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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
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I’ve expressed my opinion in this blog as to where things in the USA seem to be headed; generally I think they’re heading south. I appreciate the fact that the USA is a great nation simply because people like me can express their political sentiments without fear of reprisal. There are still so many wonderful things about America. But increasingly, things seem to be going wrong. I had much more hope for America’s future back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, especially when the Vietnam war finally came to an end. But since then we’ve gone through a wide variety of crisis situations (e.g., energy shortages, terrorism, financial collapse, and once again, political assassination), and although things got better every time, the healing never seemed complete. It seems as though changes and problems are coming at us quicker and quicker every year, and are starting to overwhelm our national resolve. America once seemed to have unlimited resolve, but I’m not so sure about that anymore.

But that’s just me. I thought it might be interesting to consider another viewpoint, from a fellow who grew up in Canada. Back in 1984, in his early middle age (after completing med school and becoming a doctor), he moved to the USA and started a family here. Why? Here are some of his thoughts:

At the time, Canada’s economy was weaker and the country appeared to be on a socialist tack. Weather was a big factor also; I don’t like 5 months of winter, and the practice climate for MD’s was deteriorating. Ironically, this was about the time the US economy began to develop the imbalances that today have reached unsustainable proportions.

Would I move back? An increasing number of ex-Canadian MD’s are. The climate for MD’s in [the USA] has deteriorated also. Medicine has evolved from cottage industry to big business, and the solo practitioner is becoming extinct. Could I do as well back in Canada? I don’t know, but I’m raising a family here now, and uprooting would be a huge hassle. I really do love the US, and feel very comfortable here.

Concerning the US economy: Unfortunately, I think we are well along a secular decline that began in the 1980’s. Our lifestyle has been increasingly supported by deficits [both trade and budget deficits], and the effects will be increasingly painful. This country is now a democracy in name only. All of the power is exercised by an oligopoly of wealthy finance types, who have vastly increased their wealth at the expense of the rest of the country. We have bailed them out, and now they’re back to paying themselves exorbitant bonuses. An army of 40,000 Washington lobbyists protect their interests and the pols of both parties are beholden to them. The middle class is rapidly disappearing, and we are becoming a 2-tier society of the wealthy and the poor.

[The USA’s] inferior showing in education is related to averaging of scores. The wealthy are doing well I’m sure, in their private schools and ivy-league universities. As for the rest…you don’t need an engineering degree to clean the mansions and wait on the tables of the wealthy. A huge segment of society is simply just struggling to survive. Children of this class are distracted by the chaos of multi-generation homes, deflected by TV and video games, and malnourished by a steady diet of fast food, and attend underfunded public schools. So in a sense, the education scores are irrelevant. Budget deficit? Tax breaks for the wealthy?

Very few secular declines are reversed. The lack of common purpose evident on the political stage is largely a reflection of our society. Each faction wants to grab its share, and does not want its ox gored. An increasing percentage of the population is opting out of productive pursuits and seeks state support. Disability is big business and getting bigger. The productive segment is being crushed by the deadwood. As you might expect, the Republicans are blaming Obama for the sick economy that they’ve been helping to create since the 1980’s. They succeed because they know the majority has a very short memory.

What we really need in this country is a revolution. Clean out Washington and start from scratch, beginning with term limits for congressmen and elimination of paid lobbyists. No more career politicians.

So, that’s the viewpoint from a Canadian expatriot; in many ways, his “realistic gloom” is much like my own. Unlike me, however, he still has some faith in “revolution”. Back in 2008, Barack Obama seemed like a revolution, and now the Tea Party has grabbed the revolution mantle. I by contrast have become fatalistic. Many nations and empires seemed “exceptional” in their heyday, immune from the cycle of history. But they eventually met with decline. Some people still talk of “American exceptionalism”, of America having a divine mission of spreading liberty and prosperity; a mission that will allow us to buck the historic trend of “rise and fall”.

But as with my Canadian correspondent, I believe that our star is starting to set, just as the star of the eastern world (China, India, Indonesia, Korea — if they can avoid a war) is rising. Let’s just hope that our decline is as genteel as it was for other former world-class empires, such as Greece, Italy (Rome), Spain, Turkey (Ottoman), France and Great Britain.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:05 pm      

  1. Jim, I find myself wondering if your present view of America may not be due to the inevitable let down one gets as one outgrows one’s youth, gets a more realistic view of his/her idealism of youth, and reasseses things.

    Then again, it’s inevitable that as times change, as a new generation takes the reigns of power, so do the answers change–not always to the liking of the “older” group.

    Your Canadian friend has some interesting comments on the health care system, most of which are very appropriate. I DO certainly 100% agree with his observation that America is becomeing a “2-tier society of the wealthy and the poor”–much like the rest of the countries of the world already are. This may not be a good thing at all.

    However, I found one of his comments strange. Specifically: “Children of this class”, that is, those of the “bottom rung” of the 2-tier society, “are distracted by the chaos of multi-generation homes.” This part of his statement I cannot agree with. I would think one of the BETTER aspects of family life might be that of the “multi-generational home.” Children benefit from living with (presuming the family is not completely dysfunctional) multi-generations. For one thing, they may realize that they are not the only people in the world who matter.

    Then too, I would modify your comment about the Tea Party to say that (so far) it has “grabbed the revolution mantle” for a small group in America rather than for the majority.

    Regarding your “fatalistic” view of America as being in a “decline”: Perhaps that fatalism of simply an awakening to the fact that America (like all myth-like creatures) simply is not perfect and cannot do everything and be the “super-country” of the world forever. Maybe your view is a more honest view, Jim, MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — January 13, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

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