It just doesn’t know it yet.
And why should it? All the official sources agree, America is rich beyond belief.
Once upon a time, I got into a heated discussion with a friend’s mother over which generation had better career prospects: Hers or mine. An MBA-adorned management consultant turned stay-at-home mom, she was not a stupid woman. So why wouldn’t she accept my sophomoric insistence that something called ‘GDP’ was a measure of all that was good and holy in a country, and it was going up, up, up! Rejoice!
She told me that her eyes told a different story. There are fewer good jobs available for young people today. There is less security. More crime. forty years ago, a college education was a guarantee of a comfortable upper-middle class life. A man with a high-school diploma and a willingness to get his hands dirty could easily provide for a family from his early twenties.
Of course, I knew better. I had seen the data, and it trumped mere reality. This was in 2006.
Four years later, and now even the heavily-massaged statistics are finding it impossible to deny the rot that has set in.
And that’s just among adults who are actively looking for work. The combination of dim prospects and generous taxpayer-funded alternatives has driven an increasing share to give up looking for work entirely:
Meanwhile, the fraction of underemployed (i.e. part-time, contract, and term workers) grows as well.
But the problems that America and the West face go beyond what can be portrayed on mere graphs. A cultural and moral rot has set in, and it is finally on the brink of completely overwhelming the centuries of trust, honesty, culture, wealth, and decency that once established western civilization as a beacon of truth and order in the world.
There are many signs that America and her satellites are approaching financial bankruptcy:
But what is less understood is the extent to which this is a symptom of the country’s moral, cultural and spiritual bankruptcy, rather than a cause of our problems.
A healthy society looks out for its own future. The individual members of a healthy society save, so that they will have more to leave to their children than their parents left to them. They build on the achievements of their ancestors,and so gradually increase the accumulated stock of wealth, wisdom and cultural capital.
When you look at the graph above, and when you look around in the world, is this what you see? No. We see a sick and depraved generation, the Baby Boomers, surely the worst that has ever lived in the history of mankind, dragging a once great and glorious civilization through mud and shit. We see parasites, sucking the last drops of blood out of a dying host. We see a generation that has taken the gifts bestowed upon it by antiquity, and utterly failed in its duty to keep it intact for us.
If you think that the current recession is a transitive phenomenon, a consequence of some mysterious ‘business cycle’, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. This is not a problem that can be cured with stimulus, or quantitative easing, or any other excuse that the ruling class concocts to justify siphoning an even greater share of America’s hollowed out corpse to their preferred interest groups. This is not a problem that will be solved by electing a Republican to the white house.
What we are witnessing are the dying gasps of the American Empire.
Productive industry is shutting down all over the North American and European continents. Trust is evaporating. Paper wealth is being marked to market, as the realization that our houses, fixed incomes, bonds and equities are denominated in a rapidly debasing currency. Effective police protection is being slowly withdrawn, leaving (unarmed) civilized people at the mercy of savages for whom the supreme law of violence is a constant fact of life.
I write a lot about self-improvement on this blog. How to get healthy. How to get rich. How to get laid. In a simpler time, living an effective and purposeful life would be optional. But the comfortable lives that we have grown accustomed to will not last forever. With any luck – and perhaps with some leadership out of our generation, as we forcibly wrest control of our lives away from our elders – the dark period will be short-lived, and will be a necessary precursor to something new, and better.
But hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. We are about to go down in history, either as the generation that rose to a great challenge that circumstances laid at our feet, or one that watched the last few candles go out and did nothing. Either way we choose, we’re going to need to be stronger than we are.