Tom Riggins: America in decline?
The 19th century English poet Lord Byron said great nations follow patterns. They begin with freedom, then move on to glory, wealth, vice, corruption… and finally barbarism. The corollary is that you can tell where you are in the cycle based on whether the nation’s monuments are going up or coming down. They go up when a nation celebrates its heroes. They come down when it turns on its old heroes and sinks toward barbarism.
In other words, the citizenry loses faith in its government and goes crazy. The United Kingdom went crazy in the 17th century. The Civil Wars in England, Ireland, and Scotland left about 1 million people dead. Catholic monasteries, convents, and churches were destroyed. France was considered a paragon of civilization before the 1789 Revolution. Then, in less than 10 years, it sank into chaos with 40,000 dead in the Revolution and 6 million in the Napoleonic wars that followed. Again, the old icons of church, aristocracy, and civil society were removed.
Same story with Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution, with as many as 60 million total dead in the revolution, civil war, purges, and “re-education camps.” Those revolutionaries also sought to eliminate all traces of the culture that preceded them. And China’s Cultural Revolution cost 20 million lives and destroyed millions of reminders of the past, including statues, manuscripts, scrolls, antiques, books, and libraries.
One of the common themes of these revolutions is the debasement of their economies. Economic uncertainty was the breeding ground for the Nazi regime. The Roman Empire collapsed due to overspending and government corruption. When a country debases its currency it opens the door for indiscriminate spending. It also opens the door for the theory of “economic equality.” What they don’t tell you is that the leadership is always more equal than the rest of the population. In true exhibition of human nature, they look to better themselves first. That is the fatal flaw in any socialist society.
With this in mind, let’s look at America today. In 1971 our currency went off the gold standard. At that time a week’s average wage would buy about six ounces of gold. Today’s average wage will buy about one-half ounce. I am not advocating gold, but it has historically been viewed as the safe haven for stores of wealth. That makes it a stable basis for comparison. By this demonstration buying power has actually declined in terms of real purchasing power, and wages have declined in purchasing power by some 12 times since 1971. Who would believe that the share price to earnings ratio for Tesla is 288 to 1, while about 15 to 1 is considered to be the norm.
The wealth of the 90 percent of the population that sells its time by the hour, week, or month has fallen. The declining wealth leads to dissatisfaction, which leads to corruption. People lose faith in the social contract that binds them together. Then they take sides. Christian vs. Islam, liberal vs. conservative, minority vs. majority, and so on. Between them they grind down liberty, safety, and civil society. On the Left today is a push for a cultural revolution, erasing history and replacing it with a new regime, with special rules for special groups. Reparations, someone else’s money for nothing the recipient did, are the demand of the day. Meanwhile the rest of the country digs in its heels, determined to defend its way of life. This split undermines the social contract, driving more and more people from the center towards the big-mouth messiahs on the extremes. In this case, on the left. Voila, you have the seeds of a decline in American society.
Where are we in this trend? It is said that great empires last about 200 years. America is now 244 years old. In the news are riots, looting and burning. Statues of leaders, including Washington and Lincoln, are being torn down. Portions of cities are being taken over in full view of complacent leaders and abetted by today’s Democrat party. You are encouraged to snitch on your neighbor for violating some non-legislated government edict like face masks. If history is any indication, this is the road to decline.
Stalwarts like Judicial Watch and Heritage Foundation keep voicing this message despite attempts by leftist outlets to silence them. We must support them and the handful of governors, legislators, and our president to curb this decline. Otherwise I fear we will fail in the way of past civilizations.