Yet I would not be so worried about our economic and political problems if I were confident that we had the moral, cultural and spiritual resources to respond to them. On the one hand, we’ve developed a culture that’s thin on the virtues of industry, integrity and self-sufficiency, and thick with passivity, entitlement and resentment. Where those who suffered hardships were once admired when they avoided welfare or received it only briefly, now they’re admired who soak the system for all it’s worth. A free-market economy functions well when it’s undergirded and propelled by the Judeo-Christian work ethic, but we’ve grown fat and complacent, more interested in watching the next Extreme Home Makeover than we are in starting businesses and building companies that provide for our families and employ others. To make matters worse, just when we need strong family units that can better weather the tough times, we have high rates of divorce and delinquent dads, single parents and children with cohabiting couples.

On the other hand, even as our economic and family virtues have waned, so have our patriotic virtues. Passive voices of doom and gloom dominate the headlines. America, they say, is beset with insoluble problems. Our prosperity and our influence are doomed to diminish. Our markets are fixed in inexorable decline. We can neither defeat our enemies in Afghanistan nor match the rise of the Chinese. Our culture has grown insipid and attenuated. Apparently there is nothing for Americans to do but bow their heads and accept their fate.

Since when have Americans been the victims of circumstance?