Voices from Russia

Sunday, 28 January 2018

The End of the American Experiment: It’s Over… So What Can the World Learn?


I think that it’s safe to say that the American experiment is at an end. No, America might not be finished as in civil war and secession. However, it’s clearly at an end in three ways. First, to the world, as a serious democracy. Second, to itself, as a nation with dignity and self-respect. Third, its potential lies in ruins. Even if its authoritarianism topples tomorrow, the problems of falling life expectancy, an imploding middle class, skyrocketing inequality, and so on, won’t. Now, like many fallen nations, maybe America won’t learn much from the failure of its own experiment… but history and the world surely can. So what has the experiment disproven? What was the null hypothesis? We don’t have to look very far. What does America not have that the rest of the rich world does? Public healthcare, transport, education, and so on. Every single rich nation in the world has sophisticated, broad, and expansive public goods, that improve by the year. Today, many medium-income and even poor nations are building public healthcare, transport, etc. America is the only one that never developed any. Public goods protect societies in deep, profound, invisible ways (we’ll get to that).

First, here’s the curious thing. American leaders pretend like the relationship above is a great confounding mystery. Like dumbfounded dinosaurs watching the mushroom cloud engulf the land, never… not once… in American media will you read a column, hear a voice, or see a face discussing the above. It’s never happened a single time in my adult life as far as I can remember. Yet, the relationship couldn’t be any more obvious, clear, or striking… no public goods are what uniquely separate America, the uniquely failed state, from the rest of the world. Why is that? It’d be easy for me to say that public goods represent a hard-fought compromise between left and right. However, I think there’s a social truth greater that’s far more substantial than the surface political reality.

Working societies… if they’re to endure, grow, and cohere… if they’re to prosper, hang together, and really mature… need moral universals. Moral universals are simply things that people believe everyone should have. In the UK, those things… those moral universals… are healthcare, media, and welfare. In Germany, they’re healthcare, media, welfare, and higher education. And so on. Moral universals anchor a society in a genuinely shared prosperity. Not just because they “spread the wealth”… although they do… it’s because more deeply moral universals civilise people. They’re what let people grow to become sane, humane, intelligent human beings. A person that’s desperate for a meal will resort to whatever they must to feed their kids. A person constantly fed a stream of nonsense by Fox News will end up believing the earth is flat. Moral universals let people act morally, and acting morally is what the process of civilisation is. Therefore, democracy depends on moral universals. It’s probably fairly hard, in the scope of human history, to establish a democracy. Nevertheless, it’s harder still to keep it going. A democracy requires before it demands votes, sane, humane, civilised people to vote. Consequently, a society that can’t create sane, humane, civilised people can no more reasonably stay a democracy than you can power the global economy with fossil fuels forever. At some point, without moral universals to create citizens worthy of the word, democracy runs out of gas.

Then, what really went wrong in America? Moral universals civilise people, but there aren’t any moral universals. The public goods universals result in educate, inform, train, school people, let them live long and peaceful lives. However, Americans… whether it is today’s extremists or yesterday’s slave-auctioneers and owners… believe that moral universals are just a “cost”, a “tax”, and so forth. They’ve never seen… and still don’t see… the benefits… the civilising process that democracy depends vitally on.

Thus, in America today, there are no broad, genuine, or accessible civilising mechanisms left. As an example, America’s best universities churn out… hedge-fund traders. Its economy is largely composed of… paper gains to the .01 percent. Its media debates… climate change. And so on. The natural consequence of failing to civilise is breaking down as a democracy… democracy no longer exists in the sense of “people cooperating by voting to give each other greater prosperity”. They’ve merely learned to take prosperity away from one another by denying one another doctors, schools, trains, and so on. That’s what a lack of civilisation really results in, or to put more prosaically, there’s no sanity or humanity, much less reason, wisdom, or virtue in such decisions… only nihilism, fatalism, and despair.

That’s what the end of the American experiment proves. Without moral universals, there’s no process of civilisation, and democracy itself can no longer continue to grow and develop. The painful irony is that American intellectuals are concerned about Western civilisation. LOL. The West, such as it is, will be just fine… in America, civilisation, as a verb, a process, a way of moral being in the world, has broken down. Even prisons have moral universals. There’s only one other place in the world I can think of with none… a jungle.

17 July 2017

Umair Haque



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