Americans must avoid folly in November

What does it mean to act in folly?  Historian Barbara Tuchman defines folly as knowingly pursuing a policy contrary to a nation's own interests when clear alternatives are present and the said policies are viewed as counterproductive in their own time, not merely in hindsight (Tuchman, 1984).  In other words, it's not a tragic decision due to a lack of available information, but a tragic decision in spite of available information.  In Tuchman's own work, she lays out plenty of historical examples ranging from the ancient world to the Revolutionary War, through Vietnam, where "wooden-headedness" seemed to prevail in a maddening, yet at times comical, way.  Certainly, in modern 21st-century America, it would be thought we would have learned our lesson.  With public schools, a vast university system, and online sources that cater to all walks of life, certainly accurate, reliable information can be acquired and acted upon with reason?  Unfortunately, the following examples seem to demonstrate that we have yet to learn the lesson of folly at all.

As of October 2020, the U.S. national debt stands at a touch over 27 trillion dollars (Debt Clock, 2020).  A mere twenty years ago, it was at about $5.5 trillion.  Now, a nation acting in its self interest would immediately think, "We must cut spending, modify our debt plan, and begin reducing this enormous burden at once."  Not only is it ominous now in the present, but it looms over future generations as a tremendous economic burden.  The logical, and the moral, thing to do is to address it without delay, as history shows, without exception, what happens to any person, company, or nation that becomes overburdened with debt.  Taxation, inflation, and defaulting become serious economic threats.  Restructuring government and defense agencies, cutting unconstitutional spending, reforming social programs, and addressing foreign aid must all be on the table along with continued reform in reducing overburdening regulations and altering cumbersome trade policies to ensure businesses can start, return, and grow domestically to boost GDP.  Without a radical adjustment, out-of-control spending and debt will lead America to the same destination it has led all former Empires.

Along with the folly of unsustainable debt, another interconnected bit of insanity that lingers is the continued political push for various flavors of socialism.  Despite the already discussed national debt, there has been a legitimate push for legislation like the Green New Deal, which cost tens of trillions of dollars on top of already bloated spending.  The twentieth century's experiments in socialism, whether in autocratic Germany or Soviet Russia, alone should have proven its unimaginable, inevitable horror.  Robert Gellately's incredible study of Lenin's, Stalin's, and Hitler's use of socialist ideology to pursue their goals of power demonstrates how chilling such ideas are, how destructive, and how their implementation could result only in "lakes of blood" (Gellately, 2007).  The Greeks learned this the hard way, as did the Romans.  Should we be so absorbed with the present that we forget the past, all one has to do is look at the nation of Venezuela, who, by the last decade of the twentieth century, began to reach record levels of prosperity, now facing starvation and despotism just a couple of decades later.  Socialism has been defeated intellectually, politically, and economically — yet it endures.  Tuchman would grimace at such folly.

Another folly, perhaps more insidious and subtle, is the scope and power of government itself.  History is filled with examples of power corrupting, and absolute power corrupting absolutely.  Notably, as nations become increasingly autocratic, they tend to stagnate economically and morally, and then they begin to decay until they inevitably collapse.  It's one of the most basic truisms of history.  Tuchman notes, "[C]hief among the forces affecting political folly is lust for power, named by Tacitus as 'the most flagrant of passions'" (381).  What is known quite clearly is that free markets, small national-level governments, with a strong national defense provides the best possible opportunity for long-term growth, liberty, and prosperity.  Knowingly voting for those who seek to dramatically increase the power and scope of the national government — especially the far-left AOC-style ideologues — is the purest example of folly of all.  

Works Cited

Gellately, Robert. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe. Vintage, 2007.

Tuchman, Barbara. The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. Ballantine Books, 1984.

US National Debt Clock. USDebtClock, 2020. USDebtClock,

Image: Tom Arthur via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0.

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