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My title is not what I want to talk about, except the way that one talks about an absence, such as the time one nearly ran off the road. The U.S.A. has not fallen. Furthermore, it has not fallen behind. Furthermore again, it is not falling, except in cultural myth.

"Ignorance is the mother of admiration." -- George Chapman (1612)
Turn on a media channel, and it will not be long before someone mentions how America is a has-been or is about to be a has-been (an is-going?), but such a statement about the fall, decay, or dotage of the U.S. is always followed by an and. "America is a faltering superpower, and Hamas needs to align itself with the emerging powers of the region such as India" a person said this very morning on the BBC world service. That person's agitated "and" finds strange harmony with Don Peck in The Atlantic, whose "dead middle class" is doom and death of U.S.A.

What I would like to discuss is not the individual markers that signal alarm, but the use of the master myth of the "fall" of the U.S. While "death of middle class" is a progressive or labor mutation on the myth, the myth is primarily a conservative standby, if not the very definition of conservative ideology.

"So the rest of the evening was spent with cheerfulness, the conversation turning principally on the everlasting subjects, metaphysics and politics; of the first of which man can know nothing, -- and of the last, will not." -- Robert Bage, Hermsprong; or Man as He Is Not
I would not like to get caught in debating the facts of U.S. virtue or vice. To me, it seems apparent that the U.S. fall is a myth in every sense of the word, but the particulars mask the general in this case. In 1997, the U.S. was "the last remaining superpower" and was "without an existentialist threat in sight." Now, the U.S. is a has-been? Do superpowers make such shifts in a decade?

Indeed, an existential threat came (from U.S. selection) after 2001. W. Bush decided to treat Islamic theocracy as an existential threat and implied (cool link) that the U.S. was strong to the degree that Christianity was (thereby announcing a war of theocratic states). Obama has more prudently seen theocracy in general as the threat to democracy. However, it is a far, far stretch to argue that any of these are external threats to the U.S. -- especially in comparison to internal theocratic impulses.

There are two major myths of Fallen America that I can locate quickly. (I am certain there are more. If you think of others, please contribute in the comments.) The first is a critique of character, where "We are not us anymore." This showed up most persistently in the "Lazy American Workers" trope. The other Fallen America is a hackneyed allegory that simply will not go away, and that is the argument by analogy to Rome. You have probably encountered this at one point or another: "America is just like Rome, and it fell because..." the line goes.

These myths are notable not merely in their similarities, one to another, but in their repetition. They have a function, a purpose, and they accomplish politics in some way.

Trope 1: Lazy American workers

"Labor is the curse of the world, and nobody can meddle with it without becoming proportionately brutified." -- Nathaniel Hawthorne
Do you remember Japan, Inc.? When the OPEC oil embargo caused gasoline shortages in the U.S., Americans woke up to miles per gallon. This is something only hipsters and poor folks had cared about before, apparently. However, the 'toy cars' that Toyota and Datsun (now Nissan) made sold, and then Honda cars (what?! a motorcycle engine turned sideways for a car? are they serious?) sold. By 1980, those Japanese cars were selling enormously, and they were breaking 40 mpg, too.

In 1992, the Japanese Prime Minister criticized American production. He said that Japan put its profits into engineers, not dividends, and did not have lazy American workers to worry about. What he said had been said already, though. American executives had been studying Japan and gathering strange lessons (like reading Musashi's sword fighting book rather than having cradle to grave benefits for workers, having on site loyalty songs, but not company shame). At nearly the same time, though, there was yet another argument going around. German worker productivity increases were greater than American! More evidence of the laziness of the American worker.

The myth went everywhere. In fact, it's now accepted fact. American workers are lazy, according to vox populis.

This accepted plank of mythology is necessary for two new manifestations of the "lazy American" and "faded American." The first is the China alarm. Today, the American on the street is told, if not convinced, that China is the #1 nation in the world, that China "owns" America, that Chinese work harder and do more than Americans, etc. Economists and traders in currencies, meanwhile, speak of the BRIC through our window. Brazil, Russia, India and China (B.R.I.C.) will own the whole globe, and the U.S. is yesterday's news -- done in by its own loss of character and end of resources.

The curious thing about the myth is there was never a factual basis for this. Not only are American workers more productive than any on earth, but they're far more productive than any others. Americans get less vacation than almost anyone, and while Chinese workers endure miserable conditions, they exchange bodies for automation, finding it less expensive to have a hundred humans do a thing that a U.S. factory would have done by a machine (e.g. New Balance shoes, which are made in the U.S., but entirely by machine).

Subset: We're not the grand men our grand fathers were
The lazy worker is instantly recognizable as the adult version of the "spoiled children" and the "wild teenager" myth. There are two sides to the "people (men) today can't do what the great ones did before." One is encomium -- an Ecclesiasticus "Let us now praise famous men" -- and the other is a conservative wail -- "Where have all the real men gone?" Often, it is impossible for an author or speaker to manage the encomium without the lament or the lament without a tacit panegyric. What becomes interesting is merely which group is the contrast to the present "fallen" American.

The facts of the panegyrics and laments are usually suspect. Whether we're talking about the ubiquitous and annoying The Greatest Generation or the personalized Big Russ, the parriphilic myth sells. Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation forgets that the generation gave us McCarthy witchhunts, "segregation forever," and hippie bashing. It was the generation that thought, in 1960, teenage delinquents were the number one problem. It was the generation that feared the commies more than the plutocrats. This is because it was an American generation, made up of Americans, who were full of blind spots, easily hoodwinked.

The lamentations are usually far more suspect. An ode to two generations earlier has the advantage of memory and sufficient distance that the accomplishments appear in stark relief and the mistakes have been overcome, but a whine that today's generation lacks __ compared to the past is inherently false. (Sample: "Where have all the real men gone? In the past, American men bared any risk to see their vision through. Do we see any men like Thomas Edison, or even Hugh Hefner, these days? No, we don't! Today, Americans expect everything to come from the government.") These smoke bombs work, culturally, for the reason that a horoscope does: each reader can see selected examples from history that have the quality ("Yeah, and Munson the paint seller, and Baskin and Robbins, and Hewlett Packard!") and imagine everyday individuals who lack it ("My lazy nephew can't do anything!"). Comparing geniuses to the average is always going to make the average look bad.

The Function of this Myth
This particular myth is union busting and worker displacing. If we believe that American workers are vicious, then we will not fight for them. After all, their losses are proper. If we know in our hearts that they are greedy and lazy, then we will cheer for the union busters.

Further, if we can be convinced that America's prosperity is dead, that China owns everything, then we will not be outraged when another corporation moves production. We will not worry ourselves about a plant closure, because we already shake our heads in despair at our lost glory. Indeed, we'll get very anxious about our debts to China and perhaps support politicians who wish to strip government services, especially to workers, because we fear the foreign master we must please.

Trope 2: This is just like Ancient Rome, you know...
I was tempted to put the ode to fathers and lament over the present in here, because, unlike most of what people offer in their arguments by analogy to Rome, that is one thing the U.S. (and U.K.) have in common with the ancient Romans. However, I'll hang on and perhaps treat that particular flavor (the satirist's and commentator's) of comparison last.

Since I was in my early teens, in the 1970's, I heard that the United States was "just like Rome" and was either collapsing or about to collapse because, just like Rome, we were doing X or Y. These Roman comparisons were everywhere in the 1970's, in fact, and they're everywhere among the right wing today, too.

Re-read Frank Schaeffer's article on the birth of Reconstructionism. "America is going to fall like Rome" was the starting point for a long, long argument by analogy that would lead to a series of moves that has resulted in both Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry.

Furthermore, the "just like Rome" argument is used against "multiculturalism." This one is stupidly blunt: "Rome was done in by immigrants. So many with different cultures. All drained from the treasury, and the state fell apart. Now, liberals want the same thing." This analogy can also be used to advocate religious exclusion: "Rome fell because it had no character by the end; America is a Christian nation; tolerance means re-enacting Rome; we must control America to keep her pure."

I cannot count the number of ways this "like Rome" thing manifests itself. I have heard that "like Rome" we have weak defense. I have heard that "like Rome" we are not protecting our border. I have even (yes, and the speakers honestly don't know that their words come from racists) heard that, like Rome, too few 'natives' are having babies.

Digression on Argument by Analogy
Argument by analogy is a fallacy. Umberto Eco, in Foucault's Pendulum has an hilarious exposition of why it's a fallacy and why it is the favorite method of conspiracy theorists. It involves finding two or more situations, persons, or actions that legitimately share a quality and then assuming that, because they share that quality, they must share others.

