The 'End of America?' Not Exactly

Historian Thomas Madden has a tonic of a piece in the Wall Street Journal today, criticizing all those books that have been published the last few years on how America is in decline or even dying.

Madden surveys the world and offers a common sense antidote to the poisonous idea that America
is finished:

So why all the decline theorists?

Here's my theory: Prosperity and security are boring. Nobody wants to read about them. The same phenomenon occurred in ancient Rome, the last state to acquire such a firm hegemony. By the second century B.C., Roman citizens were affluent and their empire no longer had any serious rivals. With the dangers past and the money rolling in, they developed a taste for jeremiads. If you had a stylus, ink and scroll you could hardly go broke telling the Romans their empire, culture and way of life were yesterday's news.

Polybius blamed pandering politicians, who, he predicted, would transform the noble Republic into mob rule. Sallust claimed that Rome's vicious political parties had "torn the Republic asunder." Livy wrote his entire "History of Rome" just so that his fellow citizens could "follow the decay of the national character . . . until it reaches these days in which we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies."

The Romans may have been unquestioned masters of their world, but they sure didn't like reading about it. And when the empire actually did start its decline in the third century A.D., criticisms and predictions of collapse became noticeably thinner on the ground.

Madden quips: "Of course America could be falling, but I have my doubts. For one thing, the book market is too strong."

Read the whole thing.
Historian Thomas Madden has a tonic of a piece in the Wall Street Journal today, criticizing all those books that have been published the last few years on how America is in decline or even dying.

Madden surveys the world and offers a common sense antidote to the poisonous idea that America
is finished:

So why all the decline theorists?

Here's my theory: Prosperity and security are boring. Nobody wants to read about them. The same phenomenon occurred in ancient Rome, the last state to acquire such a firm hegemony. By the second century B.C., Roman citizens were affluent and their empire no longer had any serious rivals. With the dangers past and the money rolling in, they developed a taste for jeremiads. If you had a stylus, ink and scroll you could hardly go broke telling the Romans their empire, culture and way of life were yesterday's news.

Polybius blamed pandering politicians, who, he predicted, would transform the noble Republic into mob rule. Sallust claimed that Rome's vicious political parties had "torn the Republic asunder." Livy wrote his entire "History of Rome" just so that his fellow citizens could "follow the decay of the national character . . . until it reaches these days in which we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies."

The Romans may have been unquestioned masters of their world, but they sure didn't like reading about it. And when the empire actually did start its decline in the third century A.D., criticisms and predictions of collapse became noticeably thinner on the ground.

Madden quips: "Of course America could be falling, but I have my doubts. For one thing, the book market is too strong."

Read the whole thing.