That Used to be Us (Friedman/Mandelbaum)

Here are some excerpts from the 2011 book
That Used to Be Us:
How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented
and How We Can Come Back

by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum.

By the way, the author of this blog,
while accepting the truth of most of the facts the authors reference in their book,
points out the selectivity of what they have chosen to present, and
strongly disagrees with the broad conclusions they draw based on
that highly selective choice of facts.

By the way, in reading Friedman and Mandelbaum’s refrain of
“How stupid we were! How come nobody told us we were on the wrong course?”,
be sure to note that
Friedman has been a foreign affairs reporter since 1982,
and has had the bully pulpit of his foreign-policy-oriented op-ed column in the New York Times since 1995.
He has some nerve (or should I say “chutzpah”?)
when he asserts “No one told us”
when, in fact, many others, such as Patrick Buchanan,
have repeatedly argued that America should work on renewing itself,
rather than engaging on going abroad seeking monsters to destroy,
as Friedman specifically has consistently called for,
and argued against the globalization mania of our elite
which Friedman and his fellow Jew Krugman have done so much to argue for.

These cries of alarm, to which Friedman and Mandelbaum were so deaf,
were argued in, among other places,
Buchanan in his 1992 presidential campaign,
Sir James Goldsmith in his 1994 book The Trap
(a book which Krugman in his 1995 book Pop Internationalism specifically argued against),
Pat Choate in the conclusion to Agents of Influence
(see especially the final two paragraphs of the book, on civic virtue),
and Buchanan in his great brace of books
The Great Betrayal (in economics) in 1998 and
A Republic, Not an Empire (on foreign policy) in 1999.
Nobody told us -- What bullshit! What a pair of lying conmen.

Chapter Two
Ignoring Our Problems

It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
nor the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
— Evolutionary theory

We are going to do a terrible thing to you.
We are going to deprive you of an enemy.
— Georgi Arbatov,
Soviet expert on the United States,
speaking at the end of the Cold War

It all seems so obvious now,
but on the historic day when the Berlin Wall was cracked open—
November 11, 1989—
no one would have guessed that America was about to make
the most dangerous mistake a country can make:
We were about to misread our environment.
We should have remembered Oscar Wilde’s admonition:
“In this world there are only two tragedies.
One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”
America was about to experience the second tragedy.
We had achieved a long-sought goal:
the end of the Cold War on Western terms.
But that very achievement ushered in a new world,
with unprecedented challenges to the United States.
No one warned us
neither Oscar Wilde nor someone like
the statesman who had done precisely that for America four decades earlier:
George Kennan.

On the evening of February 22, 1946, Kennan,
then the forty-to-year-old deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Moscow,
dispatched an 8,000 word cable to the State Department in Washington.
The “Long Telegram,” as it was later known, became
the most famous diplomatic communication in the history of the United States.
A condensed version,
which ran under the byline “X” in Foreign Affairs the next year,
became perhaps the most influential journal article in American history.

Kennan’s cable earned its renown because
it served as the charter for American foreign policy during the Cold War.
It called for the “containment” of the military power of the Soviet Union
and political resistance to its communist ideology.
It led to the Marshall Plan for aid to war-torn Europe;
to NATO—the first peacetime military alliance in American history—
and the stationing of an American army in Europe;
to America’s wars in Korea and Vietnam; to the nuclear arms race;
to a dangerous brush with nuclear war over Cuba;
and to a political rivalry waged in every corner of the world
through military assistance, espionage, public relations, and economic aid.

The Cold War came to an end
with the overthrow of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe in 1989
and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
But the broad message of the Long Telegram is one we need to hear today:
“Wake up!
Pay attention!
The world you are living in has fundamentally changed.
It is not the world you think it is.
You need to adopt,
because the health, security, and future of the country depend on it.”