If any of you remember Chariots of the Gods, it was all argument by analogy. ("This carving by the Aztecs has curvy things coming from the head. This photo of a NASA astronaut has air hoses coming from the head. Were the Aztecs showing early astronauts?") Glenn Beck is a fan, too. ("The Woodrow-Wilson introduced dime has a fasce on the back. The fascists used the fasce as their symbol! Wilson was a fascist." Never mind Wilson having died before the Fascist Party formed or that the fasce goes back to ancient Rome.) End digression

The absurdity of these arguments by analogy ought to be obvious. However, if it isn't, here are some of the more astonishing elements.
1. Rome did not fall. It crumbled slowly over a period of a long time. The withdrawal of the legions from the western provinces made those provinces fall, but that would be a different time at a different place. Further, the empire kept right on chugging in the East.
2. There was no cause. Can we agree on what single thing caused World War I? How about the War of 1812? How about the collapse/dissolution of the U.S.S.R.? Would we say that these are all very complicated? Well, these are very close to us in time, and we don't understand a single causal point, whereas Rome's predicament was long ago and slow. To say that its decline was multifocal is an understatement.
3. Each "cause" offered has a complement. For example, when people argue that Rome had a weak army and insufficient money to pay for social services, this is because wealthy Romans in the provinces began cheating on their taxes. When "citizen" arguments come up, we can note that Roman citizenship was in the city, not a nation state, and had to do with patrimony of specific families, not an ethnicity or geography or culture. The Romans were happy to integrate all sorts of "multiculturalism" in their height, but citizenship was restricted.

Never mind arguing the point. Since the argument isn't about fact, but analogy, accuracy isn't the issue.

The Function of this myth
We should be familiar with this myth structure, because it's really old. The Roman historian Sallust, a contemporary of Julius Caesar's, was writing about how Roman men were all sissies in his day, how everyone had lost their virtue, and how the state was sure to fall.

If one reads Plutarch's Parallel Lives, his idea was for young Romans to learn from Greece's rise and fall. The Romans would tell themselves tales about the fall of other civilizations and play the very same argument by analogy. The English would use Old Testament stories and compare themselves (this is particularly true of the early 18th century when political parties were becoming a fact) urging themselves,

"Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken" ("A Modest Proposal" 1729)
The comparison to Rome is inherently a conservative framework. It was when Gibbon did it, and it is today. The goal of such a comparison is to embed 1) the idea that the present society is a world marvel, 2) the further idea that this marvel is in danger due to predictable and preventable mistakes.

The fall of Rome metaphor's chief value is that it is infinitely flexible. It can be used to denounce "bread and circuses" ("The Romans spent too much on bread and circuses, so they fell, and that's what the liberals want to do with their social programs"), immigration, dilution of 'the faith' (this one is particularly galling, because the Romans who felt this way responded by putting Christians to death in gruesome ways), military decreases, military increases ("Caesar became an emperor by disobeying the constitutional authority with his army, just like [Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, the Duke of Marlborough]"), homosexuals ("Juvenal has a satire where he practically vomits over going to a gay wedding").

Bonus myth: America lost its way
A combination of the "must fall like others" and the "faded glory" myths is the suggestion that a central and integral portion of the "real American" character has been lost. The antiquity of the hymn "Old-Time Religion" (collected in 1873 and composed earlier) should testify to the consistency of the feeling that "they" knew better, and "we" should go "back" to them.

The problem with such myths is that they postulate an idealized and known character to have been lost. If we have lost "our way," then the speaker implies that she or he knows what the way is. If we're not "real Americans" any more, then speaker and audience are both supposed to know what makes an American real.

One of my favorite papers on the concerns of the American public in the 1960's is here, but salient in it is the fact that Americans thought the "Happy Days" generation were hooligans. Instead of the atomic bomb, they were worried about the youth running wild. That truth has not stopped us from propagating the idea that people today lack the mores of the "simple" nuclear family of 1959.

David Barton (the invaluable Warren Throckmorton here) has rewritten the "founders" of the United States more radically than anyone since Parson Weems. He is not alone. Not only have religiously inflected groups made the Revolutionary War their own, but so have assorted political minorities. Antonin Scalia may have been the original originalist in this regard -- assuming that he had a key to the resurrected minds of the authors of the constitution, but the Tenthers, the nullificationists, and the thirteenthers are all claiming that they know the original America and that they're not living in it.

The T.E.A. Party put on its tricorn hats precisely because it believed that it knew of a "real" Constitution that the rest of us had broken. The Re-enactors of Colonial and Civil War America alike make the claim that a true character existed then, located in a definable act or attitude that is imitable, and that we have lost it.

The mask, and what's behind it.
All of these conservative gestures have a thing in common. By claiming that America is dead, they enable reactionary deeds in the guise of revolution or restoration.

We on the left have enabled the "America is no longer the only power in the world" myth because we have been in a polemical battle with conservatives peddling U.S. exceptionalism. However, in our desire to take a cultural weapon from the right, we made an error in fact. By proclaiming the loss of status of the U.S., we supply a second cultural weapon to the conservative: the call for "morning in America."

Whenever the voice of failure and disappointment sounds, we need to look at the sophistication of the analysis and the causes assigned. Blaming workers for design flaws and lack of reinvestment is a sure way to kill an industry, just as idealizing the dead is a way to turn them into ideological chimera who may be summoned to bless any undertaking or curse any opponent. If the U.S. were to fall, it would not be perceptible to those falling.

On the other hand, when grievances and disjunctions in pay and opportunity are addressed by appeals to imagined glory days, we all suffer from the toxin of the lies.

Originally posted to A Frayed Knot on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 05:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Poll

America definitely fell, and it was

1%2 votes
9%13 votes
11%16 votes
7%10 votes
2%3 votes
24%34 votes
4%6 votes
7%10 votes
14%20 votes
0%1 votes
17%24 votes

| 139 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks for your writing. (5+ / 0-)

    Had to vote for Cheech and Chong, well just cause they were the forshawdowing of America's future poputation growth.  

    "How quickly these kids have affected the public dialogue. So proud of them." Clarknt67

    by TexMex on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 05:32:06 AM PST

  •  Of Course It's Falling. The Right Has Been Right (27+ / 0-)

    about its warnings all along, however it's placed the blame backward since it intended to bring down the country as we've had it.

    Americans have gone from having the most to the least upward mobility among the advanced nations. We now have the greatest wealth concentration. We trail 2 score nations in health. A state U education that used to cost half of one year's median wage now costs 3 years' median wage and leaves the typical grad owing a serious fraction of the cost of a house.

    Global economic ownership informs our mainstream and hosts our political discourse. 40% and rising of American profits come from finance. The social safety net and national infrastructure are being torn down and sold off across the country at a steadily accelerating pace.

    Nothing the right says about how and why we're falling is correct, it's all as you describe the opposite of what's been happening and driving our course. But the overall conclusion is right.

    The America of the people is already gone. Check the pink slip, it's in the name of global ownership not ours.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 05:45:05 AM PST

    •  even the scabs have been outsourced to Asia (10+ / 0-)

      "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

      by Keith930 on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 06:11:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  On the status, then (11+ / 0-)

      Note that I said that I was not arguing the fact of whether the USA was #1 or not. Either, it seems to me, the USA was not "the only superpower" in 1995 or it still is now. I remember arguing back in the "peace dividend" years that the U.S. was not A-#1 pure tops.

      What I was arguing was the way that the myth of the fall is used. We use it. We use it (and if you look at your own rhetoric, you'll see a golden age and an age of iron) to speak of the manufacturing age vs. today, and yet that age was also one of concentrated wealth and very, very serious union fights, replete with violence and hatred. It is not that today does not suck, but rather when we speak of a past that was so much better we are speaking conservative narratives.

      So, is the US fallen? Well, the worker sure as heck has it worse. The capital organization is amazingly corrupt and corrosive. The political process is more filled with outright graft and lies than any time since Watergate, easily. We fought like rabid dogs, though, to clean up America from the Teapot Dome era, from the Tamany Hall era, from the Standard Oil era, because the US rises and falls and rises and falls, and the moment we start using the myth of a FALL of EMPIRE we 1) endorse the idea that we ought to have one, or that we should be exceptional, 2) validate defeat.

      Again, I'm no expert on exactly where the U.S. is in rankings, but I'd say that each proffered ranking needs to be thought about, and any narrative of "we're doomed" is bad news.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 06:41:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm with Gooserock (6+ / 0-)

        to a certain extent, but your arguments are sound, and the Right does indeed use them as you describe.
        There was a recent BBC Panorama program on the fall of America due to poverty and income inequality. Very serious stuff, but I couldn't help noticing that any point about anything could be proven with the right interviews and video footage. The Beeb also stressed areas, such as lack of healthcare and the bleak neighbourhoods of Detroit, which have analogues in the UK, such as foundering NHS healthcare and the poverty in North East England. The subtext seemed to be: see how much worse the Americans have it? Suck up your own misfortunes and be happy you don't live in Detroit.

        "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

        by northsylvania on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 07:55:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's the mythos that we must reject (7+ / 0-)

          I think we're in a dark spot, but I also believe one of the reasons is that the psychological warfare against the people has been successful.

          If we think of "empire/fall," we forget or do not invest in "ongoing fight."

          The U.S. was really, really bad for workers in the early 1990's. Now it's a bit worse. Nothing fell except our spirits.

          Not to sound too much like a cheerleader or propagandist, but

          Comrades, we must remember the struggle is eternal, not a battle that can be declared won or loss.

          Um. Don't know where that came from.

          Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

          by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:12:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  The mid 20th century (8+ / 0-)

        had far less concentration of wealth and far less income disparity than today.

        Practically all the fruits of our spectacularly improved productivity over the past four decades have gone to the top 1% - really the top 0.1%.  And this really has hollowed out the middle class (not to mention the poor.)

        With all this manure around, there must be a pony in here somewhere. - Count Piotr Vorkosigan

        by jrooth on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 11:24:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes. And? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bmcphail, Larsstephens, dallasdunlap

          Of course you're right. I completely agree with that.

          That's not, though, going to support a thesis of "fall" of an empire, nation, or super power. It ABSOLUTELY means that a forty year assault on workers, combined with a thirty year diversion of the economy onto finance, has damaged the health of the nation and the happiness of its people.

          If, though, we allow the "fall" myth in our conversations, we enable the concept that our work is recovery or that we have been defeated. I don't admit defeat.

          Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

          by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:17:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  From where I stand - It's dead, Jim. (4+ / 0-)

        And for for about 50 million other Americans.

        When I cannot sing my heart. I can only speak my mind.

        by Unbozo on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 11:43:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes but.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Geogre, dallasdunlap

      ....you've always been behind in some things. Last advanced nation to abolish slavery, anyone? By that standard, the US should have "fallen" in 1880 or so.

      When we are no longer children, we are already dead. (Constantin Brancusi) And whoever gave it, thanks for the gift!

      by sagesource on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 11:32:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What is the "It" that fell, too? (6+ / 0-)

        One of my questions in the diary is that all of our uses of this myth (reminder, the diary is about the conversational trope; I did not say the U.S. is doing well) postulate that an assumed high and perfected state fell.

        For us, in this thread, the "America" that fell is the labor USA. That, however, was also the Jim Crowe USA. It was also not prosperous for the South, where "right to work" was creating those "Norma Rae" factories. It was not a place of high civil rights, either, when "undesirables" were involuntarily sterilized in North Carolina or when the workers in Radium in Nevada died of cancers and above ground nuclear tests took place.

        All uses of the myth select a quality, whether it's the right winger's happy dream land of dogface GI's ruling the world with benevolence or our own union Joe, the truth is that all our odes require amnesia for a political purpose.

        Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

        by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:22:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, the very definition of nostalgia. n/t (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          When we are no longer children, we are already dead. (Constantin Brancusi) And whoever gave it, thanks for the gift!

          by sagesource on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 04:44:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  One nineteenth-century writer... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens, dallasdunlap

          ....whose name I unfortunately forget, said that European monarchies were like clipper ships that sailed along merrily until they hit a rock and sank. The US, on the other hand, was like a raft: it would never sink, but your feet would never be quite dry.

          When we are no longer children, we are already dead. (Constantin Brancusi) And whoever gave it, thanks for the gift!

          by sagesource on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 04:47:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Yep and the fundamental premise of the article (0+ / 0-)

      is false.  The right IS right but for all of the WRONG reasons.

      I'll meet you at the bottom, if there really is one. They always told me when you hit it you'll know it. I've been fallin' for so long it's like gravity is gone and I'm just floatin'. ~ Drive by Truckers (ugly buildings, whores, and politicians)

      by Saint Jimmy on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 09:09:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The premise? Excuse me? (0+ / 0-)

        The premise of the diary is that we employ a linguistic formulation of "fall/fallen" that enables a conservative gesture that we then fill in in various ways. The body outlines three specific forms of that cliche.

        That's wrong?

        That has what to do with the conservatives? I believe I was speaking of subconscious language that changes our politics.

        Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

        by The Geogre on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 04:20:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fair enough. My own take is that the US is (0+ / 0-)

          a weaker nation than 25 to 30 years ago, mostly economically and socially.  We are not as well educated, not as coherent, and, while there is still great wealth, it is shallow and, if you poke beneath the thin upper crust of the wealth, you find very little.  Sure, militarily we're still very, very strong but no nation or empire can maintain military strength for very long when it is falling apart economically and socially.  

          Conservatives are right about a declining US but the reasons and sgns they site as reasons for and symptoms of the decline are totally false and addressing the issues they site only serve to further weaken us.

          I'll meet you at the bottom, if there really is one. They always told me when you hit it you'll know it. I've been fallin' for so long it's like gravity is gone and I'm just floatin'. ~ Drive by Truckers (ugly buildings, whores, and politicians)

          by Saint Jimmy on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 07:30:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  We are having a tough time as workers (0+ / 0-)

            In economic rights, we're in a bad way. On the other hand, we're probably in a better position in civil rights than we've ever had (gay rights was unimaginable in the 1930's). We're in poor shape with civil liberties compared to the 1970's, but we have to remember that we had just gotten some of those rights from the creep of the National Security state.

            I think we've got to fight globalization, which is a post-capitalist system that threatens to treat all soil like a colony and all governments like a subject state. The turn toward "finance" as a source of wealth was always folly, because finance "creates wealth" by consuming workers. Its raw material is labor wage.

            I know why we on the left use the trope. I agree with the things. I just want us to all be aware that the trope carries with it some dangers.

            Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

            by The Geogre on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 09:24:19 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  In the 1930's the four things happened (4+ / 0-)

      that created the greatest middle class in the history of mankind and those countries that followed our example did the same and most of those are doing better than we are for they did not embrace this conservative nonsense.

      1. We instituted a highly progressive tax system.
      2. We regulated the financial industry
      3. We instituted labor laws trying to level the playing field between labor and management
      4. We instituted Keynesian Economics  

      The more we get away from these four things the less chance we have of having a sound economy with a bustling middle class. That is what our experience teaches us. For all the principles and values our Republican friends have the one thing they do not do is look at what worked in the past. They are certainly against all the above.They cry about the good old days but it was Reagan and his followers who has caused our main economic problems by abandoning what clearly worked.

      Join the War on Thinking. Watch Fox News- John Lucas

      by Jlukes on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 12:16:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It is odd that you would address (18+ / 0-)

    the comparisons of America with Rome that come only from the right.  Of course they attribute things incorrectly.  They argue from the standpoint that America is built on goodness with an inability to recognize the evil that is also an integral part of the creation and continuation of America as it exists.

    This diary would have far more value (and face far more difficulty) if you were to take on the true authority on American empire and its relationship to that of Rome, Chalmers Johnson.

    The history of the Roman republic from the time of Julius Caesar on suggests that it was imperialism and militarism – poorly understood by all conservative political leaders at the time – that brought it down. Militarism and the professionalization of a large standing army create invincible new sources of power within a polity. The government must mobilize the masses in order to exploit them as cannon fodder, and this leads to the rise of populist generals who understand the grievances of their troops and veterans.
    Professor Johnson's arguments are decidedly NOT coming from either a standpoint of glorifying the Roman empire or the American system as it exists.  The comparison is rather a condemnation of the Roman state and the American as well.

    The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

    by chipmo on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 06:34:31 AM PST

    •  I did. (6+ / 0-)

      I did not address Chalmers Johnson, but I did address the flexibility of the argument by analogy, including that one. What Chalmers is doing goes back at least to 1712/3.

      In that signal year of the Treaty of Utrecht Joseph Addison wrote a play entitled Cato. Take a look at this link with the text of the play, and you'll see that the play, which is a very, very stupid play, is still the subject of political football.

      The Whigs (and Addison was one) meant to suggest the Rule of the Senate as supreme over the imperial ambitions of tyrant. Meanwhile, the Tories cheered the play, because they saw it as condemning the rogue general (John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, who wanted to continue the War of the Spanish Succession, with Whig support, against the Queen's wishes) for personal enrichment. Both sides used the analogy to the fall of the Roman republic through militarism/tyranny, citing the same text, same events.

      So, no: I don't have more challenges.

      The comparison to Rome is facile and vacuous. It can be done by left or right, but people on the left are usually more intelligent than to offer something as club headed as "Rome fell because of this one thing." After all, Rome rose through militarism, and holding a thesis that militarism doomed it is so strained as to be purely tendentiousness. Excess military weighs down the state, but "excess" is a post facto judgment.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 06:53:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, you did not address Chalmers Johnson (5+ / 0-)

        with your ambiguous reference to the flexibility of argument by analogy, because the Professor's purpose in making the comparison is not to state that America is coincidentally like Rome, and therefore doomed to Rome's fate.  Empire is the MODEL by which the crafters and leaders of state have been instructed, and thus the direction in which the nation has inevitably drifted.

        You stated the following:

        The comparison to Rome is inherently a conservative framework. It was when Gibbon did it, and it is today. The goal of such a comparison is to embed 1) the idea that the present society is a world marvel, 2) the further idea that this marvel is in danger due to predictable and preventable mistakes.
        This is false.  The comparison to Rome is only conservative when Rome is used as a standard to which a healthy nation ought aspire.  Prof. Johnson has never done such a thing.  His purpose in illustrating similarities between prior empires and the United States is neither for any of the reasons you listed, nor is it argued in any form close to the simplistic manner you attribute to him by association with the doltish defenders of empire on the right.

