its design. That is, the very party system it was created to bypass has finally become completely beholden to it.

    When the government was created in the late 1700s, it was done with the specific ideals of separation of powers and a working towards a common goal for the country. High ideals, and they worked. But the following points have proved the inherent fallacies in what had been, up to that point in history, the most comprehensive government model built by some of the best political minds available:

    1. The notion of operating without political parties was erronious. So erronious in fact, that it only took a few decades for some form of political parties to take shape.

    2. Certain models in the division of powers become unnecessary. Most of the division was based on a 'correction' of the British model -- but since WWI, many of the very concepts America sought to correct or critique become themselves outdated: the Senate (House of Lords) and the Executive (Royalty). Yes, for instance, its much more sensible to have an elected Executive than a hereditary one: but when the Executive might not be needed at all, the point of critique is moot. In America these were created for a specific purpose somewhat different from their British counterparts. But in Britain these institutions essentially lost nearly all political power, leaving the only true power division between Parliament and the Courts. The American corrections of these same institutions have since just stuck around.

    As a result, what's actually happened is that over the last 100 years governing Britain has become simpler, while governing America has gotten, if anything, more complex.

    3. Specific design versus Ad Hoc. Just as a point, the American system was, like an Apple computer, built specifically. Modifications to the system were made to be intentionally hard to do. Despite how well it served its time when it was created, the American government was not made to be very extensible, because this was the blueprint, and this was how it worked.

    The British system, on the other hand, was not "created" in the same way. Parliament was built on a REactive rather than a PROactive basis. Although this sounds like it would be less desirable, the irony is that it has better served the government: the American government has been less adaptive or decisive than its counterparts.



    Much of the problem has to do with the political parties finally conducting themselves in a British manner. It is not that this is a bad thing in and of itself: it's that the American system can't handle that paradigm. In Britain, the political parties are constantly at one another's throats, looking for any advantage. So much so that what ideologies they have are often secondary to their pursuit of political gain. But the British system handles that well because:

    A) One party is either in complete control or forced to work with other parties. The latter threatened by immediate collapse of the government.

    B) The elections when held are for the entire federal party. A party ruling the nation could literally cease to exist the night after the election if it fails to elect a single member to Parliament. And those members are pretty much independents if their number is less than, like, 10.

    The American system can't handle that. In the American system the parties are expected to work together on a continual basis, because there wasn't supposed to be any parties to begin with. Each is expected to have their hand, to a certain extent in every decision. And the parties are almost completely guaranteed longevity: only 1/3 of its federal seats will be up
  2. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Yeah, I think the idea is that the U.S. is supposed to function in perpetuity as a sort of more or less permanent coalition government between the two major parties. In a parliamentary democracy when a coalition fails the government dissolves and the nation has to hold new elections to try to elect a proportion of parties capable of forming a viable coalition.

    But in the U.S., if the "coalition" fails without one party able to run the whole system with a majority, then the government, which cannot be "dissolved" simply falls to its knees.

    In this particular case, we have a coalition member whose dominant ideology seems to be that bringing the government to its knees is a good idea. That the less government is capable of doing, the better it is for the nation, and that the more the government is weakened by budget standoffs and near miss shutdowns, the easier it will be to weaken it further in future rounds of budget standoffs and near miss shutdowns. This is an expansion of the "starve the beast" methodology of the Bush administration (starve govt. institutions of funding and undermine their ability to perform their regulatory mission) into the highest level of govt. operation - the appropriations work that is one of the core duties of Congress.

    I don't see a way out for the U.S. until the demographic situation that created the Tea Party shifts to make the existence of the Tea Party impossible, or until the Tea Party types rule the country for long enough to destroy our economy and turn a majority of Americans back into New Deal style socialists.

    If we want to make communists out of average Americans, all we need to do is unleash the Tea Party on all branches of government for four years.
  3. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    You guys are funny in the Joe Pesci sense with the doom and gloom characterizations.

