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Is there more than a glimmer of hope for the country to go in a better

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... ... downhill, and why ...

If you take American history since 1900 -- Fed Reserve, Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, WW-II, Great Society, Vietnam and Flower people, Civil rights movement, Roe v. Wade, Nixon's impeachment, the opening of China, Carter and Iran, Reagan & Thatcher, the end of the U.S.S.R., Don't Ask-Don't Tell, Dot.com boom and bust, Housing bubble bursts, militarist McCain defeated, Obama wins a second term, U.S. pulls out of Iraq... and all the other things in between, do you characterize these 100 odd years as having a general "downhill" trend? Clearly, the average person has far more wealth today that in the 1900's, so has it been a secular up-trend?

Whichever way you characterize it, I think the odds are that the next 100 years will be similar. Doesn't have to be that way, but it's the best bet.

Edited by softwareNerd
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One thing the US has had, even since the Progressive Era, was the stomach to do what it takes to defeat major existential threats, like the Axis powers or the Communist block.

I think the US economy will fluctuate, as it has been, but I'm not as optimistic about national defense. Unlike with economic policy failures, which countries can recover from, on national defense the US only needs to come up short once, and the damage can be irreparable.

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On the economic front, I picture Europe as the target toward which the U.S. will trend (perhaps other countries too). In other words:

  • wealth growing over generations, though way below potential (held back by redistribution, fiat currencies and interest rates, environmental policies, various other government decision-making)
  • boom/bust cycles caused by credit booms and busts
  • political cycles where governments shift from left-of-statist-center to right-of-statist-center and back again (each doing their unique form of economic damage, but also countering part of previous damage)

On defence, the U.S. might move toward a more European style reluctance to spend on defence, and relinquishing the role of policeman of the world. It's sure to have implications for the U.S., but I think the really serious consequences of this will be for other countries, who become more aggressive and their neighbors, who have to deal with it. 


Of course, on all these fronts, the question of time-horizon is crucial. Someone caught in the early years of the Soviet union might have been right to predict that communism would fall in 100 years, but this true and optimistic conclusion would not help his life. Indeed, if that optimism made him reject an option to leave the Soviet Union for the west, it would be harmful. Or, take Nazi Germany. If the movies get it right, some Jews shrugged away the Nazi threat, and thought that it would blow over. And it did -- in less than 2 decades, it was all over. Yet, millions were dead.


So, such questions have to come with: 

  • a context of a horizon
  • a view of how bad things can get in the meanwhile, and whether one can survive it 

(presumably, one is asking the question mainly to understand its impact on one's own life, and perhaps the lives of one's kids)

Edited by softwareNerd
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