It is hard to realize today what a shock that message was to many Americans.
The world Kennan’s cable described was not
the one in which most Americans believed they were living in
or wanted to live in.
Most of them assumed that, with the end of World War II,
the United States could look forward to
good relations with its wartime Soviet ally and
the end of the huge national exertion that winning the war had required.
The message of the Long Telegram was that
both of these happy assumptions were wrong.
The nation’s leaders eventually accepted Kennan’s analysis
and adopted his prescription.
Before long the American people knew they had to be
vigilant, creative, and united.
They knew they had to foster
economic growth, technological innovation, and social mobility
in order to avoid losing the global geopolitical competition
with their great rival.
The Cold War had its ugly excesses and its fiascos—
Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs, for example—
but it also set certain limits on American politics and society.
We just had to look across at the Iron Curtain and the evil empire behind it—
or take part in one of those nuclear bomb drills
in the basements of our elementary schools—
to know that we were living in a world defined by
the struggle for supremacy between two nuclear-armed superpowers.
That fact shaped both the content of our politics
and the prevailing attitude of our leaders and citizens,
which was one of constant vigilance.
We didn’t always read the world correctly,
but we paid close attention to every major trend beyond our borders.

[The issues these authors allude to here are isolationism versus internationalism,
and internal development versus trying to solve all the world's problems.]

Americans had just seen totalitarian powers
conquer large swaths of the world,
threatening free societies with a return to the Dark Ages.
The nations had had to sacrifice mightily to reverse these conquests.
The Cold War that followed imposed its own special form of discipline.
If we flinched, we risked being overwhelmed by communism,
if we became trigger-happy, we risked a nuclear war.
For all these reasons, it was a serious, sober time.

Section 2.1
Anybody Around Here Know How to Write a Telegram?

Then that wall in Berlin came down.
And like flowers in spring,
up sprouted a garden full of rosy American assumptions about the future.
[So some assumed.
But there were other skeptical and worried voices,
among them, that of Patrick Buchanan,
who wrote in a symposium in The National Interest (Spring, 1990) “America First—and Second, and Third”,
and Pat Choate in the conclusion to Agents of Influence, published in 1990
(see especially the final two paragraphs of the book, on civic virtue).]

Is it any wonder?
The outcome of the global conflict
eliminated what had loomed for two generations
as by far the most menacing challenge the country had faced:
the economic, political, and military threat
from the Soviet Union and international communism.
Though no formal ceremony of surrender took place
and there was no joyous ticker-tape parade for returning servicemen and women as after World War II,
it felt like a huge military victory for the United States and its allies.
In some ways, it was.
Like Germany after the two world wars of the twentieth century,
the losing power, the Soviet Union, gave up territory
and changed its form of government
to bring it in line with the governments of the victors.
So, watching on CNN
as people in the formerly communist states toppled statues of Lenin,
it was natural for us to relax, to be less serious,
and to assume that the need for urgent and sustained collective action
had passed.

[That is certainly true.
But to assert that that is sufficient to explain
the adoption of the social, business, and governmental policies
(advocated by such as Friedman, Krugman, Milton Friedman, and Alan Greenspan)
which, while they have disproportionately benefited the Jewish community
by, among other things, grossly expanding and enriching
the disproportionately Jewish medical, financial, and educational segments of the the American economy,
have so adversely affected the larger body politic,
is certainly not true.]

We could have used another Long Telegram.
While the end of the Cold War was certainly a victory,
it also presented us with a huge new challenge.
But at the time we just didn’t see it.

By helping to destroy communism,
we helped open the way for two billion more people to live like us:
two billion more people with their own versions of the American dream,
two billion more people practicing capitalism,
two billion more people with half a century of pent-up aspirations
to like Americans and work like Americans and consume like Americans.
[Contrary to the assertion by these two conmen that
“no one warned us” about the implications of all this,
Sir James Goldsmith published a book largely about this subject in 1994,
The Trap.]

The rest of the world looked at the victors in the Cold War and said,
“We want to live the way they do.”
[Actually, the East Asians, notably the Chinese and Japanese,
are notable for having a much higher savings rate than recent America.
China, in particular, has restrained consumption and encouraged savings
by a variety of methods described by Eamonn Fingleton in In the Jaws of the Dragon.]

The end of communism dramatically accelerated the process of globalization,
which removed many of the barriers to economic competition.
Globalization would turn out to be a blessing
for international stability and global growth [i.e., jobs for non-Americans].
But it enabled so many more of those “new Americans” [Huh? What a Jew view.]
to compete for capital and jobs with the Americans living in America.
In economic terms, this meant that Americans
had to run even faster—that is, work harder—
just to stay in place.

