Is This the End of America?
By - March 21, 2009

U.S. law-making is riddled with slapdash, incompetence and gamesmanship. Helicopter Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve is dropping trillions of fresh paper dollars on the world economy, the President of the United States is cracking jokes on late night comedy shows, his energy minister is threatening a trade war over carbon emissions, his treasury secretary is dithering over a banking reform program amid rising concerns over his competence and a monumentally dysfunctional U.S. Congress is launching another public jihad against corporations and bankers. As an aghast world – from China to Chicago and Chihuahua – watches, the circus-like U.S. political system seems to be declining into near chaos. Through it all, stock and financial markets are paralyzed. The more the policy regime does, the worse the outlook gets. The multi-ringed spectacle raises a disturbing question in many minds: Is this the end of America? – Financial Post

Dominant Social Theme: America as Rome?

Free-Market Analysis: We received some pushback from a recent article in which we enumerated the difficulties posed to America by the recent Bush administration. But the above article excerpt illustrates clearly the why the Bush administration remains important – as does the Clinton administration before it. Both of these administrations were very confusing to the electorate in that they seemed to promise one thing but delivered another, or at least tried to. Now the Obama administration is delivering even more puzzlement — and the side effect is likely increased corruption.

Unfortunately, the more estranged administrations get from their electorates, the more corruption flourishes. Leaders and those who serve them closely grow increasingly contemptuous of the electorate, seeing it as a mass worthy only of being misled. The goal of various administrations in states large and small becomes not to lead but to loot – as aggressively and quickly as possible.

The Clinton presidency was obviously corrupt, with the president lying under oath and then nearly being impeached. But the Bush administration did not live up to the expectations of those on the right in terms of conservative principles, while alienating the American left with wars and emphasis on a certain kind of Christian morality.

Barack Obama was able to sweep into the office under the rubric of change. The change that Obama has emphasized was not necessarily explicitly developed during this campaign. And even now Obama's rhetoric is fairly middle-of-the-road within the larger American political dialogue. But his actions, and that of the Democratic Congress are quite a bit to the left of where the American electorate would like to be. The bail-outs would seem to be a full-on socialist project.

Yes, the American electorate is fairly confused. It repudiated Clinton, trying to find a way back to the successful presidency of Ronald Reagan but got something different in Bush. Then the electorate repudiated the Bush regime and elected a graceful young man to bring "change" to a town that sorely needs it. But Obama's appointments, especially his financial appointments, have left in power the same wise men that supervised to a large extent the Clinton and Bush administrations. The change is not so much one of economics as it is of regulation and increased control.

The United States is a very powerful nation yet, made up of 300 million or more hard-working people, most of whom were attracted to the country for its opportunities. The problem with the country has to do with those at the top who keep promising that America will live up to her laissez-faire values and then perform a switcheroo that generates yet more top down control. The American Dream as originally conceived was never about free healthcare, universal welfare and group rights. The American Dream, as enunciated most eloquently by Thomas Jefferson was about the ability to realize one's own personal abilities and to be fairly rewarded for them.

After Thoughts

The farther away from the American Constitution – which still embodies bedrock principles to many — that the federal leadership drifts, the worse the confusion and corruption becomes. The trouble is, when a country's founding mythos cannot be supported, even in terms of lip-service, by those who purport to lead, then the conversation that binds the electorate begins to fall apart. The corruption begins to become naked instead of hidden. Justifications fall away and the face of power reveals itself without pretense. When this process starts, it is hard to reverse. Obviously, those outside of America see something like this occurring, whether or not it is justified, and whether or not the American people themselves see it.