        The argument that Rome fell because of "one thing" does not by extension mean that in the absence of that one thing, Rome would have existed in perpetuity.  Whatever can be identified as the primary hastener of Rome's collapse, whether the collapse were quick or slow, can be attributed as that which brought it down.  If a person has ingested poison but is shot before it can kill them, the bullet killed them even though they would have died in short order anyway.  Chalmers Johnson in his writing has pointed to many other similarities beyond the one identified in my quote, even beyond those included in the linked article.  It is simply that that is the one he has determined to have been the most deleterious to the longevity of Rome.

        I agree that pointing out a handful of things that make America like Rome and then concluding that the fate of Rome is inevitably the fate of America is fallacious reasoning.  As did Chalmers Johnson, quite regularly.  However the value in comparison of America to Rome, Britain, and other historical empires is not invalidated simply because it has been used erroneously.

        The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

        by chipmo on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 07:40:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Imperialism or an Empire? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          native, Larsstephens

          If you wish to suggest, or anyone does, that a design of the republic had structural imperatives to empire, then that is valid, but it is not analogy. Furthermore, a serious historical analysis has to take on board not merely a set point, but the reality of the nations. The U.S. for example, had flexibility built into its constitution and modified itself several times. It's economy doomed it to empire, not its rather strenuously anti-imperialist (because post-colonial) foundation.

          The U.S. had no standing army, and the Colonial generation tried to take measures against one's existence. The Civil War, which can hardly be considered a plan, forced that monster, but, from then on, the tensions existed.

          Returning to Rome, though, to say that militarism is a first cause is rather like saying being Italian is, given actual Roman history. Consider the Punic Wars conducted in the republic. The second Punic War was a war of choice for Rome. The third was such that even the new Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles cannot figure out why it occurred except the attempt to monopolize trade and be hegemonic.

          Let's consider the Pontic Wars against Mithridates, also during the Republic. The first was provoked by Roman tax farmers. Let's consider, during the Republic, how Rome dealt with Philip the Fair, how it dealt with Egypt, and the habit of slaughtering everyone in its path.

          The only way to understand Rome's early history is by not reading solely Latin records. Those histories tell us of the wise and kind ways that the Republic managed military and civilian matters in comparison to the historian's own "now." Guess why. If we look at the Republic at any given moment, though, we see it as militaristic or aristocratic. We either have it as an inherited class of leaders who disdain public opinion or as an expanded military role courting the plebs.

          Sure, we can say that imperialism is doomed. Sure, we can say that imperial models are inevitably and structurally dependent upon their weapons. Saying the weapons cause the hunger? I think that's quite mistaken.

          You said that I had not dealt with the argument by analogy that invoked Rome's militarism. I said I had. I had. I have not dealt with your author, though, and I cannot do so in a way to satisfy you.

          Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

          by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:39:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  What have I said that makes you believe this? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Saint Jimmy
            You said that I had not dealt with the argument by analogy that invoked Rome's militarism.
            The that one to which you referred before was not Chalmers Johnson analogizing  but comparing.  There is an essential difference, and I think perhaps you are hung up in ignoring it.  I am not, and never have, argued that one can "deduce" the future of the U.S. by tossing the bones of Rome.  I reject the argument of American doom as portended by analogy to Rome.  Frankly the situation America and the entire western system finds itself in is far more dire than can be plumbed merely from Roman precedent.

            My objection is and has been through this thread is to this passage:

            The comparison to Rome is inherently a conservative framework. It was when Gibbon did it, and it is today. The goal of such a comparison is to embed 1) the idea that the present society is a world marvel, 2) the further idea that this marvel is in danger due to predictable and preventable mistakes.
            Yes, Gibbon's arguments are for the purpose you state.  No, Johnson's are not.

            Once again, COMPARING the United States to Rome is not inherently conservative, nor is the goal universally what you have ascribed.  I brought up Chalmers Johnson as a renowned scholar on the subject of American Empire who has compared America and Rome without proclaiming them to be analogous.  It would greatly behoove you to read The Sorrows of Empire before dismissing the possibility.

            The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

            by chipmo on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 01:07:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Bravo! I think we've essentially reached the (7+ / 0-)

      point where the national security/war state is beyond democratic control. When you have an ostensible "democrat" increasing the military budget to fight the fictitious super "other" then we have officially passed the point of no return.

      •  Possibly so. (8+ / 0-)

        There is a Roman story that the early American revolutionaries invoked to counter the very same American temptation: the story of Cincinnatus.

        In fact, Washington was deeply, deeply embued with that story and modeled his behavior on the Roman dictator. The model of Cincinnatus remained the expected norm for quite a while, too, but, as we stopped knowing Classical literature, as we started saying that the American mantra is "I got mine," as we started saying that the essence of America is "rugged individualism," we began worshipping power.

        Every president, vice president, thinks, "I can be trusted with more power, because I'm good." Every Congressman thinks, "The Pentagon has huge waste on stupid projects in the other guy's district, but the anti-satellite bouncy ball defense is absolutely essential, since it's being made by my constituents."

        Bankers bought Congress wholesale. Defense contractors did it piece by piece.

        Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

        by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 07:38:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Excellent thoughts here that are spot on. How do (6+ / 0-)

          we unlearn all the propaganda that is being forced down people's throats? Learning to be cooperative and mutually assisting to one another could get us so much farther. The competitive mindset just reinforces and strengthens those already on the top of the heap. The propaganda will keep telling these poor folks they can pull themselves up by the bootstraps they don't have and will never attain because the system is rigged against them.

          •  The competitive mindset (9+ / 0-)

            is part and parcel of capitalism.  Whether one believes capitalism should be reformed or replaced, and I lean toward the latter personally, the effects of unrestrained capitalism in this country in conjunction with the fungible relationship between money and power and the manner in which that money and power is held in the hands of those who are deemed "winners" by capitalistic standards are demonstrably out of control.

            Unfortunately, capitalism is so thoroughly ingrained in our national mindset that, as Slavoj Zizek has stated:

            Now we talk all the time about the end of the world, but it is much easier for us to imagine the end of the world than a small change in the political system. Life on earth maybe will end, but somehow capitalism will go on.

            The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

            by chipmo on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 08:03:27 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes! Exactly right. How do we get people to (5+ / 0-)

              imagine alternatives to what we have? Even the "liberal" members of my family would have difficulty understanding the world doesn't have to continue the way it currently run.

            •  The name used in political theory for this form of (5+ / 0-)

              government is inverted totalitarianism:

              Inverted totalitarianism reverses things. It is all politics all of the time but a politics largely untempered by the political. Party squabbles are occasionally on public display, and there is a frantic and continuous politics among factions of the party, interest groups, competing corporate powers, and rival media concerns. And there is, of course, the culminating moment of national elections when the attention of the nation is required to make a choice of personalities rather than a choice between alternatives. What is absent is the political, the commitment to finding where the common good lies amidst the welter of well-financed, highly organized, single-minded interests rabidly seeking governmental favors and overwhelming the practices of representative government and public administration by a sea of cash.
              •  I believe that I'm closer (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Alexandre, Larsstephens

                to describing plutarchy, but I do agree that Wolin's concept of inverted totalitarianism is a very accurate depiction of America.  Chalmers Johnson was greatly influenced by Wolin, as well.

                The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

                by chipmo on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:13:41 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Hmmm (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Alexandre, Larsstephens

                Well, it's a provocative name for an agreed upon state of things.

                All I would like to do is, as I am able, highlight the phrases we use to blind ourselves. I have that much liberalism in me.

                Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

                by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:44:43 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  The name is a bit awkward (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Larsstephens, aufklaerer

                  It's not catchy, but  I think it is descriptive. The Wikipedia article explains the reasoning behind it.

                  And things have only got worse since Wolin published .Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism in 2008: the top .0000063%, not just the top 1%, now control our elections; Obama has continued Bush's war on terror, merely making some adjutments; and he has actually intensified Bush's assault on our civil liberties, claiming that he has the right to have American citizens summarily killed without offering any justification or explanation, something Bush never did.

    •  Chalmers Johnson was a lifelong (3+ / 0-)

      conservative...

      Thank you to jayden, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Aji and everyone in the Daily Kos community involved in gifting my subscription and gifting others!

      by Nulwee on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 11:56:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Please read the following. (4+ / 0-)

        The opening of an American mind: Chalmers Johnson

        To describe Chalmers Johnson's position as "lifelong" would be to completely ignore the man's actual life.  He was very much a supporter of the system until the end of the cold war, at which point his worldview took a DRAMATIC shift.

        Further, the conservatism that Chalmers Johnson subscribed to toward the end of his life has absolutely no relationship to the "conservatives" that were mentioned by the author of this diary.  One may as well dismiss Bob La Follette's legacy on account of his label of "conservative".  Or consider the claims of Friedmanites to be classically "liberal" to have some relationship to what most people mean when discussing liberals.

        The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

        by chipmo on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:34:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Indeed, Americans who call themselves conservative (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chipmo, The Geogre, Larsstephens

          today are really neo-Jacobins. Real conservatives do not try to impose totally alien ideologies (liberal democracy) on other societies (Islamic countries), destroy already existing institutions (the welfare state), or let the market run rampant.