[Now just a minute.
There were many reasons why
American workers were non-competitive with the non-American workforce
such as:
the bloated welfare state which both American and Europe had erected
during their time of monopoly over advanced industrial technology,
the high compensation the workers had won during that time,
and the willingness of the corporate bosses and financial sector
to transfer that technology to the Third World.
In other words, the high standard of living
which both American and Europe enjoyed during their time of industrial dominance
was based on conditions which no longer obtained.
The problem now is how to adopt to that new era,
without simply letting the elite run off with all the spoils from globalization.]

At the end of the Cold War,
America resembled a cross-country runner
who had won his national championship year after year,
but this time the judge handed him the trophy and said,
You will never compete in our national championship again.
From now on you will have to race in the Olympics,
against the best in the world—
every day, forever.”

[Again, the issue is not just quality, as they would have it.
Other issues include the willingness
to accept low compensation in the near term in order to obtain
greater prosperity in the long term.]

We didn’t fully grasp what was happening, so we did not respond appropriately.
Over time we relaxed, underinvested, and lived in the moment
just when we needed to
study harder, save more, rebuild our infrastructure,
and make our country more open and attractive to foreign talent.
[And instead of doing all that, what did we do instead?
We listened to and obeyed the demands of the New York Times editorial board
to spend more, more, more on the elderly, on healthcare,
and directing our educators to try and close the racial achievement gap.]

Losing one’s primary competitor can be problematic.
What would the New York Yankees be
without the Boston Red Sox, or Alabama without Auburn?
When the West won the Cold War,
America lost the rival that had kept us
sharp, outwardly focused, and serious about nation-building at home—
because offering a successful alternative to communism for the whole world to see
was crucial to our Cold War strategy.
[Note how they slip in “outwardly focused” as one of their desiderata.

As to what America’s goal should be,
do these men think America had no goals,
or was not successful by almost any measure,
before it began its engagement in world wars in 1917, 1941,
and during the Cold War?
During the period of WASP domination of politics and culture,
I think America was quite successful economically,
e.g., in building and maintaining its infrastructure.]

In coastal China, India, and Brazil, meanwhile,
the economic barriers had begun coming down a decade earlier.
The Chinese were not like citizens of the old Soviet Union,
where, as the saying went,
the people pretended to work and the government pretended to pay them.
No, they were like us.
They had a powerful work ethic and huge pent-up aspirations for prosperity—
like a champagne bottle that had been shaken for fifty years
and now was about to have its cork removed.
You didn’t want to be in the way of that cork.
[Friedman certainly does not lack for metaphors!]
Moreover, in parallel with the end of the Cold War,
technology was flattening the global economic playing field,
reducing the advantages of the people in developed countries such as the United States,
while empowering those in the developing ones.
The pace of global change accelerated
to a speed faster than any we had seen before.
It took us Americans some time to appreciate that
while many of our new competitors were low-wage, low-skilled workers,
for the first time a growing number, particularly in Asia,
were low-wage, high-skilled workers.

[Not true for all Americans.
I am quite sure that the leaders of the U.S. Navy in World War II
had nothing but the highest respect for the technological capabilities of the Japanese,
as demonstrated by their Zero fighter,
high quality optics in their surface warships,
very effective Long Lance torpedo,
and general high quality of their warships (e.g., or general IJN).]

We knew all about cheap labor,
but we had never had to deal with cheap genius—at scale.
Our historical reference point had always been Europe.
The failure to understand that we were living in a new world and to adopt to it
was a colossal and costly American mistake.

To be sure, the two decades following the Cold War
were an extraordinarily productive period for some Americans
and some sectors of the American economy.
This was the era of the revolution in information technology,
which began in the United States and spread around the world.
It made some Americans wealthy
and gave all Americans greater access to
information, entertainment, and one another—and to the rest of the world as well—
than ever before.
It really was revolutionary.
But it posed a formidable challenge to Americans
and contributed to our failure as a country
to cope effectively with its consequences.
That failure had its roots in what we can now see as American overconfidence.

“It was a totally lethal combination of cockiness and complacency,”
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told us.
“We were the king of the world.
But we lost our way.
We rested on our laurels ...
we kept telling ourselves all about what we did yesterday and living in the past.
We are like the forty-year-old who keeps talking about
what a great high school football player he was.”
It is this dangerous complacency that produced
the potholes, loose door handles, and protracted escalator outages
of twenty-first-century America.
[Actually, it is not complacency but the extent to which
the budgets of America’s institutions have been diverted into health care
which has forced spending on infrastructure to be lessened to compensate.]

