If you were to list the “greatest” nations in world history, you’d come up with some like the United States and Great Britain that are still doing fairly well. However, quite a few once great nations like Greece, Egypt, and Iran are sad, pathetic shells of what they used to be. Then there are the once formidable (and sometimes evil) empires like the Soviet Union, the Roman Empire, and Ottoman Empire which swallowed vast swathes of territory and then fell to pieces.
How did nations that dominated their regions and, in some cases, projected power worldwide fall so far from grace? There are different explanations in every case. Sometimes a Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great conquered everything he set his eyes upon and lesser men couldn’t keep it together. However, in many other cases, structural weaknesses in powerful countries eventually brought them down. For a variety of reasons, the Spartans didn’t breed enough and were heavily reliant on slaves that outnumbered them 10-to-1. The Romans lost the will or, alternately, the ability to continue breaking up barbarian tribes that they brought into their empire.
America has her own weaknesses that, unless we deal with them, one day will bring us down.
1) Debt: America is more than 20 trillion dollars in debt and this year is on pace to add more than 400 billion dollars to that number. Our debt, which we have no intention of ever fully paying, is now the equivalent of about 25% of the world’s GDP. That number is massive; the CBO estimates that by 2040, 58% of all our spending will be nothing but interest payments on the debt. How much are we going to be able to spend on our military then? If you think our infrastructure is bad now, what do you think it will look like then? What happens when we have large, unexpected expenses, like another 9/11? Our debt is just as big a threat to our future as the Brits and Axis once were.
2) The Lack Of Production Capacity: America was the decisive factor in WWII, not just because of our excellent military, but because our massive production capabilities enabled us to send enormous amounts of military equipment to our allies. Just as an example, we sent Russia roughly a third of its fuel and half its trucks while the Brits received about a quarter of their munitions and aircraft from our country. Could we do that again? Not even close. That leaves us vulnerable, not just if there’s another world war, but if our own military were to suffer some sort of disastrous setback. In other words, if there were a Pearl Harbor 2, we might ultimately end up on the wrong side of the war.
3) Immigration: Because of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, there is no comparison between how much immigration may have helped America in the past versus how much it helps us now. Furthermore, our unwillingness to secure our borders has created a lot of problems with illegal immigrants. Currently 57% of families headed by a legal or illegal immigrant are receiving some form of welfare. It doesn’t help America at all to bring people here who are uneducated, work menial jobs and don’t pay income taxes, who don’t assimilate or who end up on some form of welfare. As jobs and wealth in America have increasingly moved toward more educated citizens, our broken and outdated immigration system has not kept up. Contrary to what you often hear, our current immigration system is making America WEAKER, not STRONGER. Immigration could once again be a source of strength for America, but stopping it altogether would be better than continuing with it under the current system.
4) Cultural Degradation: Americans tend to think that EVERYTHING gets better as time goes along, but pretty clearly the character of Americans has changed for the worse over the last few decades. Christianity is on the decline while tribalism, something that goes against our nation’s motto, “E pluribus unum,” is on the rise. The mainstream media has become so dishonest and partisan that there’s not much difference between it and the sort of propaganda that Pravda puts out. We’ve stopped treating people who became rich and successful as role models and started looking at them as people who somehow “cheated” at the game. There have always been sleazy politicians that lied to us, but as the public has become more partisan, we no longer treat poor character and dishonesty as defects that should keep someone out of office. We’ve moved from admiring wisdom to applauding snark and outrage. Instead of trying to bring people together, our “leaders” try to exacerbate differences to fire up their base. We are in a state of advanced cultural rot and it shows in every facet of our society.
5) Our Refusal to Take Nuclear Proliferation Seriously: Could America stop a nuclear bomb snuck over our border or even identify where it came from? Doubtful. Could we survive as a major power after an EMP is detonated above us? Given that some estimates put the number of deaths via starvation in that situation as high as 90% of our population, we’d have to be very fortunate to hold it together. In a world where a handful of successful states have nuclear weapons, those scenarios are unlikely. However, in a world where basket-case nations like Pakistan and North Korea have nukes and a new nuclear arms race is likely to start in the Middle East because of Iran, the chances of a nuclear weapon being used against us either by radical Islamists or a narcissistic dictator are much higher than they were even at the height of the Cold War.
6) A Broken Political System: America’s political system is nearly non-functional. The only things Republicans and Democrats ever seem to be able to come together and agree on are more spending and poorly thought-out, often counterproductive legislation passed in the midst of a crisis. There are a number of reasons for that. For one thing, both parties have become much more partisan and simply don’t agree with each other on much of anything. In addition, neither party feels compelled to keep its word to the other. In other words, a deal cut today doesn’t mean anything next year. So, realistically, only short term deals are even possible under the best of circumstances. No form of organization -- including a nation -- that’s run like this can succeed over the long haul and America will not be an exception to that.
7) Out of Control Government: The older America gets, the more the federal government seems to expand into every nook and corner of American life. Worse yet, the bigger government gets, the less competent it seems to become. It’s all a result of circular reasoning. Americans find a problem and demand that the government address it. The government does and usually creates some new problem that’s nearly as bad as the problem it set out to solve. Then, there are demands that we give the government even more power to fix the problem it created trying to fix the first problem. Rinse and repeat and many of our biggest problems today can be directly traced in some form or fashion to government involvement. It doesn’t matter if our politicians handcuff our military, can’t secure our borders or simply can’t explain how they spent billions of dollars’ worth of our tax money, the push is always to give them more power and control. The federal government is a tick and the bigger it gets, the less blood there is for the American people and less chance our nation has of succeeding over the long haul.