The lights are going out

The consequences of this slide are profound, not just at home but also abroad as our power is eclipsed by developing nations. This is a difficult thought to grasp, not least because it happened so suddenly in historical terms. As Altman and Haass point out, the national debt was only about 35 percent of GDP just 12 years ago. Furthermore, the debt had been shrinking to the point that some thought it might even be paid off. With the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts now animating the professional bickerers in Washington, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the prescription-drug benefit for Medicare, we shifted our fiscal policy so significantly that we are faced with an era of austerity…

Most Americans probably figure they can muddle through a deep recession. Let’s face it, we could use a little austerity around the waistline. But how do we manage a planet in which we are no longer the final arbiters of justice? Whatever one may say about our flawed history, few would argue that the world would be better off without us. When America is no longer able to rally her forces for good, the light dims for civilization. If you doubt it, we may yet get to test the thesis.