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Can America survive its own success?

Success

The possibility of being too “successful,” or too “good,” at what you do might just drive yourself out of the market. “Too much of a good thing” is an old phrase, but relevant when/if there comes a time when the enterprise simply goes overboard by its own ambitions.

If your team has won 52 consecutive games, why worry about # 53? See the movie, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).

“Downsize” is the business expression when a company is forced to reduce due to overproduction. Not only can the government stop monopolies, but overproduction can, and repeatedly has, led to unreliable products, cost-overruns, and lay-offs. The history of American business is replete with stories of initial success turned to failure due to expansive and aggressive momentum. In the early Twentieth Century, there were over 300 automobile companies, eventually reduced to the so-called “Big Three” (Ford, GM, Chrysler).

 

Countries

The same applies to countries. There is not a single empire still around, from ancient Rome to the British. Where are the great imperial, militaristic conquerors of the last century? The Third Reich lasted twelve years, Mussolini was hung upside-down, Imperial Japan went down four years after Pearl Harbor, while the Soviet Union collapsed after seventy-five.

There is an old, apocryphal phrase, as to the “lasting” effect of the American Revolution: “it’s too soon to tell.” Can the experience begun in 1776 still expect to have an impact upon the world commissariat with its importance in the eighteenth century?

After the Constitution Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin addressed this point by stating that they had created a “Republic, if you can keep it.” This question is still relevant, but a definitive answer remains as elusive as ever.

In 1940, the population of the United States was 120 million, it is now nearly three times that figure. Can unity continue without disruption, possibly fatal?

Prognosis

What is the prognosis today, having won both world wars, achieved historic prosperity, and ended the Communist threat?

Most experienced commentators will testify that never in their lives have they witnessed such vitriol, animosity, and political hatred as in recent America. It takes little more than a flick of the TV switch to appreciate this reality. With estimates of over 90% of the media intensively opposed to the Trump Administration, and the President daily attacking on twitter, the experience of a “red-blue” division has absorbed the culture for several years. This coincides with Trump, but he is symptomatic, not a causation.

How could the American people live through two British invasions, one civil war, millions of immigrants, a great depression, two world wars, and a cold war and still survive? The democratic system of the Founding Fathers has not missed a beat since day one: no canceled elections, no coups, no occupations (excuse Reconstruction), and no economic collapses. All this despite rumors and attempts from many quarters, imaginary scenarios (Seven Days in May, The Manchurian Candidate), failed excursions, and threats of “Armageddon” since Benedict Arnold tried to sell West Point.

To be sure, “vigilance is the price of liberty,” which might explain The Washington Post repeating “democracy dies in darkness” every day for three years on page one. Within the above perspective, is this hyperbole, self-serving propaganda, or dire warning? Is the Post Paul Revere or Joe McCarthy?

At this stage of national life, is American democracy in danger? If so, what is the root cause: internal/external, a Chinese Army crossing the Rockies, Vladimir Putin disabling democracy from the Kremlin, President Trump, the media, the universities, immigration, liberal bias, conservative bias, all biases, racism, sexism, white nationalism, all nationalisms, all isms, China’s economy, Islam, all terrorism, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Turkey, the Kurds, Iraq, Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, militarism, nineteen years occupying the same place, impeachment, Republicans, Democrats, millennials, climate change, “white privilege,” apathy, hysteria?

This list, not exhaustive, could be shortened to just “people,” doing the things they have been doing since the Garden of Eden.

The problem with this answer is that too much shows too little, everything means nothing. True, but what do we do? Eliminating the above list only will lead to substitutions. Back to Square One.

 

The People Problem

A tentative conclusion regarding “people”: If any fault is ascribed to the “end” of anything, prosperity, democracy, survival, by definition, it cannot be individual. No single personality or movement is capable of erasing what so far has been history’s most exemplary democratic experiment.

Trump is considered bad (we know), the media hates him (we know), the country had slavery (we know), women have been abused (we know), incomes vary (we know), etc., etc. When the perfect becomes the enemy of the good is when times really teeter on edge.

None of the above “faults” (plus dozens of others) are caused by single factors, all are collective and symptomatic of a larger whole. They are also reflective of general fields of human “anatomy”: Trump-psychology, abuse-biology, inequality-sociology, war/slavery-history. Finding them unacceptable, we can simply erase them (We are trying, still another symptom).

Thus, when searching for causation, be aware of symptoms as causes. These reflect, as in lakes and mirrors, but cannot cause and cannot stand alone.

Demographics is people. As mentioned, the population of the country has tripled in seventy years. What if a family of four tripled to twelve over time? How would this affect its demeanor, its mode of existence; indeed, its very existence?

This scenario is strictly quantitative, not qualitative. We assume all are essentially the same. But what if they were different, in appearance, language, loyalty, religion, interests, dress, background, etc.?

What if the population continued with the same trend since 1940? How would the country function with 900 million, even if they all shared the same values?

How would democracy fare, having to accommodate nearly ten times the people of 1940? Imagine the “squad,” four congresswomen contemptuous of American values. Double, quadruple them, factor in a sympathetic media. Illogical? Then dismiss it. Demographic math? Then pay attention.

Can one imagine a population disinterested or hostile to its own country, only to a utopia or to an imaginary place, a darkened history devoid of human component: a country with no virtue, where all should not just be equal but identical? A country where the architects of  achievement came from “privilege,” where invention and ambition came only at the expense of all others, and where the narrative was a myth created by national apologists?

Do you watch TV or read the papers?

Another symptom of our times is the existence of nearly eighty cities where illegal immigrants can find “sanction” from the law. If democracy is to survive, it needs a population, including politicians and voters alike, that will respect its institutions and culture. Amidst a ballooning population, such attributes are becoming less and less common.

Lacking that, as Franklin, again, said, “We must hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately.”

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