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The Decline of America
History shows that the destruction of affluent societies is often self-induced.


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Victor Davis Hanson

If Martians looked at the small houses, one-car families, and primitive consumer goods of the 1950s, they would have thought the postwar United States, despite a balanced budget in 1956, was impoverished in comparison with an indebted contemporary America where consumers jostle for each new version of the iPhone.

By any historical marker, the future of Americans has never been brighter. The United States has it all: undreamed-of new finds of natural gas and oil, the world’s preeminent food production, continual technological wizardry, strong demographic growth, a superb military, and constitutional stability.

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Yet we don’t talk confidently about capitalizing and expanding on our natural and inherited wealth. Instead, Americans bicker over entitlement spoils as the nation continues to pile up trillion-dollar-plus deficits. Enforced equality, rather than liberty, is the new national creed. The medicine of cutting back on government goodies seems far worse than the disease of borrowing trillions from the unborn to pay for them.

In August 1945, Hiroshima was in shambles, while Detroit was among the most innovative and wealthiest cities in the world. Contemporary Hiroshima now resembles a prosperous Detroit of 1945; parts of Detroit look like they were bombed decades ago.

History has shown that a government’s redistribution of shrinking wealth, in preference to a private sector’s creation of new sources of it, can prove more destructive than even the most deadly enemy.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals will appear in the spring from Bloomsbury Books. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.



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