America’s difficulties with infrastructure are the least of our problems.

Section 2.2
The Big Four

And that brings us to the core argument of this book.
The end of the Cold War, in fact, ushered in a new era
that poses four major challenges for America.
These are:
  1. how to adopt to globalization,
  2. how to adjust to the information technology (IT) revolution,
  3. how to cope with the large and soaring budget deficits
    stemming from the growing demands on government at every level, and
  4. how to manage a world of both rising energy consumption
    and rising climate threats.
[Numbers added by author of this blog.]
These four challenges, and who we meet them, will define America’s future.

The essence of globalization is
the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital
across national borders.
It expanded dramatically because of
the remarkable economic success of the free-market economies of the West,
states that traded and invested heavily among themselves.
[That’s really a dramatic misstatement.
It expanded dramatically because the people who control the economy
wanted for it to expand.
There was nothing inevitable about it,
any more than the U.S. passing the NAFTA treaty, joining the WTO,
and supporting China joining the WTO were inevitable,
rather than deliberate choices of the U.S. governing elite and U.S. government.]

Other countries, observing this success,
decided to follow the Western pattern.
China, other countries in East and Southeast Asia, India, Latin America, and formerly communist Europe
all entered the globalized economy.
Americans did not fully grasp the implications of globalization becoming—
if we can put it this way—even more global,
in particular because we thought we had seen it all before.

All the talk about China is likely to give any American over the age of forty
a sense of déjà vu.
After all, we faced a similar challenge from Japan in the 1980s.
It ended with America still rising and Japan declining.
It is tempting to believe that China today is just a big Japan.

[Japan declining?
The U.S. should have the same problem.
The U.S. still runs a huge trade deficit with Japan, in 2011 about $63G !
What a crock it is that these two men avoid pointing that out.
What shysters!

It is incredible how indifferent many in the "elite" are to these trade deficits.]

Unfortunately for us,
China and the expansion of globalization,
to which its remarkable growth is partly due,
are far more disruptive than that.
Japan threatened one American city, Detroit,
and two American industries, cars and consumer electronics
[Evidently these men either don’t care about or are ignorant of
Japan’s domination of many of the crucial products and technologies
necessary for the “information technology” revolution about which they do care,
as described in Chapter Five of Eamonn Fingleton’s In Praise of Hard Industries.]

China—and globalization more broadly—
challenges every town in America and every industry.
China, India, Brazil, Israel, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Chile, and Switzerland
(and the list could go on and on)
pose a huge challenge to America because of
the integration of computing, telecommunications, the World Wide Web, and free markets.
Japan was a tornado that blew through during the Cold War.
China and globalization are a category-5 hurricane
that will never move out to sea in the post-Cold War world.

Charles Vest, the former president of MIT, observed that
back in the 1970s and 1980s,
once we realized the formidable challenge posed by Japan,
“we took the painful steps that were required to get back in the game.
We analyzed, repositioned, persevered, and emerged stronger.
We did it.
In that case, the ‘we’ who achieved this was U.S. industry.”
But now something much more comprehensive is required.

“This time around,” said Vest,
“it requires a public awakening, establishment of political will,
resetting of priorities, sacrifice for the future,
and an alliance of governments, businesses, and citizens.
It requires truth-telling, sensible investment, a rebirth of civility,
and a cessation by both political and corporate leaders of pandering to our baser instincts.
Engineering, education, science, and technology
are clearly within the core of what has to be done.
After all, this is the knowledge age.
The United States cannot prosper based on
low wages, geographic isolation, or military might.
We can prosper only based on brainpower:
properly prepared and properly applied brainpower.”


Chapter Three
Ignoring Our History

On January 5, 2011, the opening day of the 112th Congress, the House of Representatives began its activities with a reading of the Constitution of the United States.
The idea originated with the Tea Party, a grassroots movement whose support for Republican candidates in the 2010 election had helped sweep them to victory, giving the GOP control of the House.
The members of the new majority wanted to drive home the point that they had come to Washington to enforce limits on both the spending and the general powers of the federal government—which they believed had gone far beyond the powers granted to it in the Constitution.
Historians said it was the first time the Constitution, completed in 1787, was read in its entirety on the House floor.