    I'd say that the overall situation isn't nearly that dire. There are literally dozens and dozens of bills that are debated and passed by Congress without hitch or battle. The few high profile ones get all the media attention, so maybe what you're really commenting on is the modern media?

  4. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    For once, I'm not the only one suggesting another national economic crisis is looming. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act is not going to tip the balance in favor of economic growth.
  5. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    That's disingenuous.

    If you listen to the Tea Party representatives talk, they espouse starving the beast as a core philosophy. They cloak themselves in language that makes them sound as if they are "restoring" the "original intent of the Founding Fathers", without allowing any real normative debate on what they propose would mean for the country. Also, they insist on everything happening now, without any compromise.

    That is not a media creation. The media may sensationalize it to the nth degree to get ratings, but that's as much the fault of Americans for putting up with such nonsense as it is of those who espouse it. When it comes down to it, the core beliefs of the Tea Party are very real, very reactionary, and ultimately, will create the backlash environment that Jabba suggests.

    If I were a Tea Partier, I would be praying that the USSC upholds Obamacare. Why? Because if they toss the legislation, it will ultimately serve as the catalyst for true socialized health care. It will take another twenty years to get there, but we'll get there, and it will be enacted with an overwhelming majority once the number of elites shrink and the number of poor grow to massive (but still voting) proportions.

    That is why this cycle of wild, rapid pendulum swings is potentially so damaging to the United States. If our complexion changes every four years, no-one will be able to tell who or what we stand for.

    We need to get the center back. The GOP has a chance to do this by nominating John Huntsman, but it will never happen, and so, the swinging will continue.

    Peace,

    V-03
  6. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Sure, V...all that and the zombie apocalypse might happen next week. But besides the anticipation over the possibility for some target practice, I'm not loosing any sleep worrying about it.

    First off, where are all of these supposed wild, rapid, pendulum swings taking place in? US foreign policy in 2011 looks a lot like US foreign policy in 2004. US current economic policy looks a lot like US economic policy did in 2009, and so on...with maybe some deliberate, measured changes that you would have to squint to identify. I can name any high profile topic and you can see how they have progressed in the US. I can take your entire above post, and from the opposite perspective, apply it to say, MoveOn.org back in 2004. Back then, MoveOn.org was single minded, social based organization who reacted strongly against the executive branch. Moveon might have had an added layer because they cloaked themselves behind technology, but does that characterization sound familiar in any way? I know, I know, I realize that there are those who will get immediately defensive and try to raise up Moveon by saying that they were really elite, and claim that if I don't get it, I never will, and so on, but the fact is that the US survived Moveon.org, and it will survive the Tea Party, because both are simply collections of people who share ideas. It doesn't mean one is more "correct" than the other and vice versa, but both do share the same legitimacy of existence. Just last month, England suffered through massive public upheaval based on disenfranchisement and inequality. To look for anything remotely similar in the US, one would have to look back over 40 years to the massive civil rights movements during the 60's. In the US, those movements brought about change. What did Westminster do? Not much of anything. There was a lot of English finger pointing and hand wringing, but in many ways, the situation that created that uprising is worse, and it most certainly still exists. In fact, the British government was so paralyzed and divided, they had to bring in outside experts to get even basic recommendations on what policies to adopt. If success in the US could be obtained by suddenly disbanding Congress and adopting Parliament, it certainly wasn't evident this year.

    What is missing here is perspective. This lack of perspective is also why I think the above links are short-sighted. Because the actual political process in the US is nothing like combat, and the political parties themselves, while they may disagree, aren't out to kill the opposing side. Simply put, the political climate in the US right now isn't any different than any other snapshot period of the US's 230 odd years of existence. The US is a federal republic of states. The UK is a constitutional monarchy. Both have their strengths, weaknesses, and different foci. To directly compare them is misguided, and to characterize the weaknesses of one over the other in isolation is folly. This is why Joel Mathis and David Frum perfectly represent the media mentality that I outlined above.

