A New Year in America: Will We Continue Down the Road to Decline?

Looking back over 2012, one could be forgiven for thinking that if America goes on at this rate, the nation must be ruined. But as Adam Smith replied to a young man who said those same words about British losses during the American Revolution, “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” A mighty power will not collapse overnight, and the course of decline can always be halted by a renewal of patriotic vigor. But absent that, ruin will eventually come. As we look ahead to 2013, signs abound that we may be reaching the point where decline accelerates.

Indeed, the slow pace of national ruin is itself insidious, creating the illusion that the problems are not that great or can be solved later. The first cracks in the British Empire were starting to show even before World War I, but it wasn’t until about 1960 that the empire was gone and England had declined from a world power to a regional power at best. But for those like Churchill and Orwell with eyes to see, all the signs were there years earlier, many of them similar to the conditions in America today that point towards our own retreat from global dominance.

First and most obvious is the willingness to expand the national debt in order to finance entitlements. A liberal democratic and capitalist great power must be fiscally sound in order to afford the military assets necessary for maintaining the order required for a global economy. Yet the ever-expanding entitlement state creates competition for those funds, starving military budgets when the public demands that the state increase social welfare spending levels. All through the 1920s England drastically reduced its military spending––the defense budget was cut by four-fifths between 1919 and 1921–– partly in order to increase welfare transfers and service the national debt. By the crisis of 1938-39 that precipitated World War II, Germany was spending five times more on its military than England. The fruits of such shortsighted reductions became obvious in 1940 with the debacle of the British Expeditionary Force in France, which escaped annihilation at Dunkirk only because of Hitler’s whim.

Today America is lucky that it doesn’t face a military power as lethal as Nazi Germany––at least not yet. But there still remain numerous threats not just to our interests and security but also to the globalized economy. An increasingly aggressive Russia, an expansionary China growing it military spending by at least 10% every year, and an increasingly Islamist Middle East sitting on vast reserves of oil all will require a robust U.S. military power. Yet for decades we have been cutting military spending at the same time we have expanded social welfare transfers. As of 2010, 3 times more money was being spent on entitlements than on defense. As a result, Nicholas Eberstadt writes in A Nation of Takers, “Our seemingly insatiable national hunger for government transfer payments to individual citizens stands to compromise our present and future capabilities for military readiness.” Thus despite our responsibilities to patrol and protect the 9 critical waterways through which global trade passes, our number of Navy vessels has shrunk to 285, compared to 529 in 1991.

Under Obama, this disparity between defense and entitlement spending has widened and promises to increase further. Between Obama’s cuts and those to come triggered by the 2011 Budget Control Act’s  “sequestration” mechanism, defense faces a $1 trillion reduction in the next decade. Nor are these reductions going to be inflicted on a bloated defense budget eating up our wealth. In 2010, the national defense budget was 4.8% of current GDP, half as much as in 1961. So the point is not that we can’t afford a defense budget commensurate with our global responsibilities, but that we have other spending priorities. During the current budget crisis, Democrats have taken off the table any meaningful cuts in entitlement spending no matter how modest, even though the monstrous yearly budget deficits, the $16 trillion and growing debt, and the $75 trillion in unfunded liabilities, not defense, are driving our economy into the fiscal abyss. As Eberstadt comments, “By the calculus of American policymakers today then, U.S. defense capabilities seem to be the primary area sacrificed to make the world safe for the unrestrained growth of American entitlements.” Meanwhile rival claimants to global power continue to expand their military capabilities and reach, and new threats like a nuclear-armed Iran loom on the geopolitical horizon.

If America continues down this road and surrenders its dominance, we can expect a more disordered and dangerous world, with dire consequences for our economy and way of life. Here we find the great difference between England in the ’50s and America today: the British knew that it was handing over the role of global policeman to a free government of laws and human rights. But what country, if any, can be trusted to take our place? At that point America’s decline, and its disastrous consequences, will be obvious.

