Speaking to Americans about the cause of our problems is like blowing a dog whistle for them. It’s a message we can’t hear. It is too sad for us to bear.
A fitting sentiment since we have burned the dreams of the Founders and 250 years of Americans.
I have written hundreds of posts about the decline and probable fall of the American regime (the second Republic, based on the Constitution). This comment by Daniel to my latest – A new beginning for America – is an example of the responses by readers (better expressed than most).
“I’ve yet to see a good description of how we got to our current situation nor a clear road-map of how to get out of it. Did I miss it?”
Daniel asks two questions, both worth discussing.
How did we get into this hole?
As always in the real world, there are many ways to answer this. The obvious answer is we do not and cannot know, It is too majestic and massive a movement to stop or even understand. Edward Gibbon wrote The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776 – 1300 years after its fall, and took six long volumes to do so (the Penguin abridged version is 767 pages). While it is often considered the first good draft of that history, now we understand much more than Gibbon did – but lack a full understanding of this vast event.
We lack the perspective on the Republic’s death provided by distance in time and emotional involvement. Gibbon had both, yet could produce only tentative answers. I do not attempt to even that much. The operational useful insight is, in my opinion, that the decline is caused by our unwillingness to carry the burden of self-government. Going to voting booths and working the Republic’s political machinery is too much work and responsibility for many Americans, let alone risking our “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.”
Historians will debate endlessly about the causes of our evolution from citizens to subjects. At some point they will agree on what is its Final Cause. But I doubt that even if we knew this answer today, that would not help us.
How do we get out of this hole?
Hollywood has encouraged us to believe that stories often have a happy ending. Every sitcom has the father or hero (or, more often, the heroine or family’s wise earth-mother) find a solution. Films show horrific problems solved by blowing up the bad guy’s lair – or the bad guy (after a one-on-one-fight with the hero or heroine).
But in the real world, sometimes the good people lack the wit to win. Sometimes they lack the will needed to win. Often they lose. That is a commonplace of history. That is the story of the Roman Republic, the Founder’s model for America. The fall of the Second Republic is not certain. But as I explain it is, in my opinion, the smart bet.
“Choice. The problem is choice.”
— Neo in The Matrix Reloaded.
All I can do is help see through the mists to the new regime that lies ahead of us, and give a warning. Which we will certainly ignore.
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.