The Constitution has served as the framework of American political and economic life for nearly 225 years, a span of time in which the United States has grown from a series of small cities, towns, villages, and farms along the eastern seaboard to a superpower of continental dimensions with the largest economy in the world.
For America’s remarkable history, the Constitution deserves a large share of the credit.

But even reverence for the Constitution can be taken too far.
Former congressman Bob Inglis, a conservative Republican from South Carolina who lost his party’s 2010 primary to a Tea Party-sponsored opponent, told us about an experience he had speaking to members of that group at the main branch of the Greenville, South Carolina, county library several weeks before the primary.
“About halfway into the hour and a half program, a middle-aged fellow stood up to ask his question,”
Inglis said.
“He identified himself as a night watchman/security guard.
Pulling a copy of the Constitution out of his shirt pocket and waving it in the air, he asked me, ‘yes or no,’ if I would vote to eliminate all case law and go back to just ‘this’—the Constitution,”

[The colors are added in the following paragraph.]
“ ‘No,’ I replied.
The crowd hissed and the night watchman shook his head in disgust.
‘well, think about it.’
Pulling my cell phone out of its holster, I held it up and said,
‘The Constitution says nothing about cell phones, but there are lots of cases and some statutes that govern the use of these things.
If we eliminated all case law, we wouldn’t have these cell phones.’
I went on to explain that without Judge Green’s decision in the AT&T breakup we might not have any cell phones, and we’d still be paying outrageous rates for long-distance calls.”
Inglis said that his questioner clearly was not impressed or persuaded.

The Constitution’s framers themselves knew that the document they had produced—through protracted and sometimes bitter negotiations—was necessary but not sufficient to secure the future of the country they had founded.
And it certainly hasn’t been the only shaper of America’s destiny.
We have always relied on something more: not a single document but a set of practices for prosperity that began with our founding and has been updated and applied over and over again.
We call it “the American formula.”
Although we think its importance should be obvious, it is not obvious today.
America has lost sight of this traditional source of strength precisely when we should have been upgrading it.
There is no chance—none—that America can address the great challenges it now faces without renewing, refreshing, and reinvesting in its formula.
And yet this formula has been allowed to erode in almost every aspect for the last two decades.

It is in particular jeopardy now because America will have to reduce public expenditure sharply in the years ahead to address the government’s soaring deficits.
In an era of retrenchment it will be all too easy to underinvest in our traditional, time-tested formula.
We will do this at our peril.
A brief history of the American formula makes clear why this is so.

Section 3.1
The Five Pillars of Prosperity

There is a business adage that says,
“You win in the turns.”
That is, when there are big shifts in the marketplace, the best companies gain market share and put distance between themselves and their competitors because they have the vision and flexibility to spot tectonic change and leap ahead when it occurs, while others are simply overwhelmed.
They have, that is, a formula for success.
Countries face similar challenges.
[Compare the frequent comment of Friedman’s peer New York Times columnist Paul Krugman: “Countries don’t compete.
Countries have no bottom line, only corporations do.”]

If America were a company,
Wall Street analysts would say that it has a remarkable track record.
It has thrived at every turning point in its history—with every change in technology and social norms,
America built the world’s most vibrant economy and democracy precisely because, in every historical turn since its founding, it has applied its own particular formula for prosperity.

That formula consists of five pillars that together constitute the country’s own version of a partnership between the public and private sectors to foster economic growth.
The first pillar is providing public education for more and more Americans.
As technology has improved, the country has prepared people to exploit new inventions—from cotton gins, to steamships, to assembly lines, to laptops, to the Internet.

The second pillar is the building and continual modernizing of our infrastructure—roads, bridges, airports, bandwidth, fiber-optic lines, and wireless networks—so that American workers and firms can communicate and collaborate effectively and deliver their goods and services swiftly and cheaply to their destinations.
[Tellingly, their infrastructure inventory is limited to transportation and communication.
It omits such essential public services as water and sewer systems]

Since the building of the Erie Canal between 1817 and 1825, governments at every level in the United States have financed the infrastructure necessary for commerce to flourish.
[How about necessary for civilized life to continue?]

