Wednesday, September 21, 2011


That's what Adam Gopnik in the Sept. 12th issue of The New Yorker calls the historians and writers producing books about the decline of "America." His article (the magazine website wouldn't let me link to it without paying unfortunately) is called "Decline, Fall, Rinse, Repeat" and is worth checking out.

He summarizes and criticizes a lot of books out there foretelling or explaining or "proving" the idea that the USA is going the way of all previous empires that once ruled their worlds. He actually got me feeling better about things, a little.

He's always a really clear and clever writer I enjoy reading, but I especially liked his take on a new book by NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman and "Johns Hopkins professor" Michael Mandelbaum. It's a book that's been getting a lot of attention and from the reviews and excerpts I've read seemingly deservedly so.

It chronicles in many ways what we already know, even if we haven't been out of the USA in a while to compare first hand how our infrastructure and technology and healthcare and education and so on compare so poorly with other so-called "developed" nations and even many so-called "developing" ones, we know by just looking around that things ain't what they used to be (the title of their book is THAT USED TO BE US).

He has some praise for the book too, and doesn't deny the deterioration of many things in this country, but he challenges these authors, and others whose books he writes about in the article, about something that I think every reasonable and logical writer should be doing, and that is this false idea that "Americans" all agree that we should be doing more to improve our infrastructure and so on but both parties are getting in the way of that. Here's a great quote from that part of the article:

"We don't have a better infrastructure or decent elementary education exactly because many people are willing to sacrifice faster movement between our great cities, or better informed children, in support of their belief that the government should always be given as little money as possible."


"As a recent study in the social sciences shows, if energy use in a household is monitored so that you can watch yourself saving money every month by using less, self-identified conservatives will actually use and spend more, apparently as a way of showing their scorn for liberal pieties."

All I can say is: yikes! (and let's call what's going on exactly what it is, obstruction from the right to almost anything that could make our government work better for all of us)


JIm said...
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Anonymous said...

But Jim, nobody really cares what you think! Please go way, !