The Decadent Society

How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

A few months back, I found myself embroiled in a debate over at Granite Grok with an earnest Progressive who insisted that "living standards in this country have declined for the vast majority since 1980." Apparently a Reagan hater. They tend to view 1980, specifically November 1980, as the date America began its long slow slide into the toilet.

I think I got the better of that mini-debate. (Life expectancy: up since 1980; median income: up; unemployment: down; inflation: way down; poverty rate: down; …) But my adversary would have done better if he had a copy of this Ross Douthat book. Ross believes that we are slipping into decadence. And not just the US of A, but pretty much your entire furshlugginer Western Civilization as a whole. Oh well, fun while it lasted.

Ross doesn't have a particular political axe to grind, because the signs are everywhere, trends have been accumulating for decades. Manned space exploration has gotten boring, since it's running up against barriers of cost and technology. Actual economic growth shows signs of stalling out. Dynamism, research, entrepreneurship are down. Population growth is off. Politicians are more concerned with power grabs and partisan gains than actually working to find common ground. (When was the last innovative government program, anyway?) Religious participation is down.

And media seems to be recycling itself. Yeah, the new movie I most want to see is… the new James Bond flick. I saw the first one in 1962, thanks very much.

There are two ways things could end. Decadence might be sustainable! Good news for folks already in comfortable positions, poised to grab their share of a static economic pie. Not great news for people stuck at the bottom. Presumably, in order for the status quo to be "sustainable" their resentments will have to be managed. Maybe more drugs could be legalized.

Or something interesting could happen. Here, Ross advances possible scenarios, which are less convincing, but he could be right. An Africa-driven renaissance, maybe? A religious revival: Islam, Christianity, or…

Anyway, a thought-provoking book, by one of the New York Times pet conservatives. (He's over here in this cage…)

Last Modified 2024-01-23 2:06 PM EDT