Yet misplaced spending priorities are themselves symptoms of deeper causes for national decline––the loss of faith in the rightness and superiority of one’s country and its principles that justify its global preeminence and the sacrifices necessary to sustain it.  This crisis of confidence and decline in patriotism was apparent in England among the elites even before the horrors of World War I. Churchill saw this collapse of patriotism as early as 1933: “Our difficulties come from the mood of unwarrantable self-abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals. They come from the acceptance of defeatist doctrines by a large proportion of our politicians.” These defeatist attitudes also spread beyond intellectuals, writers, and politicians to ordinary citizens. In 1941 George Orwell wrote, “England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution.” As the ’30s progressed, Orwell went on, “left-wingers were chipping away at English morale,” and attacking the principles and values of the patriotic middle-classes, whom the elites scorned as “Blimps.” England’s enemies saw this self-loathing as signs the British were “decadent,” and the “systematic Blimp-baiting affected even the Blimps themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces.”

The parallels with America today are obvious. Guilt over America’s historical crimes and loathing for its institutions and principles permeate school curricula, popular culture, the media, and many churches. In those venues the sense of loyalty to and affection for our own country and its beliefs, and the willingness to sacrifice on its behalf are derided and considered “morally dangerous,” as academic philosopher Martha Nussbaum has said. Examples of these attitudes are legion, but none is as revealing as the comments President Obama has made on various trips abroad, when he has accused our country of being “arrogant, dismissive, derisive,” admitted the need for the U.S. to work “through some of our own darker periods in our history,” confessed that “we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms,” and dismissed American exceptionalism as a parochial prejudice.

These declinist comments, moreover, are consistent with his foreign policy of “leading from behind,” his mad haste to exit Iraq and Afghanistan, his failed “reset” with Russia that has emboldened that country’s aggression, his feckless handling of Iran’s rush to obtain nuclear weapons, his delusional push for nuclear disarmament, and of course his willingness to reduce defense expenditures and continue running trillion-dollar deficits in order to keep expanding entitlement spending. The combination of retreat from global responsibilities and debt-funded social-welfare spending is the classic recipe for great-power decline.

If Obama and the Democrats continue down this road, America’s decline is assured––unless in the coming years there arises a critical mass of Americans who still believe a powerful America is a force of good in the world, and so are willing to make sacrifices to protect its deserved preeminence.

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  • bluffcreek1967

    Yes, of course America will continue down the road to decline! We will likely go over the fiscal cliff, third-world immigration continues at breakneck speed, our borders are not secure, inner city blacks are violently out of control, and both the Democrats and Republicans are fighting to be the first to grant amnesty to all the illegal Mexican invaders.

    To make matters worse, white Americans lack the collective will and unity to oppose their racial displacement by those beloved Hispanics that the Republicans hope to win (don't worry, they won't). Whites in America are still too comfortable and soft-minded to recognize the serious threat of non-white immigration. We're still asleep in our multicultural slumber. We're also much too politically-correct to openly state and admit to others that America's grand experiment to house the entire third-world has been deadly wrong – probably the most stupid thing the U.S. and Europe had ever done!

    • dana

      well said………….I .live in Manhattan –a senior –this used to be "my town" –Bloombergl changed that –all for money –he permeates falsehoods and gets away with it. Wealthy people who invaded
      our city are clueless. There is a blatant anti-white..movement that is becoming stronger and stronger…..and they are of all backgrounds……..anyone who doesn't consideer themselves white.

    • Ghostwriter

      So sayeth the race-baiting twit,bluffcreek1967.

      • bluffcreek1967

        It's easy to post ad hominem attacks against me, but it's quite another matter to refute my arguments with facts, logic and judicious reasoning. "Race-baiting" is not the same as expressing unpopular, but truthful, statements about the Black undertow.

