Saturday, November 17, 2007

WARNING: decline and fall of the US empire

In past blogs (In praise of irrational politicians) we have talked about our entitlements crisis: old people vote in much greater numbers than young people, so politicians rationally respond to these incentives by voting to transfer income from young people to old people in the form of Medicare and Social Security benefits that we cannot afford.

Now we have David Walker, head of the Govt. Accountability Office, interviewed by Newsweek, warning that without a political solution, we could end up like the Romans when the Barbarian horde crossed the Rhine.
NEWSWEEK: You have likened the situation here in the United States to the fall of the Roman Republic. Do you foresee the decline and fall of the United States?

David Walker:
I don't believe that the United States will decline and fall, but I think it's important that we wake up and recognize that we are seeing some of the same warning signs that existed with the Roman Republic. There are many people who think the United States is the longest-standing republic in the history of mankind, and that's not true. Rome lasted over double the period of time that we have existed so far, and it is important that we make tough choices to make sure that we are the first republic to stand the test of time.


  1. Yet another case in point where the driving forces in politics are purely shortsighted concerns at the expense of long term interests. For the sake of getting reelected, politicians will shamelessly cater to the voters who are dying off and are a complete drain on the system (old people and retirees)and they will buy these votes off of the sweat equity of the younger less engaged segment of the population.

    What amazes me is the lack of outrage from the younger tax payers. They are allowing themselves to get exploited and taken advantage of by the political class in Washington. Do younger people honestly expect the various entitles to still be funded and functioning when they reach retirement? Especially with the baby boom generation retiring in large hordes taxing the system to its limits? Has anyone taken notes on how union entitlements destroyed the American auto industry?

    It's irresponsible to continually allow the politicians to run on issues that impact certain constituents in the short term with complete disregard for the long term reality.

    Pursuant to the goth hordes crossing the Rubicon and sacking Rome repeatedly, that issue is currently visiting the USA via the unchecked and inhibited stream of illegals being ushered in from Latin America. It's way too complicated to try and address in one blog post, but certain measures need to be taken to preserve rule of law and foster a continued sense of American identity and civil society. The wanton disregard for this immigration issue coupled with the fact that the treasury will be depleted by entitlements are the two most serious domestic concerns facing the Republic.

  2. Dear Ed,

    Please consider the daily life of many young adults in the United States: scrambling to raise kids, work, have time for relationships, make ends meet financially, and maybe plan for their own futures. It's not hard to imagine how a young adult's attention... and money... gets spoken for by day-to-day reality without consideration of Medicare and Social Security payments to older persons.

    Senior citizens, in contrast, generally have more time and disposable income to dedicate to political causes and politicians.

    Maybe we should think about how to make the political process more approachable for younger Americans, rather than bash them without reservation for their relative quiet at the polls.

    As for immigrants, we are a country of immigrants. And since you bring up Latin American immigrants specifically, please consider that California and the Southwest were part of Mexico until 1848. The north-south rail system along the Rocky Mountains is largely attributable to the dynamic trade with northern Mexico. And the produce available in the United States is largely cheap and present at Kroger's and Whole Foods thanks to immigrants who work the fields in California and elsewhere.

    Luke Froeb talks about "moving assets to higher value uses." And while immigrants are people first and assets second, their contribution to the US economy and US society is not to blame for the hypothetical fall of the Republic.