Summary: This begins a new direction for the FM website, shifting from reporting events to explaining why they happen and what they tell about our future. Enough news! Let’s understand why we are changing and see what lies ahead for America. Also, see the contest offer at the end!
An America changing
For over a decade on these pages I have struggled to describe what is happening to us, the strange nature of America’s social evolution. Six years ago I began explaining this era as “the Crazy Years” – from Robert Heinlein’s future history series. That series of posts had great descriptive power and readers enjoyed them, such as these …
- A key to understanding the news: the unexpected rules in our age of wonders.
- America is becoming weird. Here are some recent examples.
- We live in the crazy years, but can choose a different destiny for ourselves and our children.
- The common thread that explains so much in America — We have collectively chosen to send America into the “crazy years”. It is not too late to change course.
- We are living in the crazy years – Documenting the decay.
A year ago I began describing our decline in terms of its appearance – as ClownWorld. A nation whose institutions are falling like a row of dominoes (e.g., Boy Scouts, the Roman Catholic church, the CDC and FDA, many of our cities, our giant corporations, our military that can’t win wars (here and here), our society’s broken OODA loops, our unprofitable Empire). This series of posts were also popular. But I am not trying to entertain (although infotainment is profitable). I seek to help motivate people to work for America’s reform. That was the reason that I, with the help of others, created the FM website in 2007.
So I began looking to the future, attempting to describe what lies ahead on the path we have collectively chosen. Doomsters, as they have done for so long, predict running out of everything, hyperinflation, droughts and floods, civil war, a collapse of the dollar, the debt Ragnarök, and a host of other external disasters. As I have said for decades, all of these are possible but none is a likely future for us.
To see our future first we must understand why these things are happening. The answer lies within each of us.
America today, the old regime dying before the new rises
“The key to a great story is not who, what, or when, but Why?”
— Eliot Carver, media magnate in Tomorrow Never Dies.
The processes at work today are neither mysterious or difficult to understand. We just prefer not to see. The early generations of Americans built a regime – a society – of institutions to be run by an active citizenry. From community institutions, public and private (e.g., school boards, charities, service clubs) to national organizations – they were built on the foundation of an involved citizenry. People willing to work together to run and protect America whatever the cost.
Note the phrasing in the Declaration of Independence: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Not a declaration to become Lone Rangers, but a commitment to take collective action and willingness to pay a high price for victory. These were the people who bled and died to create the Republic. Their descendants bled and died to preserve the union and end slavery. These were the people who responded to the growth of megacorporations by forming unions and struggling for generations to make them powerful.
It is a dead past, of interest only to historians and Hollywood as raw material to be mined and retconned.
Many people saw the decay of the institutions through which individuals ran America. One of the early and clear reports was by Robert D. Putnam (Harvard Professor of Public Policy), first in “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital” (Journal of Democracy, January 1995), then in his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000).
Now the sound of collapsing social structures deafens us, one reason so many walk around with earbuds in their ears and we consume vast quantities of booze-drugs-games-TV to deaden our minds. It is why we live in ClownWorld, where we no longer even expect systems to work properly. That is the insight with which everything makes sense in America. Without their foundation of an active citizenry, of course our institutions collapse.
Our reaction shows the cause
“Żaden płatek śniegu nie czuje się odpowiedzialny za lawinę.” (No snowflake feels responsible for the avalanche.)
— Polish poet Stanisław Jerzy Lec in More Unkempt Thoughts (1964).
I have written hundreds of posts about our collapsing social systems, and had thousands of conversations about them in comments, social media, and emails. They are almost all identical in structure.
Reader: I am in XXX institution, and it does not work properly because of bad/corrupt/incompetent leaders.
Me: What are you doing to fix it?
Reading: Nothing; I’m helpless. OR Nothing; the cost to me would be too high.
Life is about values. These values are the death of the America-that-once-was.
“Choice. The problem is choice.”
— Neo in The Matrix Reloaded.
A new regime will rise. Birth is painful.
Doomsters predict only collapse because they believe nobody is smart like them. They are wrong about that, and so their forecasts are almost always wrong. ClownWorld is the transitional period between the America-that-once-was and a new future. Birth means chaos and pain for societies just as for individuals.
We can guess at the shape of the New America. To borrow a metaphor from physics, birth is a singularity beyond which we cannot see. We cannot foresee the New America any more than a baby can predict its future.
The Left predicts a great future from the vast social engineering projects they have run on America for several generations, using our children as lab rats (e.g., here, here), aided by their amnesia about the results of their previous experiments with Communism. The Right dreams of a return to the past, when the men of 1950’s America pick up their guns and restore traditional values (e.g., William Lind in his novel Victoria – where the heroes murder the professors of Dartmouth and nuke an Atlanta run by Black radicals).
My guess is simpler: look to the past to see our future, because history repeats. The Founders built America using the Roman Republic as a model. The Roman people eventually found the burden of self-government too heavy to bear. After a century of turmoil (60 years of civil wars), they got new rulers. This is America. While the process will be tumultuous for us, I doubt it will take that long or be that violent. As with the Roman Empire, I suspect the new America will be as or even more powerful than the Republic. See America isn’t falling like the Roman Empire. It’s worse (we’re falling like the Republic).
But it will not be run for our benefit. The citizens of Roman became pleasant peasants, as I suspect we will be. Let’s accept the inevitable result of our choices gracefully, and not whine about it. Here are a few sources of inspiration to survive the coming bad times.
I have begun to write about our future. This is perhaps the only subject worth discussing, the only thing that might spark a desire for American’s to control their own future. These posts will be the most mind-blowing ideas that most of you will see this year. Here is the first: the most radical prediction for America’s future. It’s much tamer than those that will follow.
“Every nation has the government it deserves.”
— By Joseph de Maistre (lawyer, diplomat, philosopher). From Letter 76 dated 13 August 1811, published in Lettres et Opuscules.
I will send a copy of Rome’s Last Citizen (see below) to those who post the best comments to this series of posts. I have ten copies. Only one book per winner. Decisions are purely subjective by the judges, based on the originality and quality of insights, plus supporting facts and analysis, of the comment.
For More Information
I highly recommend Martin van Creveld’s new book, Seeing into the Future: A Short History of Prediction. “From the ancients watching the flight of birds to the murky activities of Google and Facebook today, Seeing into the Future provides vital insight into the past, present, and – of course – future of prediction.” Our media overflow with predictions. This will help you sort the useful ones from the chaff, and so better see our futures.
- A 4th of July reminder that America is ours to keep – or to lose!
- The danger facing America, the names of the guilty, and our best hope for reform.
- Our institutions are hollow because we don’t love them.
- Rome’s last citizen warns America: don’t repeat our mistakes.
- After Independence Day, look to America after the Republic.
- We have become cowards. We can become brave again.
- We gave our rulers the greatest gift that we can give.
- The Founders’ error dooms our Republic, but not the next.
See the past to foresee our future
The Founders looked to the Roman Republic for ideas and inspiration. In this time of peril, we too can do so. See two books about the people who were the poles of the forces that could have saved the Republic, but instead destroyed it.
Rome’s Last Citizen by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni – The life and legacy of Cato, the mortal enemy of Caesar.