    • daniela metz

      http://www.news4jax.com/news/No-arrests-in-latest… this is what our cities have turned into, drive by shootings blacks and whites will never fully live together no more than muslims and christians matter of fact it is only a matter of time before blacks convert enmasse to Muslim or Islam and they use the race card to ensure they get every advantage, whites are screwed when living around blacks that hate them and most blacks do

      you got affimative action screwing whites and you have the black leaders preaching hate to whites and jews why do you think most whites have fleed areas controled by blacks? not because they are racist but because they want a safe place to raise a family and doing it around blacks that rape little girls and bully little boys and girls is not the way to raise a family and why you see blacks wanted more forced busing so they can carry out their war on whitey

      • Ghostwriter

        Not every black is like that! Your ignorance is really depressing Ms. metz.

        • Drakken

          Your denial of reality is breathtaking and mind boggling.

    • melvinsatterwhitejr

      You're joke. I thought people like you died off with the dinosaurs.

    • liason

      Well said Bluffcreek…well said

    • Drakken

      The Balkanization of the West continues straight off the economic cliff into the abyss of ethnic and religious conflict.

  • Jack O'neil

    BREAKING NEWS – 12-30-12 – Hawaii state registrar Alvin Onaka has publicly certified that Barack Obama’s HI birth certificate is legally non-valid and the White House image is a forgery.

    • Rodney

      And the first question that comes to mind is: WHAT ARE THE AMERICAN CITIZENS GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?????

      • international black man

        there is nothing you can do about it you racist cracker, anything done against us blacks will be beat down with the race card, you crackers can not win no mo and it aint yo courtry no mo so give it up yo did not get ta clinton an you wont get to obamma obamma is the black messiah for all the blacks he will lead us to the promise land and we willl own America if fact we done do

        • Ghostwriter

          And you're not helping matters,international black man,or should I say international black racist.

          • international black man

            I be tellin it like it is , it been they country fer years, now it be r turn ta haf da jobs and watch cracker suffer an yo be right I be racist they made me that way with they racist crap to hol us down now we control they schools to

          • Barbara Griffith

            If you are black which I doubt, the accent and wording sounds more out of" Gone With The Wind", than anyone from any of the southern states. You sound like Obama when he was trying to impress possible voters in the south. Obama has no accent, he has one when he thinks he needs one to sound like the voters he's trying to impress. Give it up.

          • Maxie

            Yu b fakin' it Whitey.

    • PhillipGaley

      T for the news—you're a good Jack, . . . watchin' out for us, . . .

      But then to this at hand—and, although more could be said—but in satisfaction of its title, I would say that, in many spots, this article misses the opportunity: And, firstly, to its: "and the course of decline can always be halted by a renewal of patriotic vigor.", I would say: "C'mon Dude, how many there be of groups and individuals who lay hold to claim patriotic fervor?"; for, have the Hitler types ever been alone, . . . or, Neville Chamberlain (Arthur) in his ignorance of Hitler, or the OWS folk?", . . . I think not.

      As an avalanche does not actually begin with rocks sliding downhill, for any appearance of national decline—there being root causes in force and friction—similarly, I would say, our downturn continues but in dearth of parenting, lack of sense of holiness and book-reading—and, holiness and book-reading are in direct connection; for, holiness allows development of sense of inquiry, and book-reading appears as a first prime avenue by which that natural curiosity is sought to be satisfied.

      And although more could be said, may it suffice to simply say that, without those things, eventually, the ruin which we allow, will overtake us.

      Then, to my mind, the article's: "First and most obvious is the willingness to expand the national debt in order to finance entitlements." appears as kind of silly; firstly, in its actuality, what is so often spoken of as "the national debt" is but a kind of fluidity—not unlike the medium for the fish which are in any fish-bowl, and not a debt at all—providing for linkage of goods and services through exchange of ideas of value; "entitlements" are one way of introducing liquidity—usually at the lowest level of society—as opposed to having people out in the hustings, moiling for gold. Whether or not, the entitlement folks well use that munificence to best advantage for themselves, or to the nation, are other questions.