          •  Today's conservatives aren't. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Alexandre, chmood, Larsstephens, a2nite

            Honestly, "conservatives today are" is a separate series of diaries by a series of people, because I think various observers from the outside would see various elements.

            One thing we can all agree upon, though, is that they're not conservatives. Since Reagan, if not since Goldwater, they have used conservative language (the lost glory days, for example), but done so as a blank template. They have used that language to signal the lost "honor" of American imperialism for the hawk audience, the lost "family values" of the radical religious, the "good old days" to the South's disaffected whites.

            What they've actually proposed, though, is economically a thing that never was as if it were the lost golden day (laissez-faire capitalism). Politically, there is a . . . I suppose neo-Jacobinism (the argument there is that the Jacobins saw themselves as carrying on the American revolutionary evangelism; Europe did not panic over American ideals because it was not "contagious"), except that they do not intend or desire the individual rights or liberties that the Jacobin or American revolutionaries did. They are politically arguing for, truthfully, an established party politic. They propose and believe in parties.

            I started and dropped a diary about how it is impossible to be an actual conservative today. Jonathan Swift is an interesting cat, because he supported the aristocrats and thought they were stupid, inbred, liars. He supported them because he doubted the claims of the whig mercantilists and the New Men. He thought the aristocrats had the advantage of education, and so, given a choice between lying, inbred, stupid aristocrats and lying, stupid, and uneducated money men, he'd choose the former. He went with the existing (conserve) out of skepticism. No such position exists today. Nor can it.

            Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

            by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 04:42:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  This is great analysis of the "Ubi sunt" meme (5+ / 0-)

    as well as a dissection of the "US is declining" myth.  I'd make this required reading today.

    I have one suggestion.  Your link to Amy Black's essay "With God on Our Side" is defective.  This happens easily, and is easily correctable.  If you go back into edit mode and erase the "www.dailykos...." prefix that sometimes attaches to the link tag, everyone will be able to get to the pdf without the gymnastics I had to resort to.

    Ah, the myth of the Golden Age: "Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?"  It echoes from Troy to Fallujah.  

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 08:41:55 AM PST

    •  Thank you! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chmood, Larsstephens

      I will make the edit.

      My laptop was having a mouse and touch pad argument periodically while I was writing, so I'd like to blame all errors on that (but can't).

      I think "ubi sunt" is one significant means of the myth, but E. P. Thompson points out that that form of the "glory days" can also show up as political sublimation when a group is suffering economic repression. In the chapter on the weavers in The Making of the English Working Class, I think, he brings up how, as the economic system begins to exploit the weavers more and more, they themselves turn increasingly toward millenialism and meditations on transience.

      I sometimes think that, if we could find out the history of the people who wrote "The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer," we'd see tremendous getting-screwed by power going on then, too. The sad song is healthy. The shell game that gets people to vote for their oppressors....

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:50:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Tipped for reference to the weavers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens

        ...the Luddite Wars were not fought against machines, but those who used the machines to steal the livelihood of skilled workers, and tear families apart...just as they've done ever since

        "Kenyan-Muslim-Communistic-Expialidocious!"

        by chmood on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 08:13:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Edit made: Link works n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DrLori, Larsstephens

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 01:03:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You make very good points (9+ / 0-)

    and it is very insightful to point out that the fall of America fits into the conservative meme.

     However, that still doesn't mean that America isn't in terminal decline.
    Without a doubt it is.

      The thing is, that's not necessarily a bad thing for the rest of the world.

    "The rich are only defeated when running for their lives." - C.L.R. James

    by gjohnsit on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 11:22:48 AM PST

    •  or the 99% (3+ / 0-)

      of Americans either.

    •  Hell, the whole planet is in terminal decline. (6+ / 0-)

      Every single damn life-system and life-support system is in decline. Google it...

      And before the end of this decade we'll hit some tipping points that will really make things exciting.

      You know, I think the whole class war, 99% thing is majorly important, but I have this thing that Derrick Jensen stuck in my craw last Oct 6/7 at Occupy DC at Freedom Plaza:

      "Asking for a bigger slice of the pie on a dying planet is a wee bit insufficient."

      Since then I read a little more by him and it changed another line of thinking. It has to Derrick's take on this rhetortical question that's become a bit of a chestnut for conversations about global warming:

      What are you going to tell your grandchildren what they ask you what you did to stop global warming.

      Derrick's response is along the line: your grandchilren are going to be too busy fighting for survival to care about what you did or didn't do.

      Guess you can look at that as a blessing or a curse.

      Seriously, though, if we are going to stop climate change in time to stave of disaster, we are going to have to do it before we the class war and over the vehment, potentially violent objections of both government and their pluto-owners.

      I'm not saying that both parties are the "same". I am saying that neither party will play a decisive role in stopping climate change and getting back to 350 PPM. Not without us marching right over them and telling them pick up a mop or get the hell out of the way.

      This, too, shall pass. Just like the last global ecological cataclysm. C'est la vie, dude. Take a chill pill, recite the serenity prayer, go with the flow and the moderates into that "goodnight".

      by Words In Action on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:34:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  that's right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Words In Action

        whose up and whose down by old historical standards of economic supremacy are going to quickly become irrelevant. And it's not just carbon dioxide, it's the insatiable thirst for every drop of water, every resource, every fish. 9 billion people can't live on this planet for long.

  •  During their greatest days... (5+ / 0-)

    ....the Roman calendar was about one-third holidays, IIRC. Doesn't sound like such a bad tradition to revive....

    The whole Roman comparison is imbecilic. As one of my profs once said, the question really isn't "why Rome fell" but "why it lasted so long." You have to be a conservative cultural idiot to consider a five-century run a "failure."

    When we are no longer children, we are already dead. (Constantin Brancusi) And whoever gave it, thanks for the gift!

    by sagesource on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 11:31:20 AM PST

  •  T&R'd for thoughtful post & resultant discussion (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade, The Geogre, Larsstephens

    "..The political class cannot solve the problems it created. " - Jay Rosen

    by New Rule on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 11:33:39 AM PST

  •  Ok so your upcoming diaries (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee, Words In Action, The Geogre

    will cover spring, summer and winter?

    (snark)

    2012- End of the world? Yes! For the Republicans. Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. Eat it REPUBLICANS.

    by glbTVET on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 11:49:03 AM PST

  •  Beat those straw men! Whollop them, burn them ! (9+ / 0-)

    Because when I think of the 'end of America' I'm not thinking of any of those myths and memes The Geogre debunks with erudite and closely reasoned arguments.

    Here's what I see:

    A capitalist elite that no longer needs masses of "citizens" to sustain the productivity of their enterprises or to adequately man their armies.  Capital and Labor are now free to find their best markets, without regard to national 'sovereignties' and committees of financiers are in a position to dictate the form and content of government to the "debtor nations."  For now, that's  Greece and Spain;  but USA one day?   Why not ?

    I see China and India as free market meritocracies eager to harness the talents and energies of their much-undervalued masses to the production of luxuries and necessities -- which, for the time being, large numbers of "Americans" are still the most cash-laden and credit worthy buyers.

    I see a Working Class that likes to think of it self as "Middle Class," by which it means "neither wretchedly poor nor obscenely rich." So  college professors, soldiers, machinists and actuaries are all, equally "middle class" and will think and vote in solidarity with each other,  supporting one of the two parties that represents the interests of those willing and able to fund political campaigns -- which AIN'T the "middle class" any more.

    Desmond Morris poses the question:  "What did the man who cut the last tree on Easter Island think, when he was doing it?"

    I'd propose this answer:  "My Chief will pay well for this."

    And as we (ought to) know ... the last trees on Easter Island were NOT used to build homes or fishing boats -- they were used to roll gigantic stone statues to the coast to serve the greater glory of the Chiefs.

    And, assuming anything is to be learned from History ... that of Rome in particular ... we might note

    1.  Empires in general create the conditions that, in hindsight,  "inevitably led" to their decline and fall.

    2.  The Roman Empire in particular was ruled by a semi-meritocracy of Great Families ... great believers in what THEY considered "conservative values ... who preferred to  debase their currency and neglect their military than tax themselves to maintain their infrastructure or their defense.  ("Bad morals"  and "lead-in-the-good-wine" had little or nothing to do with it.)

  •  You obviously missed Kevin PhillipsOn Wealth (5+ / 0-)

    and Democracy, which actually does an intesive review of empires and identifies three common elements:

    1) Over-financialization of the economy (i.e., too much reliance on making money from managing money)

    2) Over-concentration of wealth

    3) Military over-reach

    And the U.S. is right there on the curve.

    George W. BUsh's own administration, in its final NIC report in 2008, predicted that by 2025 the U.S. would be "a leader among equals".

    And frankly, by all three measures, we have only continued to increase the precariousness of our position.

    Now, admittedly, the financial meltdown perpetrated by our spoiled, over-self-indulgent, uncontrollable financial sector, hit most everyone else as badly as the U.S., but the U.S. is still far worse in terms of disparity of wealth and income, which is strongly correlated to societal well-being as measured by something like 37 different factors. We are already woefully low on that list, AND it afflicts people in every economic strata, even the rich.

