Of course, failures of US governance are not an indictment of liberal democracy itself as a form of governance. Other liberal democratic countries continue to be highly successful. Whether it’s Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea or Taiwan, these are all liberal democracies that continue to deliver the highest living standards and greatest liberties available to humanity today.
America’s problems are not intrinsic to liberal democracy. They are American failures. Above and beyond any single US problem is the system that is supposed to fix problems – its political system.
When a country’s political system fails, its problem-solving mechanism fails. The US today is in such a poor state because its biggest problems never get solved – they just accumulate.
The dry tinder piles up. The dreadful race riots of the 1960s should have been a catalyst for fundamental reform but turned out to a premonition of race-based rage to come. As Serena Williams says: “The worst part is this is nothing new, it’s just filmed.”
The fact that the US is the only rich country to suffer declining life expectancy should have led to change in the underlying problems – deep inequality and ramshackle health care. Instead, the political system continues to enact tax cuts for the well-off and exploitative working conditions and threadbare social welfare for the poor. And health care? America’s unique status as the only rich country without universal health care remains, in spite of Barack Obama’s efforts.