How Much Ruin Do We Have Left?

Any nation’s well-being—as Americans know from their own illustrious history—hinges on only a few factors. Its prosperity, freedom, and stability depend on its constitutional and political stability.

A secure currency and financial order are also essential, as is a strong military.

Perhaps most important, however, is a first-rate, inductive educational system. Of course, nothing is possible without general social calm, often dependent on a reverence for the past, along with present secure borders. 

The ability to produce or easily acquire food, fuel, and key natural resources ensures a nation’s independence and autonomy.  

Unfortunately in the last few months all of those centuries-old reasons to be confident in American strength and resiliency have now been put into doubt. 

The challenge is not just enemies abroad such as China, Russia, North Korea, or Iran. Instead, the greater problem lies within us—as we erode the inherited and acquired strengths that made us singular, both materially and spiritually.  

We are now witnessing a concentrated effort to alter the constitutional order and centuries of custom and tradition. Only that way, the Left believes, can it retain its transient power given the unpopularity of most of its current agenda.

The bedrock of a nation is its institutions. Yet, the 233-year old Electoral College and the Constitution’s emphasis on individual states establishing voting laws are under assault. 

Already gone is the 176-year old tradition of a pivotal November Election Day. 

The 152-year old nine-member Supreme Court, the 170-year old Senate filibuster, and the 62-year old idea of a 50-state union are all targeted by the New Democratic Party. 

Given that the past presidential election was contested, that Democratic congressional majorities are minuscule, and that the Supreme Court is unsympathetic, the Left seeks to change the rules to stay in power rather than to adjust its unpopular policies.

We are running up vast annual multitrillion-dollar deficits as we race to a $30 trillion national debt. More worrisome, our elites justify the spending by sophistries that debt is either irrelevant, or that inflation and stagflation are relics of the past—even as prices are now soaring.

The military—after costly strategic stagnation in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya—is now turning on its own. Some of the politicized top brass seem more worried about the politics of their own soldiers than the dangers of foreign militaries.

Our public schools and colleges are systematically downplaying meritocratic curricula and substituting in their places ideological, racial, and cultural litmus tests. Admissions now often hinge as much on race, gender, and ethnicity than quantifiable achievement. The First and Fifth Amendments—free speech and due process—have vanished from most college campuses.

2020 saw the most destructive riots in American history. Yet very few of the looters, arsonists, and rioters were ever indicted. Most were never arrested. 

Whether government arrests violent protesters, or those assembling en masse and breaking quarantines, is contingent on their ideology. 

Private monopolies that control most written communications of Americans censor expression entirely on the basis of politics.

Modern Jacobins seek to erase our founding in 1776. Mobs tear down statuary and deface monuments with impunity. There is no consistent rhyme or reason why the names of schools, institutions, and streets are erased overnight—except the relative dangers of a nihilistic electronic mob.  

Our officials at the Justice Department and the United Nations either will not or cannot defend the history and reputation of their own homeland.

Record natural gas and oil production had formerly given the public affordable heating, cooling, and transportation. Self-sufficiency in energy made the United States exempt from worries over Mideast wars or foreign oil embargos. The more we produced our own natural gas, the cleaner became our air and the smaller our collective carbon footprint. 

Yet in just 100 days, energy prices have soared. The Left has canceled pipelines and limited energy leasing on federal lands—with promises to all but end our own gas and oil independence in just a few years. 

In the drought-stricken West, key irrigation water is still being diverted from farms to the ocean. Billions of dollars in farm aid are doled out on the basis of race. And promised new regulations and estate taxes may well kill off what’s left of family farms.

Adam Smith said of successful societies that they have a lot of “ruin” in them. He meant that a dissolute, leisured, and ahistorical generation has to waste a lot of its generous inherited wealth before it runs out.

We are learning how much will soon be left of what our ancestors bequeathed. And the rest of the world is watching—some with glee, others with horror.

About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won and The Case for Trump.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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