I finished two books last week: Volume 3 of Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy and George Packer’s The Unwinding of America.. A noted quote in Packer’s well written book is that the “1950s ended in 1972″ as 1973 brought the oil crisis or shock and the end of Richard Nixon’s political career. Into the breach stepped Jimmy Carter’s presidential malaise which made attractive the smokey dreams of Ronald Reagan. Occurs to me that we’ve never been a country to do what we had to do unless we had to do it. Probably better describes our propensity to act in nearly all circumstances.
America’s powerful and vital contribution to the victory over Totalitarianism in both Europe and Asia produced a incredible period of prosperity for Americans. Our country had many choices for reassembling the political structures of the world, at least within our realms and geographies of influence (there wasn’t much appetite to take on the Russians or to preserve the British Empire’s remnants). We chose cooperative interdependence. The Russians chose centralized control in their sphere.
Reflecting on Packer’s observations which are reported with a journalist’s unbiased eye, I wonder if we realize that we’re no longer the country that ‘won the war’ and that we’ve reveled in the benefits of that victory way beyond our capacity to pay for the party.
For example, I read yesterday that the currently promised social and medical benefits plus interest on our national debt will consume the entire US Federal budget by 2030. The present, related plan of action is to blame the other guy while assuming $1T in annual Federal debt (Atkinson estimates that each year of WW2 cost $1T in 2012 adjusted dollars).
It’s not 1865 where the country attempted suicide over four years. I believe that crisis inspire imagination and engender selfless cooperation. I just wish that now that we’re in this deep hole that we’d quit digging.