    I could go on about Chin for a bit, too, but I realize that's a time thing. However, like the Hispanic population, time is on their side.

    At least if you don't factor in Global Warming.

    But of course you must. And the way it looks right now, overwhlemingly, even just by following the conversations here DKos, the progressive capital of the inter-tubes, nobody's going to be leading nothing but a group of ragtag survival teams. And that's if we're lucky and there is some natural counter-tipping-point that no one sees that caps the whole thing off before 1930...

    This, too, shall pass. Just like the last global ecological cataclysm. C'est la vie, dude. Take a chill pill, recite the serenity prayer, go with the flow and the moderates into that "goodnight".

    by Words In Action on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:23:19 PM PST

    •  A system comparison is different (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      I was arguing against argument by analogy.

      A scholar who looks at the systems of empire historically is still on shaky ground, I think, but at least that's looking at systems rather than single point comparisons without history.

      One of the fundamental things we got in our Marxism 101 is that all persons are historically determined. Now, that brings its own questions (e.g. "How does anyone know?"), but all analysts select traits consciously (good!) or unconsciously (not so good).

      I did not want to argue that the US is or is not falling. It's possible that it is falling, or rising, but, as passengers on the ocean liner, we may not be in a position to tell. We look behind us and try to judge from the tracks the boat has left, and the workers are in a bad way. Socialist measures may be the only way to resist globalization (nationalizing everything, privatizing shares to the workers), and pressure may mount to that point. I'm glad I don't have to fix it.

      I do know that the despair narrative is a really, really powerful weapon against mediating global warming. Not meaning to lean on analogy myself, but you may remember smokers who would not try to quit, because "Oh, hell, everything gives you cancer. I'm going to die young anyway. I'm doomed." Whenever a problem is too large for the human mind and the fix is larger than human hands, the despair narrative steps in.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 01:12:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You know what would cut the despair narrative (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre, Larsstephens

        off at the knees.

        A massive popular movement that demonstrated awareness and determination and conviction and optimism. AKA, the WWII war effort, or at least the idealized one we've all heard of. Even if the plutocrats continued to drag their feet and the government continued to be ineffective, just knowing and being part of large, growing mass of people who were not going to take no for answer when it comes to saving the dying planet, THAT would keep the despair narrative at bay.

        This, too, shall pass. Just like the last global ecological cataclysm. C'est la vie, dude. Take a chill pill, recite the serenity prayer, go with the flow and the moderates into that "goodnight".

        by Words In Action on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 02:12:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  OCCUPY answers the defeat (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens, Words In Action

          Not just Occupy, but any time we have seen Red Tape Armies, Hoovervilles, or the veterans who constructed their own housing on public land, these mass actions not only disrupt the "it's over" narratives, but they project a face for people to believe in. Even more than that, they "come down off the cross, because we can use the wood."

          Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

          by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 04:45:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Rome must have been run by Repukes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action

    Foreign war after foreign war but refusing to raise taxes (particularly on the rich) to pay for them. Sounds like Repuke economics/foreign policy to me.

    A village can not reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.

    by METAL TREK on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:41:38 PM PST

    •  They also went nuts with credit and (0+ / 0-)

      relying too much on investing (rather than producing goods and services) for making money. A little outsourcing of the staples goes along way; too much and you go overboard.

      This, too, shall pass. Just like the last global ecological cataclysm. C'est la vie, dude. Take a chill pill, recite the serenity prayer, go with the flow and the moderates into that "goodnight".

      by Words In Action on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 12:52:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Manly Roman virtues! Roman Matrons! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      They did "family values" way before anyone, too, even as they had senatorial brothels, etc. (Ok, a little unfair.)

      They had a moral/virtue discourse that was entirely schizophrenic, and they had a gender code that was impossible. The Roman virgin was delicate, a little flower. As soon as she was married, she was a matron who could beat up a robber and gladly get stabbed.

      The later empire suffered also from an epidemic of wealthy Romans cheating on taxes.

      However, the analogies really aren't fair. Rome's economy ALWAYS depending upon a colonial system. They sucked dry whatever they conquered. Their government was an entrepreneurial class of graft. They loved slave trading and making slaves. The legions were at least partially self-sufficient because generals got to keep war booty.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 01:18:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Read your Oswald Spengler! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, native

    Oswald Spengler was an absurdly erudite German writing in the post-WWI period. His Decline of the West argued that Western European civilization was then heading into terminal decline, just like Rome had done after its glory days. He argued forcefully, convincingly (and quite wrongly) that civilizations had firm limits on their longevity and that Europe's (and America's) time was over.

    Since he was writing in the post-WWI European doldrums, his work was enthusiastically received in Germany & France. It was embraced even more eagerly with the coming of the Great Depression, and served to depress and dispirit many post-WWII Europeans about the coming rise of the Soviet Union.

    Yet nowadays Spengler is regarded as a quaint crank, one whose work in some ways greased the skids for the rise of the Nazis, even though he personally loathed them.

    Every attempt to divine the future, and to sadly predict the decline and fall of current society, is a fiercely blindered look backward.

    •  Spengler had a big influence (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      The epigram to "The Wasteland" is a bit from Petronius's Satyricon in Latin and Greek.

      It's Trimalchio, the freedman (Petronius is sneering at a freed slave... how gauche! ... having money) being very, very nouveau riche. During his banquet, he boast that "I went to Cumae, and there I saw the Sybil with my own eyes hanging in a jar. Her boys/acolytes asked her, 'Sibyl, what do you want?' and she responded, 'I want to die.'"

      That Sibyl had been granted a wish from Apollo, and she asked for eternal life. She did not ask for eternal youth, and so she got older and older, and more and more withered (and smaller, in this version).

      Petronius puts it in as a gag. Eliot has it as the top of his poem because of something exactly like Spengler's point. The "she" for him is Europe or Western Civilization (or, in the poem, Tiresias).

      (I guess I'm saying, "Yeah. I also recommend Spengler.")

      I would recommend him as an elegy and a study in modernism more than a prophet, but he's very important.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 01:31:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well Emmanuel Todd predicted the fall of the USSR (0+ / 0-)
  •  When argued as absolute correspondence (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens

    with predictive value, then "yes" historical analogies to Rome (or wherever) are a fail. However, using analogies as means to encourage different ways of seeing the present are, imo, a good thing.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 01:29:48 PM PST

    •  Perspective good. Arg. by Analogy bad. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, angry marmot

      No system may be validated except by reference to an external system, Frige or one of those other logical positivists said.

      Sure, we employ outside perspectives to highlight familiar mechanisms and understand profound differences. However, all of these depend upon the synthetic power of the mind involved, and any person taking one or two qualities in common and presuming common consequences is fallacious. (Even if Rome did exactly this and France did exactly the same thing to exactly the same proportions, there would be no logic in presuming a common consequence. The international relationships, technology, border situations, and thousands of other variables would prevent anything like that.)

      My argument is with the 1. Rome fell, 2. Rome did this, 3. [Our beloved institution] is doing this. 1. The things are like. :: The prior fact (fall) must occur.

      Even if there were exact comparisons with no variables, it would be post hoc ergo propter hoc.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 04:53:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re: the Fall of the US. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Larsstephens

    The facts don't support the claim that the US "is not falling" by that I'm assuming that the US has not passed its peak in fact the best is yet to come.

    Check demographics, the closest thing you can get as far as telling the future.  No need for a crystal ball.

    It's called the 'greying of America'.  In the US, there are millions who will be retiring in the next few years.  It's the Baby Boomers who were in large part responsible for our prosperity after WWII.  A huge cadre of young, hard-working people who moved the country forward.  Now, they're going to be retiring in large numbers.  That means a huge drain on Social Security, pensions (which are disappearing), medicare and a huge strain on health care because they need so much more of it.

    The young people behind them will not be able to provide the financial support for all these millions.  

    The US as an industrial power is in a state of decline.  It's called a "mature" economy, now there are other countries which can handle the heavy industries and manufacturing at a much lower cost.  Japan is in the same situation, also Europe. There's nothing that can stop the trendline, either.  It's inevitable.  

    It's Demographics, baby.

    •  Immigration (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      As I said, I don't want to debate whether the US is falling or not. I don't think so. For example, immigration offsets the graying to a large extent. There certainly are demographic bulges, but that should be a call to act rather than to declare a conclusion, in my opinion.

      In fact, the conservatives know and cite the graying, and they chant it in their nativist tones as they hint at "white twilight." Race doesn't much exist, so what do we do with our demographic indexes?

      Anyway, there are hard times and good times, but "done" or even "going down the hill" is beyond fact and onto faith.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 04:58:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  How many times in the past (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Larsstephens

    ... have Americans said "OMG!! WE ARE IN DECLINE!!"
    I bet, over the years, the same conversation has taken place, as older attitudes and methods are replaced by the new.
    The trick to progress is to asess what we've still got, and what we can make with it, and run with that.... and while we're doing that, come up with "the next big thing."

  •  Conservative Penis Envy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Larsstephens

    I, and the Majority of the Poll Responders, recognized that the true decline of the United States began with the Republican Revelation of their Envy of the Exploits of Democratic Penis.

