WASHINGTON -- There are many different indicators of an unhappy society.
Sociologists point to crime rates, suicide rates, the incidence of divorce, even the frequency of customers leaving the lights on in public restrooms. Economists point to economic growth rates, unemployment rates and the University of Michigan's monthly economic outlook for the United States. One of my own personal favorites is the sudden transformation of the republic's healthy, happy, rosy-cheeked bicycle riders into a mob of angry cranks. It happens every few decades and is a sure sign of an unhappy society.
I remember back in the late 1970s when, come to think of it, Jimmy Carter was in office. The economy was in a tailspin. Moreover, things were not going well for us abroad, for instance, in foreign capitals, at some of our embassies and with the then Soviet Union. At the time the country's sociologists, economists and other students of the American condition brought forth their indicators of social unease, and they were alarmed. Yet, I looked beyond those indicators to the nation's bicycle riders and I found them irritable, touched by the anarchists' itch and nearing urban revolution. In the late 1970s, if you took into account the findings of the nation's sociologists and economists and my own gauge of social unrest -- that is the bicycle riders -- I think you would agree: America was in a hell of a mess. It would take a very great statesman to reverse things.
Today all sane Americans rejoice in knowing that Ronald Reagan was there in the wings, waiting to come on stage and save us from the Carter malaise and its concomitants: crime, unemployment, low-growth, the Soviet Union and those people who neglected to turn the lights out in public restrooms. Doubtless today there is a candidate in the wings ready to try his or her hand at returning America to its customary vibrancy. Contrary to our current president, general unhappiness, low growth and foreign policy amateurism are not the norm. We do not have to endure it. America's best days are not over. Who will lead us out of the drear I do not know, but as everyone knows, the Republicans have a very healthy field of presidential aspirants. Competent candidates are available.