My stars, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I apologize for my absence, but there have been a great many things to attend to in the world of music-tech-policy-law. It’s been pretty much nonstop all summer, actually. But at least it keeps me distracted from all the gloom-and-doom.
Speaking of which, you’ve no doubt noticed that America is now officially an empire in decline. It’s not just me saying it, either (although if you check the record, I’ve been pretty consistent with this line since the late 1990s). Everyone from Christian Armageddonites to librul blog jockeys are weighing in on our nation’s waning.
One side sees it as a sign of Jesus’ imminent return and the other the logical result of three decades of laissez-faire tomfoolery, but the bottom line is eerily similar: America is well and fucked.
My favorite description comes from Glenn Greenwald of Salon, himself referring to a handful of other dire pronouncements:
It’s worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month — with a subheadline warning: “Back to Stone Age” — which describes how “paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue.” Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional. And it was announced this week that “Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free.”
Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights — or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State — that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability?
Paul Krugman of the New York Times spread some cheer in today’s edition:
How did we get to this point? It’s the logical consequence of three decades of antigovernment rhetoric, rhetoric that has convinced many voters that a dollar collected in taxes is always a dollar wasted, that the public sector can’t do anything right.
The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud — to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around. But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole.
Awesome! At times like these, it’s always good to check in with men of science, who are less susceptible to sky-is-falling rhetoric. What say you, Stephen Hawking?
Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill.
(Hint: he’s betting on ill).