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Land of the Giants



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I’ve written a lot about decline and fall. The other day, for example, in response to the president’s fatuous cliches about the need to invest in the highway system, I mentioned America’s ever proliferating number of road signs — not just “Stop” signs but “Stop” signs on both sides of the roadway, “Stop Sign Ahead” signs, “Stop Sign Ahead” signs with flashing lights above them, signs of a number and pointlessness I have never seen in any other developed nation. In the scale of a multi-trillion-dollar slide off the cliff, it’s not a big thing, but it tells us something. When Obama & Co talk about “investing in the future,” all they mean is more pointless excess of the kind that disfigures our highways — an excess of excess unknown to history.

This morning I had an e-mail from a reader who lives in Norway but does business in the US:

What amazes me is how much more bureaucratic the US has become, as compared to what can only be described as socialist “home turf” here in Norway. Why? Well, Americans seem to have a knack for over-doing everything. Whether it is music, or sports, war or tree-hugging, the Americans simply over do it. So too with bureaucracy (and unions)… It’s a kind of “go big or go home” mentality which permeates American life at so many levels and in so many directions. Which, I suppose, is both good and bad. It has given us the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, jazz, and umpteen other icons. But it has also given us mind bogglingly stupid, bureaucratic decay.

There’s an element of truth in that. Bigness is part of what it means to be American. America is Superman and Wonder Woman, the Ziegfeld Follies and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the Super Bowl, King Kong, Avatar, Surf’n'Turf and Supersized Fries and all-U-can-eat. . . . I love ’em all, but such a land would seem an unlikely candidate for genteel incremental Continental-style decline. When such a nation embarks on the European trajectory of suicide-by-statism, it will not merely be Big Government but Biggest Government. I used to think Obamacare would simply be a disaster on the scale of Canadian health care or Britain’s NHS, but, as the Cornhusker Kickback and the legions of additional IRS agents and the tanning-salon tax became plain, you realize it will be a disaster of an entirely different order. This is Gibbon’s Decline And Fall All-U-Can-Eat Super Bowl Christmas Spectacular On Ice.

That’s all “investing in the future” means: More. More of the more that got us into this mess. More signs, more paperwork, more bureaucrats. The Radio City Rockette line of regulators. The Incredible Hulk of TSA crotch inspectors. The Waterworld of 1099s. If we need a new national anthem for a land that spends $188 million it doesn’t have every hour of every day and thinks it has decades to correct the problem, try the Andrea True Connection:

More More More
How do you like it?
How do you like it?

More More More
How do you like it?
How do you like it?

I have a great respect for Paul Ryan, but, at a certain level, graduated reform over ten years is irrelevant to the situation America’s facing. Kevin Williamson raises the possibility of a return to Seventies/Eighties interest rates. But it doesn’t have to be that bad: If interest rates were to return to the average for the years 1990–2010 (5.7 per cent), debt service alone could be sucking up just shy of a trillion bucks per annum within half a decade. At that point, we won’t need to worry about an America “ten years out.”



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