Fred Reed is a well-known curmudgeonly writer. His 'Fred On Everything' blog is sometimes infuriating, but his acerbic wit and penetrating look at the events of the day frequently cuts through all the verbiage and gets to the heart of the matter.
His most recent column raises painful questions about the USA's current state of mind, politically, economically, militarily and internationally. Here's an excerpt.
Pondering Whither America, I reflected on a story, probably apocryphal but which I am going to believe because I like it, about catching monkeys. Tribesmen somewhere craft a heavy pot with a hole in it large enough that a monkey could insert an open hand, but not withdraw a closed fist. They then put monkey food in the pot. The monkey reaches in, grabs the food and, refusing to let go when the hunters approach, is caught and eaten.
Here we have our politics in a paragraph. The American national monkey can’t let go. The party is over, boys and girls, but we aren’t going to adapt.
For example: When people recently found that they could no longer afford the SUVs, the McMansions, the buying of absurdities in a frenzy of competitive consumerism, they just put it on the credit card. The monkey can’t let go. And now they are screwed.
Same-same domestic policy. The US has played War-on-Drugs for half a century, with no results but to make drugs an integral part of the economy. The evils engendered are great. Yet the monkey can’t let go.
It is internationally that the monkey principle really bites. The country is well on its way to being a merely regional power militarily, economically, and diplomatically. Short of a miracle, short of a conceivable but unlikely catastrophe in China, Amricans will soon be medium potatoes. There is nothing we can do about it, but we will bankrupt ourselves trying. We can’t let go.
If you look beyond the Reader’s Digest patriotism of Fox News, and the high-school cheerleading of little Sarah Palin, if you look beyond the national borders, all of this is obvious.
By Chinese standards, America is a small country, having a quarter of its population. Their economy grows at close to double digits. Yes, it may slow down, or it may not. Short of unforeseen disaster, the question is not whether but when the Chinese economy will dwarf the American economy. Tell me why this is not true.
All power springs from economic power. While America decays, plays, and sucks its thumb, China invests. Everywhere. There is nothing unprincipled in this. It is just intelligent commerce.
Do not underestimate these people of the epicanthic fold. I have lived among the Chinese, in Taiwan years ago. I liked them, and still do. I know them to be smart, disciplined, studious, practical—as well as nationalistic and very racially conscious. No, we do not think these attitudes proper. It doesn’t matter what we think.
Note that China has that perfect government, an intelligent dictatorship concerned with advancing the country. The American government consists of self-interested lobbies and Wall Street looters. China is run by engineers, America by lawyers. Watch.
The US is midway through an inexorable suicide. If a country does not manufacture things, it does not have an economy, and manufacturing has fled American shores. Ship-building, steel, consumer electronics, railroads: gone.
. . .
America is the world’s greatest debtor nation, China the greatest creditor. We cannot possibly repay what we owe, so we must either default or inflate. If another choice exists, I am unaware of it. And yet the government spends, spends, spends, and borrows, borrows, borrows. No one is in charge. No one cares. All line their own pockets. Wait.
Rationally, this would seem a good time to let go of unaffordable luxuries. But no. The US continues to buy things it can’t pay for, to play roles it can no longer maintain, because it pains the national vanity no longer to be the biggest kid on the block. The monkey can’t let go.
There's more at the link. Go read the whole thing, and see whether you agree with him. It's made me sufficiently uncomfortable to have me thinking very hard!