    Or in other words, the TL;DR version of this entire thread is that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. That, and the zombie apocalypse still isn't going to happen next week.


  7. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    American government was designed to always be facing gridlock, it was designed to respond slowly and deliberately, it was designed to restrain populism.

    The problem is (as we saw in the Debt Ceiling negotiations this summer) when failure to act can lead to catastrophe.

    The Founding Fathers never imagined that a failure to act could lead to catastrophe.

    They thought only action could potentially push the country into catastrophe, which is why they designed an undemocratic system (Senate, Electoral College, Supreme Court) to restrain populism and prevent mob rule so the majority wouldn't be able to trample all over the rights of minorities. But most of the Founding Fathers were concerned with the rights of one particular minority: wealthy, white, male landowners... protecting their property rights to own slaves, and protecting their property rights so their wealth can't be taxed away to support a form of social security for the middle-class and poor.

    Besides the people, the other force that the Founding Fathers feared most was the Military. Which is why they wanted firm civilian control of the military, strong militias at home, no troops to be quartered in homes, and no standing army or entangling alliances.

    But getting back to the main point, I don't think the solution is Parliamentary democracy, and rule by party. I entertained the idea during the Debt Ceiling negotiations, but I don't think simply adapting the British government would work. There are certainly things we could learn from the British parliament, and our government definitely needs reform, but we can't swing over to that side completely. It is very important to have a Constitution and Supreme Court that protects individual rights, and protects the minorities from the majority. I'm not fond of the Senate, but having only the House could lead to waves of populism with destructive legislative agendas, and the Supreme Court might not be able to block their entire agenda. I think publically-funded elections would be a good start (didn't the US briefly have publically-funded elections in the 1970's?), but that doesn't really address these structual problems. Officially going over to party-rule, like in most parliamentary democracies, is very unattractive in my opinion, and could also lead us into disaster.

    Ultimately, Congress is so divided because they accurately reflect the people, the United States is deeply divided along political/ideological lines and many aren't even aware of it so they blame Congress. It's not them, it's us, they represent us. What we really need is a change in culture, and no politician can do that by himself/herself.
  8. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    The problem is (as we saw in the Debt Ceiling negotiations this summer) when failure to act can lead to catastrophe. The Founding Fathers never imagined that a failure to act could lead to catastrophe.

    See, I guess this is where perception is important, and illustrates exactly what I'm talking about.

    Let's see, Japan was hit by a 133ft tall Tsunami and 9.0RS Earthquake. 20,000 dead or injured + another 4,000 missing. I'd say that was a catastrophe.

    US debt ceiling negotiations were settled on July 31 after exhaustive debate, and signed into law on August 2, after each side gave a little, and stood firm a little. Granted, it went into the 11th hour before a possible shutdown, but which part resulted in the catastrophe, otherwise known as a "a sudden violent disturbance or widespread disaster?" You mean Standard and Poor's downgrade, which was mostly a publicity ploy anyway? Maybe, just maybe, if a shutdown had occurred, and Congress just completed the 2nd month of gridlock, there might be some sort of example here, but even then, I'm not sure what level that it would reach. As stands, it was no more of a catastrophe than reaching into your pocket to play Angry Birds, and discovering that your I-Phone is lost.

    In other words, in the immortal words of the famous scholar Han Solo, I think the Founding Fathers were able to imagine quite a bit.
  9. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I said there are times when a lack of action can lead to catastrophe (like the debt ceiling negotiations). A catastophe did not happen as a result of the negotiations, but it almost happened. That's the danger of our system, the Founding Fathers didn't imagine that a lack of government action could possibly lead to catastrophe, not in that kind of way. They designed a system that was slow and deliberate, that restrained populism and was built to encourage gridlock.
  10. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    First, the zombie apocalypse may be closer than you realize, second, the U.S. public and in particular the media hasn't really processed the full effects of the April 15 budget and the August debt ceiling deals. But I've seen some of it: layoffs. For example the federal government outsources a lot of its work to non profit organizations. Hundreds of those organizations around the country are now going under as a direct result of the budget "compromises." Tens of thousands of people are losing their jobs.