      Also, in all likelihood, the "problem money" is not first in the area of "entitlements", but rather, in expansion of the numbers of governmental employees, and as in "misplaced spending priorities as symptoms of deeper causes for national decline", . . . yes, . . . various appearances of disbursement corruption and dishonesty, . . . again, all of which, good parenting with sense of personal holiness would no doubt, take care of, but which also, very many of the people who staff the various departments ad levels of governance appear to be allergic to—very many of them appearing to prefer various kind of "guardians" over children, pasted over with an equivalent statist psycho-babble with dispensation of psychotropic drugs—"It's for the children."; it's all "for the children"; so, . . . yes, . . . as Adam Smith replied to a young man concerning British losses during the American Revolution, “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.”, . . . but, as for any lack pf political fervor or patriotism done in vigor? H-m-m-m, . . . that provides but the most questionable postulate for national salvation, . . . I'm going to recite, rather: A Happy New Year to the nation whose G0D is The Lord, . . .

    • FactsRule

      This is a hoax. Here is my correspondence with the office of the AZ SOS. I'm removing my private name and e-mail information:
      Dear :
      Contrary to the recent blog, we have NOT had any further correspondence from the state of Hawaii regarding this matter and consider the matter closed.


      Kim Crawford
      Communications Specialist
      Arizona Office of the Secretary of State
      Public Disclosure Notice: This message and any messages in response to the sender of this message may be subject to a public records request.

      Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2012 7:46 AM
      To: SOS, Admin
      Subject: Web Contact Message – All Other Topics

      Can you verify that the Hawaii state registrar, Alvin Onaka, certified Obama's birth certificate correctly as a forgery?Here's the only source for this I can find online, thanks: http://www.mfs-theothernews.com/2012/12/breaking-

  • bluffcreek1967

    America's decline did not begin in a vacuum or overnight. It occurred incrementally over a number of years (probably within the past 50 years or so). It was indeed a 'long Communist march through the institutions' – and although it took time, it's clear to anyone halfway perceptive that they have almost fully reached their goal. The Left knows it too, and that's why they are becoming more publicly brazen in expressing their contempt of the Constitution and the 2nd amendment.

    We are literally seeing before our eyes the fall, the decline and the imploding of our once great nation! The old America is gone, never to return to its old glory because we have went beyond 'the point of no return.' Our rejection of God and Christian values, the murder of millions of our own babies (via abortion) each year, the rampant immorality, the erection of the welfare state, the liberal indoctrination of our children from an early age, massive illegal immigration, and our national inability to even agree on anything all indicates that our best days have passed us.

    Did you ever hear the story about the frog in the kettle?

    • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

      bluffcreek, of course you are correct. In fact, this blogger has written about its march towards socialist/Marxist/communist ideology, albeit on steroids since The One took over the helm.

      And this is just a foretaste – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/07/01/leftist-dogma

      Adina Kutnicki, Israel – http://www.adinakutnicki.com/about/

    • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

      Here's the deal – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/07/01/leftist-dogma… many Americans prefer to open or close their eyes. It is what it is.

      And Conservatives do not have the luxury of time to steer things off the radical revolutionary course. Not much time at all.

      Adina Kutnicki, Israel – http://www.adinakutnicki.com/about/

    • Dana

      Again, well said……….I agree with you.


    • Dana

      yes, in order to rule a nation, a people, you must disarm them.

      i was on a federal grand jury for 3 years –2000 to 2003 –heard many cases –99% were about drugs……1% the money laundering of those drugs……..the attorneys were brilliant….we should not
      have a drug problem today but we do –Government imust be capitalizing on the drug scene.s
      just like the take over of Las Vegas………..everything is for money………..greed, power…..
      Look what Clinton did at the end of his Presidency……exonerated the billionaire drug lord who was
      living in Switzerland while his wife was hob-nobbing here in the States……

    • Mike Morrow

      you are correct it started in the mid to late 1800's and the story aobut the frog in the kettle is so true, or the one with the emperor with no clothes. so true. video to see is called Agenda Grinding America Down,

      Indoctrination: Public schools and the decline of Christianity in America great to see

    • Freedingal65

      Right on. Pray for our fine young conservatives as they swim against the tide of Marxism/Communism in an attempt to save their nation. The fact that we've lost our journalists and mainstream media to the cancer of Communism will make it exceedingly difficult to prevent our downfall. Clueless and malinformed/underinformed voters haven't a clue that they're are mere sheep going willingly to the slaughter; little do they care that their future generations will not experience the freedom of their ancestors because of their selfishness, ignorance and stupidity.