    We have always known that they interested in the exploits of their Democratic Counterparts.  Surely, in the cloakrooms of the Senate and the House, when the War Stories were told, Mitch, the Orange Man, Gingrich, and all the other wannabes listened.  But, then with the power of the majority subpoena, they could now compel a Democratic President to tell everything. . .

    And, then when he decided that discretion was the better part of valor, that disappointed and was surely the beginning of the decline.

    Now, with the development of the Santorum Gun and Romney Wars, the Republican Party of Opus Dei and Ancestral Baptisms can preach to their choir of the glory of days before.

    Impeach Grover Norquist! Defeat a Republican!

    by NM Ray on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 02:19:54 PM PST

  •  Counterpoints (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    native, Saint Jimmy, Larsstephens, Jlukes

    There are a number of counterpoints that can be used to support the thesis that America is falling, only they fall outside the frame you have used for your argument.

    1 - The Republicans, agents of the capitalist class, have systematically undermined the fiscal solvency of the federal government in an attempt to force retrenchment of the welfare state (see Norquist).  They have sought to undermine the legitimacy of government as an institution per se, much less as an agent promoting the public welfare in the economy.

    2 - The advent of globalization, leading to powerful corporate entities who owe no nation allegiance and who increasingly flout each nation's laws and more importantly, influence their politics, means that all nation states are being superceded as the dominant form of organization.

    3 - The codification of plutocracy by Citizens United means that our government will increasingly become of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy...and find its ultimate expression in a government that is merely a battleground for corporate interests.

    Obama needs a "road to Damascus" moment that transforms him from a passive reactor who seeks compromise at every turn to a bold leader who paints a vision that the public can understand and then lays out the steps to get there.  Another Roosevelt, basically.  Failing that, there will be no way to turn this around, and he will be but another half-hearted interlude on the road to national decline that began with VietNam, was goosed by Nixon, and then really took a turn for the worse with Reagan.  Clinton made too many deals with the devil for which we are paying now, and Bush left the country and the government in ruins.

    See what is happening in Greece?  That is us in 20 years.

    -9.00, -5.85
    If only stupidity were painful...

    by Wintermute on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 02:26:47 PM PST

    •  Agree with each of your items, but (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, Jlukes

      You and I are totally in agreement.

      My problem is that the discourse of fall is an effort at return and backward look.

      The way to speak of what the GOP has done is to be honest about how they have radically invented policies that no America would have allowed, have pushed policies that our forefathers fought against on foreign shores, and have dishonored the memories of everyday Americans.

      Finally, though, globalization is another matter. It's beyond the GOP. We have to remember that the man who did the most to make it happen was Clinton. I "abstained" at the presidential level in 1996 after being excited to vote for him in 1992 because of his clear dedication to superhighways of trade through North America, overnight from Chinese prisons to Wal*Mart, etc.

      Globalization is, at this point, a pan-national threat to the nation state itself. It endangers all capitalist structures as well as all human rights and human dignity. I don't think "America" has fallen with it as much as the West has developed a new colonialism, whereby it can treat home and foreign markets alike as colonies.

      I think we need to fight until our fingernails fall off.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 05:06:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  ^TRUTH. Thank you, Wintermute. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      I'll meet you at the bottom, if there really is one. They always told me when you hit it you'll know it. I've been fallin' for so long it's like gravity is gone and I'm just floatin'. ~ Drive by Truckers (ugly buildings, whores, and politicians)

      by Saint Jimmy on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 09:28:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Fall of the U.S.A. is just loser talk (0+ / 0-)

    America is exceptional because we have rule of law, open society, a democratic system with constitutional rights. We are the greatest because have a free and dynamic capitalist market. The Fall of the U.S.A. is just loser talk—from losers.  The stock markets gonna be at 20 thousand come next year—wait and see
    AMERICA IS NUMBER ONE!

    Nudniks need not apply.

    by killermiller on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 03:09:39 PM PST

    •  Rule of law? What are you smoking? (0+ / 0-)

      All Obama has to do is call you a terrorist, and he can have you taken out just like that, no questions asked, as if the Bill of Rights and the concept of due process never existed.

      And a Democratic system? Where we are locked into a two party system, in which people belonging to either party have been complaining since Reagan left office that all the presidential candidates they have to choose from suck? (Some people got fooled by Obama into thinking that he was a real progressive, but we all know how that turned out.)

      You have one serious case of denial. And how does the Dow matter to the substantial portion of Americans living from paycheck to paycheck?

  •  I agree with most of your points (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Larsstephens

    but I think a couple more should be made.

    There needn't be a red stain on the sidewalk for someone (or something) to have fallen. All you need is for something to be less than it once was, be it elevation, rank on some scale, or the esteem in which one is held.

    I think most would agree that we have indeed fallen in more than one ranking and our esteem falls with every new right wing idiocy that gets air time on major "news" outlets.

    The middle class has definitely fallen, whether you measure by the number of people who have "fallen" out of it, or by the net worth or security of those still struggling to stay in it.

    Otherwise this is a very good and instructive diary.

    Trickle-down theory; the less than elegant metaphor that if one feeds the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows. - J.K. Galbraith

    by Eric Twocents on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 03:19:00 PM PST

    •  I agree. Verb issue. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Twocents

      I did mean "fall" as in the implicit "Fall of Rome."

      However, one may fall for a long time before becoming fallen (unless we're talking about Rick Santorum's assessment of a woman). The US has suffered a tremendous series of blows to the body, but I think they began with blows to the head.

      In the comments, most people have wanted to engage and rehabilitate the left's use of "fall." I agree with the things they're talking about, but I want everyone to be aware that when they use that framework they are engaging in a conservative gesture. We can say the same things without portraying it as "lost" or "over" or "China wins."

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 05:10:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  10-4 Geogre (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre

        I see that tendency - to stand in the frame constructed by conservatives and defend the progressive position - as the single biggest stumbling block to actually making progress.

        I think we would be far better served by making logic arguments taking apart the conservative position. It isn't hard to do. I liken it to gladiators. Both have a shield and a sword. One never draws his sword, and the other never needs to use his shield. Guess which is the conservative and which is the progressive.

        This has to stop if we actually want to move forward.

        Trickle-down theory; the less than elegant metaphor that if one feeds the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows. - J.K. Galbraith

        by Eric Twocents on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 05:08:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Personally I would say (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Larsstephens

    America fell when Ronald Reagan took over in 1980, it's all been downhill since then.

    Atheism is a religion like Abstinence is a sexual position. - Bill Maher, 2/3/2012

    by sleipner on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 03:21:34 PM PST

  •  alot to chew over but wholeheartedly agree that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Larsstephens

    cousin Oliver totally FUCKED EVERYTHING up.  

    illusions destroyed...

    innocence lost...

    i weep for those who never experienced pre-oliver America

    life: that awkward moment between birth and death

    by bnasley on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 04:00:37 PM PST

  •  I wished so much (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Alexandre, Larsstephens

    I owned your half full glass.  Maybe it is my age, my observations, my memories, or my disgust but if it isn't falling, it has made one heck of a slip.  

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 04:00:46 PM PST

    •  Oh, I shake my cane, too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens, Vetwife

      Ask me how I feel about the "Millennials," and I'll shake my cane from the porch with the best of them.

      If I had a time machine, I would un-invent the cell phone and SMTP.

      However, while things feel almost infinitely worse, I want folks to keep fighting. I worry that any of us saying "it doesn't matter, because they've won" enable the victory, and every time we allow those chuckleheaded "just like Rome" things to make the rounds, we could be allowing the next Reconstructionist movement a free pass.

      My most pessimistic was probably Clinton's betrayal in signing the "Welfare Reform Act," although Obama saying that "some Guantanamo detainees may never be released or tried" is close to a tie. A 1996 college freshman who told me that she was for legal abortion, food stamp availability, against the death penalty, for gay rights, and was "You know, a Republican -- normal" was also not a high point.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 05:16:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A quote from a good friend of mine (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre

        I feel like he is a good friend and met him here.  In a private message Wayward Wind sent me this direct quote from his advocacy work.  I think it is wonderful.

        pretty much an exact quote: "You don't understand - you fight for justice, and that is something that you will never win. But you must continue to fight, because if you don't, then those who oppose you surely will win.  You prevent that by continuing the fight for what is right, a fight that will last throughout your life, and never end."

        So yes, there have been, are now, and will continue to be many dark days in your efforts. It is the same for all of us.

        But you cannot stop, for if you do, they win.  It is your silence that they want, and you cannot give it to them.

        The quote was from a conversation he was having with leaders in Vietnam after the war.  He and his lovely wife are working there to help agent orange exposed families.  He shared a story with me and it gave me the strength to continue fighting as he was one of the first vet advocates in America.  A huge force to be reckonded with and a Kossack.  The last line was encouraging words from him to me in my fight to help vets.

        We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

        by Vetwife on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 05:54:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Don't think it will happen, but it could (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandre, Larsstephens, The Geogre

    I remember a long time ago, way back in the 80s when I was still in middle school or so, watching Nightline (even back then I was a newshead!) and they were interviewing some hardened young African-American adult male, about what I don't remember. But he said something I've never forgotten: "...one day the American Empire will fall, too..."