    Even people who insist that the federal government can only have a marginal impact on the economy have to agree that if economic recovery already is a very marginal thing, government spending cuts can cause a recession.

    This may the first time in history that the government has knowingly, willingly caused a recession through deliberate legislative effort. I call that an unprecedented failure.
  11. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Ultimately, Congress is so divided because they accurately reflect the people, the United States is deeply divided along political/ideological lines and many aren't even aware of it so they blame Congress. It's not them, it's us, they represent us. What we really need is a change in culture, and no politician can do that by himself/herself.

    I agree with the sentiment, but it's like trying to get someone into therapy. First of all, each side will say "YOU'RE the one who has to change." And even if you say you'll both change, one side will insist you have to change more.

    So long as parents teach their children what's wrong with the other side, we're stuck in that quagmire.

    BUT: proper institutions can reign that in, and as the second link describes, force one side to "own" their time in power.

    To completely copy Parliamentary Democracy is probably inadvisable in its totality. David Frum is onto something when he says that the people in Congress have gotten better over the years: adopt a Parliamentary style, and corruption is likely to increase, for instance. Americans might not believe it, but the corruption in their own system of government is less than that of other governments, I feel: the problem is that the way of doing things is ineffective (and that ineffectiveness is often mistaken for corruption, or ineptitude of the people involved).

    But the way things are going is wrecking everything in the here and now. It's not that the US System should become the British System -- it's that in respects to how the parties work, it already HAS. And it has none of the mechanisms in place to protect the country from that party infighting.

    How can you force parties to fear for their institutions if only the individuals are accountable? The GOP or Dems will NEVER change unless the party itself is threatened. Bill Clinton impeached? Big deal: another Democrat will take his place and he'll wear the blame. And repeat ad nauseum for Bush Jr, for Nixon, et cetera.

    The political institutions themselves must be at risk in election cycles. THAT'S the main key to shattering party infighting. That's the way you motivate politicians to change direction. How are you going to force people in the party bureaucracies to move on something if the party bureaucracy is protected forever? You'll only move the politicians: Karl Rove can just move on and find a new GOP man to work for.

    But if the party itself could be destroyed, that goes out the window. Then that arm has to re-form and re-build. A new right-wing party or left-wing party has the opportunity to emerge, and the members of the old party might find themselves shut out.

    It's true that the ideal way to fix the situation is to fix the culture. But that's like herding cats: you can't make people believe what you want them to believe, even if what you believe is proven science and they believe that lightning comes from the fingertips of Zeus. The solution in that case is to create a workable system by which it doesn't matter what you or the other person believes, but that the majority sees what works and what doesn't, and votes accordingly.
  12. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    The question is, can the system be "fixed" without a constitutional amendment, and is such a constitutional amendment possible with such a polarized culture?

    There may be some less dramatic fixes. Campaign finance reform. Lobbying reform.

    Colbert was absolutely hilarious lasts night about the bold new era of secret and unlimited campaign contributions ushered in by the Supreme Court:

    Comedy Central?s Stephen Colbert created his own shell corporation Thursday to demonstrate how Karl Rove launders money to his American Crossroads SuperPAC.

    Unlike American Crossroads, Rove?s Crossroads GPS is a 501c4 organization that does not have to disclose its donors. Crossroads GPS can then transfer donations to the Americans Crossroads SuperPAC and the original donors remain secret.

    ?Clearly, these c4s have created an unprecedented, unaccountable, untraceable cash tsunami that will infect every corner of the next election,? Colbert noted. ?And I feel like an idiot for not having one.?

    With the help of former McCain campaign attorney Trevor Potter, Colbert created an anonymous shell corporation and a 501c4 organization.

    ?So I can get money for my c4, use that for political purposes, and nobody know anything about it until six months after the election?? Colbert asked.

    ?Yes,? Potter agreed. ?And even then they won?t know who your donors are.?

