Victor Davis Hanson

The underclass suffers more from obesity than malnutrition; our national epidemic is not unaffordable protein, but rather a surfeit of even cheaper sweets.

Flash mobbers target electronics stores for more junk, not bulk food warehouses in order to eat. America's children do not suffer from lack of access to the Internet, but from wasting hours on video games and less-than-instructional websites. We have too many, not too few, television channels.

The problem is not that government workers are underpaid or scarce, but that so many of them seem to think mind readers, clowns and prostitutes come with the job.

An average American with an average cell phone has more information at his fingertips than did a Goldman Sachs grandee 20 years ago. Over the last half-century, bizarre new words entered the American vocabulary -- triple-dipping, Botox, liposuction, jet set, COLA (cost of living adjustment), three-day weekend, Medi-something compounds (Medicare, Medicaid, Medi-Cal) -- that do not reflect a deprived citizenry. In 1980, a knee or hip replacement was experimental surgery for the 1 percent; now it is a Medicare entitlement.

American poverty is not measured by absolute global standards of available food, shelter and medical care, or by comparisons to prior generations, but by one American now having less stuff than another.

As America re-examines its military, entitlements, energy sources and popular culture, it will learn that our "decline" is not due to material shortages, but rather arises from moral confusion over how to master, rather than being mastered by, the vast riches we have created. If decline is fighting just two wars at a time rather than three, just budgeting what we did in 2008, tapping a bit more oil offshore, or having our colleges offer more grammar courses and fewer rock-climbing walls, then by all means bring it on.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.