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  • objectivefactsmatter

    "Here we find the great difference between England in the ’50s and America today: the British knew that it was handing over the role of global policeman to a free government of laws and human rights. But what country, if any, can be trusted to take our place? At that point America’s decline, and its disastrous consequences, will be obvious."

    This is the point I make any time some fool starts off saying, "Why can't we be more like _____?"

    Because we have a critical and unique role on this planet. If you can't see that, your worldview is so distorted that it's dangerous.

  • pierce

    Despite the overwhelming enthusiasm that this President, Barack Hussein Obama, has created by his reelection, the fact that we are headed down the road of Socialism, with increased entitlements in our future, along with higher taxes to pay for these absurd oddities, never before seen on our horizons, will continue to contribute to our demise. Are the american people that stupid, and that lazy, that they can accept these changes. Apparently they are, and I can not understand why being satisfied with easy street was never a choice, until now. Spell it out L A Z Y, or not willing to work hard. WAKE UP BEFORE YOU LOSE EVERYTHING.

    • Drakken

      It's too late, the die is cast and we are headed to the enevitable conclusion of ethnic and religious wars and economic depression. The liberal/progressives are taking us with them whether we like it of not.

  • pierce

    We have been in decline since November 2006, and it will get worse. What we need is some backbone, and it appears we will never get it because the American people have lost will to work hard, in other words They got their hand stretched out. Gimee, gimee , gimee.

  • Asher

    I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and may you prosper inspite of the government. Thanks to David and his staff, for thorough and truthful reporting on the news and putting the facts out there. Everyone pay off debt if you can, it will help you to survive the tax hikes that are coming. Work at your local levels to stop Agenda 21, the Progressive movement, our founding fathers would not want us to give up, all patriots encounter evil and insurmountable odds…George Washington was one of them.

  • Demetrius M

    The only hope in my opinion is that individual states (at least GOP controlled) continue to push back against the federal government, you know, like it was before 1861.

  • Andrew

    I agree with virtually everything said. That said, an ever growing part of me is saying that I'm weary and resentful. Weary of Afghanistan, where we've been fighting for well over a decade, and over three and one half times longer than it took to win all of WW II…with no end in sight, unless we ''declare victory'' and get the hell out of that morass. Which, thank God, we're finally doing. Weary and resentful of defending everyone else. Why do we have 30k+ troops in South Korea… in case a million man North Korean army invades? What are our troops there, if not a trip wire? Why do we defend Western Europe? They are damn ingrates, and will be taken over in a generation by Muslim immigration and birth rates anyway. Why do we continue to spend untold sums building the next generation of fighter bombers…. to fight Muslims? Why is it always we who must protect the rest of the world?

    I realize the fiscal horror show that is Obama's presidency (and others before his) is, but I'd rather spend billions on our own people. And, aren't we still spending more on defense than the next ten largest countries in the world? Enough. No mas.

    • johnnywoods

      Why spend billions on our own people? Just quit spending billions period.

  • clarespark

    Thornton mentions Orwell and Churchill. I wrote a lot about Orwell in 2012, and here are the links: http://clarespark.com/2012/11/17/index-to-orwell-…. "Index to Orwell blogs." I have an uplifting and hopeful message from John Dos Passos on the index, that I recommend to remind readers that one can admit past mistakes and press on with the good parts of America. Thornton also quoted POTUS on "working through" our evil past. On that conception promoted by the Left see http://clarespark.com/2011/01/25/american-slavery…. "American Slavery vs. Nazi genocide." The obvious aim for the academic elite that is quoted, is reparations for the black population along with other victims.