    ?That?s my kind of campaign finance restrictions,? Colbert joked. ?Can I take this c4 money and donate it to my SuperPAC??

    ?You can,? Potter replied.

    ?But wait, SuperPACs are transparent,? Colbert observed. ?And the c4 is secret. So I can take secret donations to my c4 and give it to my supposedly transparent SuperPAC. What is the difference between that and money laundering??

    ?It?s hard to say,? Potter said.

  13. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    How can you force parties to fear for their institutions if only the individuals are accountable? The GOP or Dems will NEVER change unless the party itself is threatened. Bill Clinton impeached? Big deal: another Democrat will take his place and he'll wear the blame. And repeat ad nauseum for Bush Jr, for Nixon, et cetera.

    The political institutions themselves must be at risk in election cycles. THAT'S the main key to shattering party infighting. That's the way you motivate politicians to change direction. How are you going to force people in the party bureaucracies to move on something if the party bureaucracy is protected forever? You'll only move the politicians: Karl Rove can just move on and find a new GOP man to work for. But if the party itself could be destroyed, that goes out the window. Then that arm has to re-form and re-build. A new right-wing party or left-wing party has the opportunity to emerge, and the members of the old party might find themselves shut out.
    It's true that the ideal way to fix the situation is to fix the culture. But that's like herding cats: you can't make people believe what you want them to believe, even if what you believe is proven science and they believe that lightning comes from the fingertips of Zeus. The solution in that case is to create a workable system by which it doesn't matter what you or the other person believes, but that the majority sees what works and what doesn't, and votes accordingly.


    It's because you've got it backwards. People are what matter, not the parties.

    First off, I'm not sure, party-wise, how any of your concerns are addressed under a parliamentary system. Yes, the concerns you illustrated are diminished because there is not a strict two party system. But say, Maggie Thatcher was just as much a Conservative party member as David Cameron currently is. It's not like when Gordon Brown resigned, the entire Labour Party collapsed with him. A new Labour successor simply stepped in. The reality that the successor lost didn't result in the entire Labour party undergoing a metamorphosis. In fact, as you've touched on, I think there is a greater payoff to the winning party (not individual) if the dominate coalition fails under a parliamentary system. How many seats do the Conservatives have now, after Brown? 307-310 seats in Parliament? Sure, Cameron had to form an alliance with the LibDems, but all that means is that the LibDems sold their soul, which as you already pointed out, actually fosters an environment of corruption and backroom deals.

    Ironically, for all the beating that the Tea Party gets from the left, the actual movement itself is as about as pure as the two authors in the links you provided are ever going to get. Remember, the specific candidates under the Tea Party umbrella run against both Democrats and Republicans. In a couple of high profile example elections, the Tea Party vote ended up splitting the GOP vote, which allowed the Democratic candidate to win. This is precisely because the Tea Party is holding the parties accountable, which should be a dream come true for someone like the "Cup of Joel" blogger. The Tea Party's fault, from that point of view, is that the movement itself is one born from the right side of the political spectrum, which all but ensures that it gives the left fits. Granted, since the Tea Party is a right continuum based group, it is going to match up more readily with the GOP, even to the point of simply being the GOP's big toe, but that's the nature of coalitions under a pure multi-party system. It's also why The Cup of Joel guy will never overtly claim support for the Tea Party, despite the fact that it represents everything he called for in that specific link. From a philosophical standpoint, he should be embracing it.

    That's why earlier, I specifically drew a parallel connection between Moveon and the Tea Party. The connection might not immediately be apparent, but in many ways, Moveon sowed the seeds of the Tea Party itself. Moveon just couldn't unify itself, so it remained an outsider looking in. But if
  14. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    44, I don't have time for a detailed response right now, but while certain aspects of government have remained the same over the past decade, the tone of the discourse has not.

    I think we can both agree on that, and on the fact that both extremes in the debate are attempting to sell more and more radical ideas as "mainstream". It's become a huge problem. The Right has been more successful at this than the Left, but pushing too far, too fast will lead to a backlash.

