America is in Decline, Regardless Who Wins | Henry George
So, here we are. It is November 3rd, 2020 and Americans are going to the polls in an election that pits two septuagenarians against each other, going through the electoral version of a fight over the tv remote, but on the global stage for all to see.
Plato argued that elder statesman were desirable because they had the wisdom borne of long experience that made them qualified to govern with temperance, prudence, insight and courage. Normally, this would be the case but I think anyone whose mind hasn’t been colonised by ideology will admit that neither candidate embodies these virtues to the extent needed to govern the world’s most powerful nation in these difficult times.
Each sides’ partisans are locked in a death-dance of polarisation, pointing at the other side, shouting and calling out the deficiencies that really constitute a form of psychological projection of their own flaws. Each side, entwined in a poisonous embrace is unable to exist without the toxicity of the other. Neither is for anything, only against the other. Each faces the other, unable to look away while the country they claim to love falls apart around them.
The fact that we are in this place demonstrates that America really is a failing, if not a failed, state. Neither Biden nor Trump actually has any idea what a good forward course might be. The presidency will be strangled by the administrative state whoever wins. The only difference will be one of consent: Trump rhetorically disagrees, but substantively submits, while Biden agrees with the administrative state and the Gated Institutional Narrative that it and its allies in academia and media embody.
This Gated Institutional Narrative might be summarised as neoliberalism in economics, libertinism in social relations and one-worldism in diplomacy and any dissent is marginalised and crushed. It is the settlement that has reigned since at least since the end of the Cold War and is hollowing out America’s ability to continue as a functioning, stable and fairly cohesive society. No matter who wins, America will continue to be run on the fumes of a dwindling socially cohesive vision of society. This was the legacy of the great period of 20th Century stability and prosperity, which was buttressed and fed by technological innovation which secured ever-increasing productivity growth.
This no longer exists and hasn’t for forty years. And neither side of America’s supposed political divide is willing or able to do anything about it, instead covering it over through the entrenchment of a parasitic boomer institutional class insufficient to the task of rebuilding or restoring the American nation to greatness. The managerialism that James Burnham described in the 1940’s has metastasized into a racket designed to reward vice over civic virtue, while presenting personal gain through illicit means as personal sacrifice for national ends. Meanwhile, the physical infrastructure of America, crumbling and coming apart mirrors the shattered social infrastructure of the American populace, civil society degraded and denuded of solid foundations.
Communities hollowed out by the off-shoring and arbitrage of those in power lack the economic or social means to revive themselves, prevented from making any meaningful protest through opioid sedation, living and dying quietly in towns and cities denuded of life-affirming spaces for community cultivation and conservation. As Michael Lind argues, as long as there is an inequality of class power between the Overclass and the working class, this situation will continue, and the majority of Americans will continue on in a country and society that seems from an external perspective to be coming apart at the seams.
It is hard not to feel that America is experiencing a gerontocracy that has distinctly Soviet echoes. If that’s not grim enough, then keep this in mind: The USSR collapsed in a world where America was the global hegemon. America is seemingly in a similar position in a world where China is rising and is more powerful than the USSR was. The stakes are high, and the election in front of us is what we face. Pessimism seems the only reasonable attitude at this point in our slide towards civilisational senescence.