Pat Buchanan's "Death of the West" identifies four "clear and present dangers" to the future health of the western world. These are: 1) a dying population; 2) mass immigration; 3) rise of an anti-Western culture; and 4) the breakup of nations and rise of world government.
Looking at how these apply to the United States, where I have lived my whole life, I agree with Buchanan's conclusion but not his reasoning used to reach that conclusion. It is clear that the U.S. is in serious decline, and the evidence for this shows up almost everywhere one looks these days. There is an epidemic of obesity in this country. No country can remain strong when its population is so unhealthy. Our health care system continues to sink in comparison to other countries. We spend twice as much on health care, with results that by any measure put us only about 30th compared to other developed countries.
Our national government is completely dysfunctional, unable any longer to govern. We spend more on the military than the next 12 or 13 countries combined! We are addicted to military intervention in other sovereign countries, even though we would never tolerate another country doing the same to us. We seem unable to live within our means, both on a personal level and on a governmental level. The federal deficit still runs to unheard-of amounts, meaning our national debt is skyrocketing yearly.
On a personal level, our savings rate has become negative for the first time in history. We seem unable to grasp the concept of deferred gratification; rather, we insist on having it all immediately. We evaluate ideas and programs and policies not on the basis of long-term benefit, but on the basis of what the immediate effect is of said plans.
We incarcerate far more of our citizens than any other country in the world, contributing to the financial crisis we face. Our citizens are 20 times more likely than those in other developed countries to face gun violence, due to the epidemic of guns and gun-related violence in this country. We seem unable to do anything about this epidemic, even though 90% of us believe that better background checks are needed for someone buying a firearm.
We have become a nation of whiners, rather than a nation of doers. It used to be that when we suffered a setback, we would resolve to work harder and pull ourselves out of the difficulties we face. Now, we look for someone to blame, even to sue. (A Little League coach just sued one of his players for throwing his helmet in celebration of scoring a game-winning run.)
These are the kinds of reasons explaining America's decline, not the xenophobic and homophobic reasons advanced by Buchanan. Buchanan says that the dying population is the "most dangerous" of his four cited dangers. And yet, he is opposed to allowing the immigration levels which would ameliorate the problem of the low birthrate. He is, however, strongly opposed to abortion and homosexuality, and part of the reason for his opposition is that these two issues contribute to the dying population problem.
Buchanan abhors what he calls the "de-Christianizing" of America. He is unable to see the wisdom of the separation of church and state, and it is obvious he thinks the government should actively promote Christianity. This is an insidious notion in and of itself. However, the true problem with Buchanan's position here is that it is not Christianity in general which he espouses; rather, it is a very narrow brand of fundamentalist and socially conservative Christianity, a brand which condemns birth control, abortion, divorce, homosexuality, feminism, artistic freedom, and the lack of prayer and Christian symbols in schools.
The tragedy of this misguided book is that people who read it might be so turned off that they will then overlook Buchanan's very excellent books on foreign policy. "Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War", and "Where the Right Went Wrong" are exceptionally perceptive books, full of meticulous research and well-reasoned criticisms of U.S. war policy. Readers should skip "The Death of the West" and instead should immerse themselves in these other two books.
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