    It was not only the crumbling economy but a perception that the GOP had drifted too far to the right that helped elect Barack Obama. It was a perception that he had gone too far, too fast to the left that helped the Tea Party take the House in 2010, and it is that perception that is even now driving the campaign correspondence I am getting warning of socialism (from the Republicans) and an end to science and reproductive freedom (from the Democrats) if either side were to get their way in 2012.

    Seems like pendulum swinging to me.

    I'd like to see reason return to the debates, not shrillness.

    Peace,

    V-03
  15. shanerjedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 17, 2010
    star 4
    Gonk, I salute your OP. =D=

    But who is to say we're crumbling "before our time"? Maybe it is our time?


    I am not as doom and gloom,;however, I think we are at a crossroads in how we go further as a country.

    Vaderize, if the number of elites "shrink"(isn't that the point of the elites, that they're small anyway?)then who would fund this massive single-payer system you think will come down the pike?

    No one.

    Huntsman is my favorite right now. He's talking about the importance of not ignoring science. He's also reasonable and rational where Bachmann and her ilk are so damn strident it drowns out their message.

  16. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    All the reason why he won't get the nomination. That and his 'H' looks way too authoritarian.
  17. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    We don't have an elected second house, which annoys a lot of people. At least the US have an elected Head of State and two elected houses of government.

    I doubt anyone in the Tea Party will really reduce government size or power. After all they're politicians, they say whatever they can to get elected and then increase the power they have as much as possible.

    I think the big difference between the UK & US systems of government is that more of our other politicl parties get a say in things. In the US it is really only the Democrats & Republicans, whereas our current ruling government is a coalition of two parties and then a third large opposing party.

    But I do agree the US is a much more divided country, crazy people like those in the Tea Party with backwards outdated views don't really have any say here and certainly never get enough members elected to ever have any influence.
  18. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    But I do agree the US is a much more divided country, crazy people like those in the Tea Party with backwards outdated views don't really have any say here and certainly never get enough members elected to ever have any influence.

    Looks at Gordon Brown....Riiiight- "crazy people with backwards outdated views don't really have any say here"....(cough, cough) Although I guess this is true, because even as PM, Brown didn't really have a say in anything, being the real life political version of Mr Bean. Even Ed Miliband, the labour leader has distanced himself from the Brownites, despite the fact that he used to be one of them.
  19. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    I don't recall Brown advocating creationism in schools or denying gay rights or the sorts of crazy stuff the American right is in favour of. Then again, Brown did pretty much nothing in office and messed up when he was Chancellor so he was hardly perfect.

    We could happily elect a black gay atheist Prime Minister and virtually no-one would care. I can't see that ever happening in America, Obama gets enough trouble being black imagine if he wasn't religious...
  20. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    I think that post contains a lot of inaccurate assumptions and generalizations, but at least it illustrates how the potential for such crosses national borders, which is ironic, I guess.
  21. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    Been a busy week -- no time to respond to mr44 (although you might be interested to know I'm a lot closer to Chi-town these days if you ever pop into Canada), but there is this:

    But who is to say we're crumbling "before our time"? Maybe it is our time?

    I think America's decline was always pre-ordained, but it didn't have to come this soon, if it has indeed begun. There's been a number of things that, had they not occurred, would have kept American power pretty much secured in the here and now:

    1. Bush administration spending: yes, Obama's spent too (Health Care), but whether justified or not, Bush spent much, much more.
    2. Financial crisis -- avoidable outcome of the 1980s
    3. Reactionary deficit negotiations (Tea Party issues, etc)

    There's other things too, I suppose: I mean if 9/11 had not happened it's arguable #1 would have happened.

    True, America would still have the Chinese situation. There's long-term problems that would still make this an issue, and most of it has to do with China developing at a fast rate and just plain having about a billion people in it compared compared with America's 400 some odd million, plus it's a slightly larger country to boot. If America wanted to keep itself on the ball for the foreseeable future, you'd want to go back to 1978 and mess up all Deng's reforms.