    I remember getting angry about it, as any good patriotic American would, but ever since GWB was 'selected', those words keep popping back in my head. Only 25-30 years since, and look how far we've fallen in so many ways, with each new terrible thing that's happened in the past 12 years making those words more and more prophetic. Obama's done some good, important things to reverse course, but there's so much that's been left on the table, it's very worrisome if you think about it...

    No one knows what the future holds - how many Soviet citizens in, say, 1968, could guess what would happen less than 25 years in the future? If we're going to avoid collapse, we're going to have to really work at it, and more importantly, have a clear head and no delusions about the state of affairs and what needs to be done. That's not easy with anywhere from 20-45% of our fellow citizens supporting a party whose ideas are literally insane, and a similar percentage that seems to not care.

    •  "American Empire" (0+ / 0-)

      I suspect that talk of the American Empire referred to a specific thing -- which is kind of my point (we all select a feature when we speak of fall). The "realists" like George Kenan who set up the post-WW2 projections of US military power around the globe intended nothing like an empire.

      They believed they were sitting at a game with an opponent of nearly equal power and far fewer rules. They recognized that both sides were missionary in their ideologies (we must "spread democracy" and the USSR had to "propagate the world wide worker's revolution"), and so they thought it was a necessity. When Stalin was around, they may have been right.

      However, the camp followers and sutlers who follow behind the government power of arms were quick. The Coca-Cola, IBM, Aramco inter al. were eager to convince everyone that what was a temporized system should be an empire. Then there was a change so that the US economy couldn't go on without the production, materials, and markets of the nations obtained only by this vast network of military bases, client regimes, etc.

      That made America, which had been profoundly isolationist, think it "had to" be all over the planet. It made the first neo-cons come along and speak of the "moral" obligation to spread democracy like the Gospel. I think quite a few people, especially from the New Left, have said, "That's an empire, folks, and empires always fall."

      For whatever it's worth, I think they're right. Unfortunately, we're now in a new temporized system of globalization where the nation state is irrelevant to capital.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 04:32:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Noting new in that, Geogre, read Smedley Butler (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre

        particularly "War is a Racket". The camp followers and sutlers were just as quick and active in his youth, too, and then as now they promoted the gospel of American interference whenever and wherever it increased their profits.

        This shit has a LONG history.

        If it's
        Not your body,
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        And it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 07:55:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Why America Failed (0+ / 0-)

    Morris Berman.  Read some of it today at the VA waiting for the Cardiologist.  It is clear and concise.  I admire such writers and thinkers.

    •  Looks like pop history to me (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      I learned about Morris Berman from this fawning Counterpunch article, which I only skimmed, because "dominant hustling culture" doesn't strike me as a very useful concept. (Of course, it's possible that the reviewer doesn't do justice to Berman.)

      I think the main problem there is that from 1945-1972, America was actually doing quite well, aside from engaging in a couple of unnecessary wars. So I think the first thing you need to do is understand what went wrong with our democracy since then, and I believe Sheldon Wolin is best for that.

  •  It's all bullshit (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandre, a2nite

    What you want from a nation that murdered a million people while stealing their land?  Geez!  What a legacy.  Add to that 100 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow.  It's totally fucked up.  Throw away the exceptionalism crap.  Throw away the roman empire analogies.  None of it fits.  We are a neoliberal nightmare.  Government for the wealthy.  It's always been that way.  Now it's just more vulgar than ever.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 08:39:40 PM PST

  •  The compariosons between the US and the Roman (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    Empire are particularly ridiculous. The damn RE was falling for centuries...The Republic went from one crisis to another for its history, and after Caesar took it down, the Empire started its semipermanent collapse. Nero? Caligula? Those guys were among the first of the emperors. There were centuries of misrule to follow.
      How is that like the United States?
    As for the rest: I'm completely amazed that people who lived their whole lives under the threat that the Soviet Union would turn the country into a radioactive wasteland at any time can now be afraid of a Muslim extremist gang.  

    •  Very succinct! (0+ / 0-)

      You said it all very well.

      I wanted, with my links to Foreign Affairs, to break the Bush spell. The US faces no existential threat. Well, that's a fact. Iran with a nuclear weapon? Nope. North Korea with a weapon? Closer, but no. Global warming is a more serious threat than either.

      Bush and company did a great job of convincing people that a handful of malcontents could imperil a nation of 300,000,000. They were better than "Shark Week."

      We are having miserable times and we really ought to be calling it "The Big Depression," since it's not as great as the prior one, but it's no "recession." Or we should be calling it "First Degree Recession" to indicate the felonious nature of it. This means we ought to fight, but if we accept the crud about China winning or that it's even a contest, we enable capital to fly again, forgive tax cheats again, and hum along with the song the conservatives are singing.

      Rome, even when it was really falling (say, after the year of the Barracks Emperors, when there were 40 different Caesars in a year) hung on for two hundred years before textbooks announce the 'fall.' That fall that we talk about it really the loss of the Italian peninsula to the other Romans in the outer provinces and the disruption of the ruling class.

      I.e. the patricians didn't get to rule the city because some 'barbarians' got to. Those same barbarians were already half Roman. Meanwhile, in the east, they hardly cared. That didn't fall until fellow Christians sacked Byzantium in the Crusades.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 09:43:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  they short circuit democratic feedback mechanisms (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre

    we need to progress.

    the most significant tool for doing that has been the talk radio monopoly developed mostly after reagan killed the fairness doctrine in 1987.

    we have been in decline and that's been the major difference. we've always had money in media and politics but talk radio has given them a huge unprecedented national central messaging megaphone with coordinated repetition that can message over anything the left can do. and there's NO organized opposition because there's no written record to read and music is more fun to listen to.

    but you are right about this strategy, and radio has been their most important tool for doing it, for creating the myths and straw men, etc.

    for eg. like the myth that al gore claimed to have 'invented' the internet, sustained unchallenged radio repetition and volume, not possible with fox or any other RW media outlet, was used to paint obama as claiming to be the 'messiah' who would change everything, repeated in the mainstream, and even convinced many obama voters of that. then their obstruction was even more effective and the disappointment of unmet unrealistic expectations produced the results of the 2010 elections thanks to the fucking morns who didn't vote because they didn't get their magical president.

    most of the shit the RW has ben pulling the last 20 years couldn't be done if the left stopped giving talk radio a free speech free ride.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and partisan lying by broadcasting sports on Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 10:38:41 AM PST

    •  I somewhat agree with you (0+ / 0-)

      I'm not sure about Reagan's killing of the fairness doctrine being a quick or inevitable link to the hate talk radio, but I do agree that a monopoly on discourse and an oligopoly on points of view have allowed all of this lie to corrode the common mind.

      I would point my finger more at the "de-regulation" of media ownership and the hamstrung FCC, which continues to this very day. Rules on consolidation went away one by one from Reagan to W. Hence Clear Channel and Viacom.

      This enabled the rise of a very real operative monopoly, so the old "syndicated" shows became pretty much national and networked shows. Furthermore, there is a real and clear point of view. (Ask the Dixie Chicks.)

      The killing of the fairness doctrine meant that everyone could go into editorial mode without allowing the public to respond and without calling it editorial. That allowed for "some people say that Obama is a socialist muslim, don't they?" when the "some" are the people in the building. Cronkite had to hang a sign on his special comment when he said that Vietnam seemed unwinnable. Fox News can frame their coverage with that and never indicate that there is an opinion nearby.

      Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

      by The Geogre on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 12:30:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  before deregulation limbaugh was the monopoly (0+ / 0-)

        factor they worked with. they were subsidizing him and giving him away for free to get him on as many stations as possible and ownership wasn't that important.

        without the fairness doctrine he could get away with anything and does. and now with deregulation and all the other talkers who have been subsidized and trained are fed and coordinated by the think tanks to reinforce the same basic material, with limbaugh getting the lead spot, it is unique in media in it's ability to repeat lies and implement well planned disinformation campaigns.

        there is still a fair bit of competition and diversity and easy choice in print and TV and internet. it can be most noted for ignoring and downplaying important stories. but RWTR can crete. it can steer and manage the rest of the media with that coordinated unchallenged repetition. it can create mountains out of molehills in days. it can do sustained long term campaigns to change language and history and emphasize and swiftboat.

        even with the monopolies it is their ability to lie repeatedly and get away with it that is the bigger problem. but that is really a matter of the left recognizing the importance of RW radio and taking an organized approach to make it shameful for sponsors and universities to be associated with those individual stations.

        and, like most major reform americans want, significant media reform including demonopolization will be many times harder as long as the left ignores talk radio. blaming the problem primarily on ownership deregulation is a mistake in the sense that trying to fix talk radio by reregulating will take a lot longer, time not allowed by global warming and the coming elections, if RWTR continues to be treated as a legitimate medium and expression of free speech until then.

        This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and partisan lying by broadcasting sports on Limbaugh radio stations.

        by certainot on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 03:15:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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