Is American Becoming a Failed State?
Recently, a few political scientists have suggested that America may be the world’s first “greatest” or “strongest” failed state. “Greatest” or “strongest” refers to America’s economic and military might in the world. It is still the only “super-power.” China is closing in on being the other one. But America remains a powerful country theoretically capable of solving problems in the world (e.g., arguably the War in the Balkans and the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq). American currency is still the best in the world, used almost exclusively by some other countries (e.g., Liberia).
However, some political scientists and historians are beginning to suggest that America itself, internally, is heading into the status of a failed state. What is a failed state? One that is ungovernable. The claimed evidence is that the federal government is not capable of solving very serious problems within our borders. In other words, some things have gotten so out of hand that no government, federal or state, is capable of returning the population to law and order or simply a country where the common good is the highest goal of governing people and bodies.
Are things really that bad?
Let’s back up a moment and talk about two rival philosophies of government and the social order generally. One is the “open society” philosophy touted by philosophers such as Karl Popper and billionaire influencers such as George Soros. The general idea of “open society” is that there should be no particular worldview, religion, philosophy that is normative for all people in the society—except democracy and open society philosophy argues that true democracy is by nature pluralistic with all ideas and beliefs constantly open to critical examination and with total freedom for all ideas and beliefs to be touted, promoted and considered, rationally. Critics of open society philosophy argue that this idea contains an aporia because it itself is not open to critical examination; it is assumed to be true, best, and will naturally, eventually lead to persecution of some kind of those who openly oppose it (e.g., by advocating autocracy).
The other philosophy (excluding some that are not being widely advocated in America such as totalitarianism) does not have a name, so far as I am aware. However, believers in it are looking to societies such as contemporary Hungary led by Prime Minister Victor Orban who despises open society philosophy and argues that at least Hungary cannot be an open society and survive as an even relatively cogent, coherent, political community. He touts Hungarian culture, including Christianity, as the norm and foundation for public policy making. George Soros, of Hungarian roots, and Viktor Orban are clashing in Hungary and their clash is extending outward into the so-called “culture wars” everywhere but especially in Europe and North America. Orban has declared Hungary an “illiberal democracy.” In other words, not everything “goes.” The government will promote some ideas and discourage others. (So far as I have been able to discover, there are no political prisoners in Hungary, yet, but some NGOs are complaining loudly that Orban, with support from the president and parliament, is subtly persecuting them.)
One big practical difference between the two philosophies is immigration, especially of people with wildly different worldviews, religious beliefs, philosophies and cultural values and practices. An open society welcomes them. However, even the most vocal advocates of open society philosophy realize there have to be some limits to immigration but they should not be based on the five differences mentioned above. Orban, however, has openly declared that no more Muslims may emigrate to Hungary. The borders of Hungary are essentially closed with some special exceptions made.
Orban and those who agree with him believe it is possible to have democracy with free, multi-party elections without undermining the strength of Hungary’s traditional, cultural values, beliefs and practices. Critics of Orban and similar philosophies argue that this idea leads inevitably to autocracy if not totalitarianism. Without doubt Orban is an example of a “strong man” head of government. But he has been elected by the citizens of Hungary several times and the president of Hungary who is the head of state shows no signs of reigning him in. However, he and Hungary have fallen into at least a war of words with the EU of which Hungary is a member.
One argument offered by several political philosophers and scientists is that the open society idea CAN lead to a failed state. One argument offered by critics of the “Orban philosophy” is that an “illiberal democracy” is already on the way to totalitarianism.
Both philosophies seem to exist at the highest levels of government in the U.S. And to give geo-political examples, I have lived for long periods of time in both Minnesota and Texas. To me, IMHO, Minnesota is by-and-large led by moderate advocates of the open society philosophy which tends to thrive mainly in places where there are universities. To me, IMHO, Texas is by-and-large led by moderate advocates of the “Orban philosophy” although they do not use the language of “illiberal democracy.” Why do I say that about Texas? Many, many of the people I met and observed, including state government leaders, talk like they believe Texas is, always has been, and should remain forever a Christian state in which “Judeo-Christian values” are inseparable from the “American way” and the “Texas way.”
Now, back to my opening question. Is America becoming a failed state in spite of its powerful standing in the world? Again, the generally accepted definition of “failed state” is that it is ungovernable. That doesn’t necessarily mean there is no functioning government but that the government(s) is/are unable to solve extremely important internal problems such as: the increasing gap between the poor and the rich, homelessness, crime, employment, inflation, health care, environmental decay, the decay of the infrastuctures, police brutality, mass shootings, etc. The two “governing” parties seem unwilling to compromise for the sake of the common good; they seem mainly interesting in their own power—gaining it and keeping it.
I’ve lived long enough to remember when Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker of the House of Representative Tip O’Neill were good friends—at least in public—and seemingly worked together to solve big problems that, if left unsolved, would most seriously undermine the common good of the people of America. Most political observers now agree that America is now more divided than since the 1850s. People of both parties and both philosophies hate each other, lie about each other, actively seek to undermine each other for no particular reason other than their party differences. When government, even state government, such as the state in which I now live, cannot solve problems like frequent gun violence, mass homelessness, chaos and violence in public schools, aggressive begging on most busy street corners, increasing cost of residence soaring beyond what most working class people can afford, etc., etc., it appears to be failing.
Ideologues, demagogues, “true believers,” will in knee jerk fashion blame “the other party” or “liberals” or “conservatives” without stepping back and noticing that it doesn’t seem to matter who gets elected or appointed to lead, things just keep getting worse. What keeps getting worse? Well, inflation that at the grocery stores is much, much worse than the government reports. Many elderly people having to choose between eating and having their prescribed, life-saving medicine. The cost of life-saving medicines. Mass shootings by people who should not have such weapons due to mental illness or obvious threatening words and behaviors, crushing poverty alongside unbelievable wealth (billionaires increasing in numbers while children go hungry), human trafficking, massive illegal immigration, etc., etc. Do I need to mention America’s crumbling infrastructure? And a hundred other very serious problems that governments don’t seem to address with any success?
To come to the point, at least mine. Both governing parties have failed us Americans. They have both focused on issues that are not of real concern to people struggling to survive. We need a third and maybe a fourth strong party to enter into the political “fray” with no ideological or partisan commitments OTHER than to solve problems that are not being solved by the seemingly warring two parties.
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