Is America doomed?

So, does Professor Olson have it right? Is America destroying itself? Can a democracy survive?

No, America isn’t destroying itself.

Yes, a democracy can survive.

I don’t have anything to add other than my opinion at the moment.


China? India? Rome? Maya?

Will the USA last forever? No. If that means it’s doomed, then I guess it is.

It’s always a problem to extrapolate the current situation in a linear fashion and assume there will be some catastrophe. Natural systems, of which humans are a part, have a tendancy to self-correct.

The US has probably the best (ie, stable) form of government yet invented by mankind. I would expect it to exist until some outside, unpredictable event topples it.

In what democracies has the sequence of events described by Professor Tyler occurred? The Athenian democracy did not collapse because the people voted themselves largesse from the treasury, the government collapsed because of loose fiscal policy, and a dictatorship resulted. The Roman Republic did not collapse for this reason. Looking at the world after Tyler’s writing, none of the five French Republics collapsed for this reason. The Weimar Republic of Germany did not collapse for this reason (the inflationary policies of the 1920s were not in response to public demand and were long over when Hitler came to power). Just what was he talking about?

From blither to blather.

“Spirtual faith”? “Great courage”? Though a somewhat curious take on Hegelian idea of history as inevitably following a proscribed path, I’m don’t find Tyler’s thesis particularly compelling on the face of it. Did the establishment of the Gupta Empire in India really arise out of bondage, progress to a point of particular spiritual faith and lead to greater liberty? Perhaps. But I’d like to see a clear defintion of what he means by those terms and how he manages to apply them to “the world’s greatest civilizations” and for that matter just who he is including under that rubric.

From where I’m sitting it looks, at least on first glance, like he is working backwards from his own pre-conceived notions of American history and retroactively pigeon-holing historical processes to fit a dubious thesis.

  • Tamerlane

'course the Guptas did last ~200 years ( a little less as a great power, a little more as an extant dynasty ), so I guess he has me there :D.

  • Tamerlane

If there are any more Bush’s in the pipeline, then I would say yes.

Its worringly accurate about the UK where we seem to be halfway between apathy & dependancy

In the last 20 years its become more and more stupid to be a worker as the taxes you pay get spent more and more on people who could work but don’t see the point when they can live off the state. (Speaking from experience - I have a niece and her boyfriend who live just this way and when you try to talk to them about it they just say “well everyone else round here does it” aaaarrrgghh)

His treatise is uterly ingenuous - comparing murder rates in Bush/Gore counties indeed! And this…

…would equate to over 100 million people living solely on welfare. Such reactionary drivel is unbecoming of a serious academic.

Re: Tyler

When Tyler wrote his words, the world’s only existing democracy at the time had barely won its independence 4 years earlier and was already in constitutional crisis. Context is key here.

I will give Olsen the benefit of the doubt that the numbers are accurate. As far as Olsen’s spin on the numbers: What the hell?

What on earth does he mean by “cities owned by the government”? I daresay the government owns a hell of a lot more land in Bush’s victory territory than it does in any cities won by Gore. And a great deal of the land of this great country won by Bush is owned by agribusiness rather than the people.

If I’m sounding indefinite, using spurious uncited factoids to back up my claims, hey, Olsen started it. I can spin, too.

“Gore won in the coastal cities, where, despite the greater population density and disparities between rich and poor which cause friction, a larger number of the people are better educated than in Bush’s domain of the flag-waving high school dropout.”-Scott Anderson

What do counties, land area and crime rate have to do with who wins the White House? IIRC, the flap in 2000 was about ELECTORAL VOTES, of which the less populated, rural states purposely have a disproportionately large share.

I agree with Tamerlane. The terms used by both historians are poetic, but vague and really representative of nothing.

As to the question posed by the OP: Yes, American culture as it currently exists will eventually cease, just like every other culture on the face of the planet has or will.