The third pillar involves, with a few periods of exception [e.g., 1924-1965], keeping America’s doors to immigration open so that we are constantly adding both the low-skilled but high-aspiring immigrants who keep American society energized [there’s some real sugar-coating going on here!] and the best minds in the world to enrich our universities, start new companies, and engineer new breakthroughs from medicine to manufacturing.

[I can tell you with confidence, that’s not the rationale for immigration that I heard in the 1950s.
Then ‘opening America’s door’ was presented as a favor to the immigrants, allowing them to escape more repressive and less mobility-oriented regimes.
It certainly was not sold as a necessity to the American economy.
Indeed, President Eisenhower in 1954 called the American government to engage in “Operation Wetback” (his term, and the official term at the time, but I suspect not very politically correct in the 2000s).
The point is, that America in the 1950s most definitely did not regard immigration as an economic necessity, without any harm whatsoever to the economy.]

The fourth pillar is government support for basic research and development, which not only increases the store of human knowledge by pushing out the frontiers of basic chemistry, biology, and physics but also spawns new products and processes that have enriched American entrepreneurs and workers.
For the American economy to keep growing in an information age in which innovation will have a greater economic importance than ever before, research on every front will be more vital than ever before.

The fifth pillar is the implementation of necessary regulations on private economic activity.
This includes safeguards against financial collapse and environmental destruction, as well as regulations and incentives that encourage capital to flow to America, lead innovators to flock to this country to lodge their patents and intellectual property—because they know these things will be protected—and inspire small businesses and venture capitalists to start up in America.

Throughout our history, these five pillars have made it possible for Americans to apply their individual energies, their talents, and their entrepreneurial drive to make themselves, and their country, richer and more powerful.
Taken together, the five make up a uniquely American formula for prosperity, one in which the government creates the foundations for the risk-taking and innovation delivered by the private sector.
This formula has made possible America’s two centuries of increases in living standards.
It is what has made America the world’s greatest magnet for dreamers everywhere.

Section 3.2
The Formula Builders

For nearly 235 years,
America has managed to produce leaders
who could sense that we were in a major turn,
frame the challenges involved so that
people could understand what was happening,
and then rally the public to adopt the policies needed
to upgrade the American formula to meet the challenges.
Here is a sample of the formula builders.

The father of America’s public-private partnership was
the nation’s first secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton saw the need for a strong and active although limited government.
We now reside, as the biographer Ron Chernow, put it,
“in the bustling world of trade, industry, stock markets, and banks
that Hamilton envisioned.”
He established a budget and tax system, a funded debt,
a customs service, and a coast guard.
He encouraged manufacturing and, out of office,
drew up plans for the kind of peacetime army
that the United States did not field until after World War II.
Although he did not live to see it develop,
the five-part formula for a public-private partnership
that has evolved in the United States over the years
descends directly from Hamilton’s vision,
at the end of the eighteenth century,
of both the character of the country
and the role of its government as an enabler of prosperity.

[Alexander Hamilton was, in reality,
a major proponent of a strong system of tariffs to protect American industry.
For a description of this, see
Section 2.1, The Development of the American System
of Clyde Prestowitz’s The Betrayal of American Prosperity.]


Chapter Thirteen

As we peer into society’s future,
we—you and I, and our government—
must avoid the impulse to live only for today,
plundering, for our own ease and convenience,
the precious resources of tomorrow.
We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren
without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.
— President Dwight David Eisenhower’s Farewell Address,
January 19, 1961

Collective action on behalf of the public good, after all,
had been necessary for survival,
and it was by fighting the Depression, winning World War II,
and containing the Soviet Union—
by doing big, hard things together—
that the Greatest Generation achieved remarkable success.

[My, my.
One wonders how America became the world’s manufacturing leader
even before “the Greatest Generation.”
Was that not a “remarkable success”?]

As the Cold War ended and that generation started retiring,
it was replaced in positions of leadership by the baby boom generation
(to which we, the authors, belong):
the cohort of seventy-eight million Americans born between 1946 and 1964.
We have to admit that the conduct of our own generation,
in contrast to that of our parents,
has been more than a little selfish, pampered,
and at times, reckless and irresponsible.