  • W. C. Taqiyya

    Bruce is an idiot. If spending more on the military than the rest of the world combined and if fighting many idiotic and losing wars on the dark side of the moon doesn't satisfy his fanciful image of what the budget should look like, Bruce is a fool of the highest order. Sure, entitlement spending is way too high, but so is the military spending. Stop paying taxes!

    • mlcblog

      I am not sure you are qualified to decide who is an idiot or not.

      • W. C. Taqiyya

        I have an idea, try filling your left hand with 10 pounds of weight while taking ten pounds from your right hand. Are you more balanced? Now, spend maybe 500 billion less on domestic type stuff while spending 500 billion more on military type stuff. How much more balanced is your budget? Not qualified to say? OK, I will tell you, your budget is still messed up. You are welcome. Now go sit in the corner and think about it for a while.

        • Drakken

          If it wasn't for our military you dolt we would be facing a lot worse enemies than we do now, but then pacifist liberal/progressives like you think that singing kumbaya will solve everything.

    • PhillipGaley

      "Bruce is an idiot."? And, "Bruce is a fool of the highest order."?

      M-m-m-m, . . . mere conclusory allegations—and, especially as conjoint to scurrilous name-calling—is one sure sign of a fool, . . .

      • W. C. Taqiyya

        To conclude that it is wise and fiscally sound to decry excessive so-called domestic /welfare spending while calling for an increase in excessive military spending is a sure sign of a moron. You can't balance a budget that way and I don't care how many people think you can. You don't balance accounts by slashing one side of the ledger while larding down the other. Only a fool would say so, only a fool would believe it and only a fool would agree that fiscal responsibility only applies to certain items in the budget. Yes PG, it is a conclusion, it is also very simple to figure it out. Unless you can't. So sorry for your deficiency.

  • Thomas Wells

    Down the road again…

  • mlcblog

    Bruce, I am so glad someone is writing about this, documenting the abysmal numbers and mind set.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    I think financial insolvency is a good clue to decline,vacuous youthful attitudes to responsibility
    absent in thier majority a good clue to decline, demented need for entertainment a good clue to
    decline, loss of respect for our fellows a good clue to decline, toleration of wrongdoing a good
    clue to decline, lack of public demand for accountability by our government in spending a good
    clue to decline..empty Churches a certain clue to decline with consequences that speak to and end of "God Bless America"……………it does go on and the line is long and ugly……………….William

  • C.R.

    Yes–the Marxists in power are hell bent on destroying this nation.

    And there is no political solution for the mess they have created.

    • msatterwhitejr

      Marxist? I doubt you know what it means. You neocons continue to be a joy to laugh at. What are you really afraid of? A minority president or being force to think without talking points?

      • Drakken

        Your slavish bowing to this current president speaks volumes.

      • Maxie

        Have you ever seen the Movie "Blade Runner" w/Harrison Ford? That's where we're headed and what we should be afraid of. We will all be "Replicants" of some sort. Urban anarchy amid economic minimalism is not a recipe for Utopia — there is no such thing.
        Keep in mind nation-state socialism with large and diverse populations has never, and will never, be functional: It promises equality but delivers tyranny. If you want socialism form a commune and good luck w/that Bucko.

  • Ghostwriter

    I hope there is one,for all our sakes.

  • gylippus

    Though the road ahead looks bleak, there is still room for hope. Thanks for your wisdom and commitment Mr. Thornton. All the best for 2013.

  • DebbieOhio912

    Bruce, your last paragraph says it all. Will we be able to count on "a critical mass of Americans" to sacrifice and give up entitlements? To fight for constitutional rights? Most people I know still don't give a hoot about what's going on.

  • http://www.arcadetemple.com/profile/view/475609.html alessandro

    Articolo interessante e colgo l’occasione per complimentarmi per questo sito! veramente ben fatto e con tanti articoli utili!