I forgot to repaste another spurious factoid:

“I would say that 54% of the land won by Bush receives government subsidies”

Does this mean that you feel that less populated, rural states also have a disproportionatelt large representation in Congress? The reason I ask is that electoral votes are allocated based on the number of Representatives + the number a Senators a state has. If you feel this allocation to be unfair somehow, I’d love to hear how you would change it.

Is America doomed? I think not and this gentleman had this to say on the matter

“At what point shall we expect the danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never!
All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined with all the treasure of the Earth could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.
If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we must live through all time or die by suicide”

January 27th 1838

It would seem that Professor Olson really is stuck in the past ('50s or earlier), since he thinks there are only 48 states!

  1. Athens: That is exactly the scenario that the OP suggests. loose fiscal policy leading to dictatorship.

  2. Rome: Did not the emporers come to power by promising the Roman citezens various forms of largess? Bread and Games, for instance?

3)None of the post revolutionary governments have lasted long enough to suffer the fate described. The US might not be old enough either.

Are we inevitably doomed? No. I really don’t subscribe to that kind of historical determinism. However, there are certainly sociological forces at work that we ignore at our peril. I think that our successes have a tendency to make us complacent. Consider the auto industry during the 60s and 70s. I think that a similar tendency could be found in our culture as a whole.

Throughout history empires have crumbled because of complacency and a belief that ‘they’ would last forever.
Not so with the USA, all it needs is a slight kick up the rear end and The States get to grips with the problem and over ashort period of time surmounts these problems to emerge stronger than before.
You have more than likely gathered that I like you Yanks, I like you Yanks a hell of a lot, you are our little brother that grew up to be bigger than us and for some strange reason I like that.

I have only visited your country once (last year) and everything was as fine as I imagined it, it was without a doubt the best holiday of my life not to mention the most expensive.
As Gen. McArthur said “I’ll be back”, next time I’ll bring more cash though :slight_smile:

Democracies are not permanent institutions… people here speak of democracies as rock solid. They are stable but see how fast some liberties were curtailed with the 9/11 opening opportunities for government control. US democracy is maintained thru a combination of several factors the main one in my opinion a strong and independent judiciary. (Civil groups and other organized are important too.) If big business get too strong a hold in goverment it stops being a democracy in fact… maintaining only appareances.

As for the largesse… only politicians benefit from it… not the population.

As for the study: "Population of counties won by Gore 127 million, won by Bush 143 million."   I thought Gore got more votes total didn't he ?
Whoa... NO BRAINER !  Gore won the urban vote heavily... Bush got the rednecks. Big Surprise ! Cities occupy less land then farms... hmmm interesting... Murders are higher in urban areas too. No shit sherlock.

Preacheth the Law professor. Oh well.

I’d say at least 40% of the population has reached “the dependency” phase, but not in the sense he means – they’re addicted, in one form or another, to consumption but that’s another (related) issue.

The dichotomy between rural and city is a familiar one throughout those maturing democracies. As, one assumes, would be the murder rate – cities attract different types of behaviour to non-city. Differences such as this are inevitable, though, as mentioned, it’s a nice headline number to produce.

To put what the Law professor is saying in context, we’re in unknown territory; the US is the first empire of the capitalist era and among the first mature democracies, though it finds itself differently constituted and on a different path, to those other maturing democracies.

So which of those two is he addressing? On first blush, it looks to me like he’s relying on the commonly known perception and understanding of empires rising and falling and relating that to democracies. Presumably for effect.

Fwiw, democracy or no, people are motivated by self-interest. If it’s in their self-interest to vote, to preserve democracy, they will and what differs now from all those historic examples is universal suffrage.

So sure, the elite can lost the plot with the largesse they’ve voted themselves, but this modern form of democracy avoids that complacency/apathy by applying the principle of universal suffrage in the context of free-wheeling capitalism. IMHO

Conclusion; congrats Professor, you got published! It’s crap, but it’s about being noticed, right ?