The Left blamed the innate greed of Wall Street, whose modern buccaneers had recklessly endangered the banking system in search of obscene billion-dollar profits. The Right placed greater blame on the federal government, whose unhinged effort to ensure everyone the chance to buy a home resulted in guarantees for mortgage loans that could not be honored and should never have been written.
Yet three years later, there is general agreement over what followed from September 14. The American financial system survived. In contrast, Europe’s as we once knew it probably will not. Both Democrats and Republicans are now talking about saving money and paying off debts — not borrowing more trillions. Both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street reflect a similar anger at an out-of-touch Washington technocracy. The former’s participants were madder at big-government nincompoops who warped and manipulated free markets. The latter’s protesters were more furious at Wall Street investors who did the same.
After a decade of tragedy in Iraq, the stalemate in Afghanistan, the $9 trillion added to the federal debt, the continuing downturn, and the destruction of home and retirement equity, the United States did not unravel. Iraq did not end in a horrendous defeat. Bin Laden did not pull off any more 9/11s. Our constitutional freedoms were not lost. There was not a Great Depression following the financial panic. And our rivals now find themselves in more trouble than do we.
Americans will never agree on the causes of, and the reactions to, September 11 and September 14. But some day, after the present acrimony recedes, they will at least appreciate why, in an existential sense, their country survived both of those awful September days.
Quite simply, no other people has proved as resilient and self-critical, and no other constitution as stable and politically brilliant, as ours.
— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.