    But China still needs some time to come into its own. The last decade was America's to lose, and this decade STILL isn't China's to win. That's still a ways down the pipe.

    There isn't any inherent expiration date on American dominance. In fact it's embarrassing to say 'Yeah, so we took about 45 years to win the Cold War to enjoy about 17 years (1991-2008) as the undisputed superpower, if that'. If that's the case... man, talk about your self-destructive tendencies. All that wasted time... think of what could have been accomplished had the USSR just packed it in in 1975.

    If America's in decline right now, the primary cause for it is America itself.
  22. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    We're used to looking at economic and political cycles. Recessions and growth periods, power shifts between parties. But there are larger macro cycles at work and the U.S. does not look like it is doing anything unusual or outside the typical macrocycle of the wheel of history to achieve escape velocity and change the ultimate outcome.

    We Americans have followed the historical blueprint with very little deviation. Economic ascendancy is followed by military ascendancy is followed by military overreach is followed by economic decline is followed by military decline is followed by retrenchment as a more modest geopolitical and economic power.
  23. DeathStar1977 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 31, 2003
    star 4
    It's hard for me to say this, but I think the U.S. will be fine, it's just going to take a while before unemployment drops and our economy is back on sound footing. It would be one thing if we were the only country facing this problem, but obviously we're not.

    I say it's hard for me to say because I personally know several incredibly bright, capable, experienced, educated people who are unemployed and have been for a while. It pains me to see this because 1) The job market is brutal 2) unemployment should be the number one issue, not the deficit/debt 3) I work with several people who are completely incompetent and at best, barely qualified. They just happen to know and/or are related to the right people. I know this happens everywhere, but I'm convinced it's worse here in SoCal.

    Anyway, whereas I think the U.S. will slowly but surely climb out of it's economic hole, it will be interesting to see what happens in Europe, paricularly vis-a-vis the Euro.


  24. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    We're used to looking at economic and political cycles. Recessions and growth periods, power shifts between parties. But there are larger macro cycles at work and the U.S. does not look like it is doing anything unusual or outside the typical macrocycle of the wheel of history to achieve escape velocity and change the ultimate outcome.

    Agreed, but... if America is in decline now, that would essentially be the macrocycle stuffed into a single generation. The marcocycles you speak of generally take place over 100 years or more. The Roman "macrocycle" took something like 400 years to complete. The British macrocycle took from about 1820 or so to 1939, over 100 years. The Spanish macrocycle went from something like 1516-1643.

    To take that into account and then say undisputed American dominance lasted only 17 years or so... that's not much for longevity.
  25. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Military hegemony takes a long time to kill off, as MR44 and others have noted. Even in decline, it will take years if not decades to wind down our military presence in foreign countries, to downsize our Navy and standing army, and no nation may ever again match our nuclear arsenal at its peak. We won't either. But we will remain a significant nuclear threat. What you'll see I think is a relative decline that is much slower than the Soviet Union but much faster than the Roman Empire.

    The speed of the global economy and the limited shelf life of military tech has likely compressed the classic cycle of rise and fall.

    The other thing of course that as you know I believe is a game changer and will ultimately take the wheel of history off its axle is that for the first time in history resource exhaustion isn't a local phenomenon that affects regional civilizations only. There are no new resource frontiers and the human population has filled in all the nooks and crannies of the world worth filling.

    I've outlined before steps I think the U.S. can take to position itself for a resource-constrained future, which more and more is looking like a resource-constrained present given Asian growth rates.

    What's happening now in the U.S. government is at heart a reflection of increased foreign competition for the global resources that Americans previously believed they were under a mandate from God to consume exclusively. The easy way out of the problem is to dismantle the American middle class. As others have pointed out, a strong American and European middle class and broad sharing of wealth has been a tiny blip in the history of human civilization, and may never be repeated once it fades away.