Declinism is a hot topic these days, and although the predictions have been so comically off-base in the past, it feels more real this time (just like every time). Maybe those kooky experts that RT regularly digs up are actually on the vanguard of thought leadership. David A. Bell has an interesting argument going on in the New Republic:
If we can be certain of anything, it is that some day the United States will indeed cease to exist. “If Sparta and Rome perished, what state can hope to last forever?” asked Rousseau in The Social Contract. The timing, however, is another matter. Why should we assume that we are just now sliding helplessly towards the edge of the cliff? (…)
Trolling back through the older predictions of decline and fallcan make for amusing reading. In 1979, just two years before George F.Will joined Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” chorus, he waslamenting in Newsweek: “When, as lately, America’s declineaccelerates, it is useful to look back along the downward, crumblingpath.” In 1987, as the Soviet Union stumbled towards its final collapse,the book that dominated conversations in Washington was Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which predicted the eclipse of the United States. (…)
The fall of an empire is a historical cataclysm on a scale sovast that, in hindsight, it is hard to see it as anything other thaninevitable. Would Rome not have fallen if a group of clear-sighted,hardheaded Roman commentators had sternly told the country to buck up inthe late third century, lest the empire share the fate of Persia? WasGreat Britain’s decline in the twentieth century a product of moralflabbiness that a strong dose of character-building medicine could havereversed?
I doubt many people think this, in which case casting ourpresent-day difficulties as part of an epochal decline and fall may infact be subtly to suggest that we can do nothing to cure them.