Unscathed by great disruptions,
unburdened by the necessity of great sacrifice,
unpressured by the daily effort of confronting a huge global predator
[Like the baby boom generation had no role in that confrontation?
Some of us, and I think it is not unfair to use the word “us” there, certainly did.
Some of us actually went through ROTC and served in the U.S. military.]

—and in addition,
hurried and besotted by new technologies and electronic markets
that have encouraged short-term thinking—
the baby boom generation has in too many cases
displayed too little fiscal prudence
Just who is it who made Social Security and Medicare
the “third rails” of American politics?
Not the baby boom, pals.
It was the senior citizens who retired before 2012 who have, up through 2012,
block voted against any attempt to reduce their benefits.
And how about that war with Iraq?
Who pushed for that?
The baby boom en masse?
No, it sure looked to me like it was the neocons who pushed for that war,
including the New York Times and one Thomas L. Friedman.
And for keeping the war in Afghanistan going?
Does the continued attention to the state of the women of Afghanistan
evidenced by the reporting of the New York Times
have any effect on inhibiting a compromise with the Taliban
which would, yes, sell out the Afghan feminists,
but, in Friedman and Mandelbaum’s phrase,
be more “fiscally prudent” for the United States?
In other words,
how much of the cost in blood and treasure of the Afghan conflict
can properly be assigned to the feminists, wherever and whoever they are,
rather than the entire baby boom?
And as for the vast overspending on healthcare,
to many the media plays a role in pushing that,
by running “bleeding heart” reporting rather than “green eyeshade” journalism
on this subject.
Although, thankfully, the New York Times has run some excellent articles on the financial aspect.]
too much political partisanship, and too short a sense of history
[by the way, Tom, since you’re such a history buff,
how come the word “tariff” does not appear in the index?
Is it news to you that the U.S., up until the Kennedy round of trade talks,
was a protectionist nation?
See Patrick Buchanan’s The Great Betrayal for extensive documentation on this.]

to engage in the collective nation-building at home
that America badly needs today.

A well-functioning political system must be rooted in something deeper than itself:
a culture, which is most vividly expressed through certain values.
We believe that
as the boomer generation has assumed a dominant place in American society,
the country has strayed from three of the core values
on which American greatness depended in the past.

[If you guess Friedman and Mandelbaum
make no mention of America’s Christian heritage,
exemplified by such acts as mandatory prayer in public school,
you guess right.
And when identifying those who have “assumed a dominant place in American society”,
how about noting the real and vast rise in Jewish wealth, power, and influence
in the post-World War II era?]

The first of these changes involves
a shift from long-term investment and delayed gratification,
which were characteristic of the Greatest Generation

[and also of the Protestant ethic],
to short-term gratification and get-it-now-while-you-can thinking,
which alas is typical of the baby boom generation.

The second change is
the loss of confidence in our institutions
and in the authority of their leaders across the society.

Related to this is a shift in how this society sees people in authority,
whether politicians or scientific experts—
a shift from healthy skepticism
to cynical suspension of everything and everyone.
This shift makes generating the kind of collective action we need
to solve our big problems and update our traditional formula for prosperity
that much more difficult.

The third shift in values is
a weakening of our sense of shared national purpose,
which propelled us in—and was reinforced by—
the struggle against fascism in World War II and against communism in the Cold War.
[Think a common religion might have had anything to do with
that shared sense of purpose?]

As we have emphasized, although the Cold War had its dangers and excesses,
and although no one should wish for its return,
it did bring one benefit,
whose importance becomes all the clearer in hindsight:
It fostered a feeling of American solidarity,
a shared sense of the national interest,
as well as a seriousness about governance,
which could rally the country to do important and constructive things
at home and abroad.

[It seems to me these men have cause and effect reversed,
or less formally they have the tail wagging the dog.
America had a common sense of purpose not because we had a common enemy,
but because we indeed had so much in common,
both religiously and ethnically.
Perhaps Friedman and Mandelbaum are too young to remember
how the Soviet Union was described as being under “Godless communism”,
which was opposed by
“the three great monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam”.
On the other hand, the ACLU worked within America, with great success,
precisely to undermine and subvert that common religion
which helped to hold America together,
to the point now where singing Christmas carols in public schools
is now illegal in some (all?) jurisdictions.

As to the newness of these observations,
take a look at the final two paragraphs of Agents of Influence by Pat Choate, published in 1990,
or if you have time, its entire conclusion.]


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