American Inertia

 

 

” I’ve borrowed Kathy Shaidle’s headline because I think that sums up John Derbyshire’s column better than the one he and his editors chose: “The Impotent Eagle.” It’s not that we are incapable of doing anything, it’s that we can’t rouse ourselves to do anything.

  John was my colleague at National Review for many years, where I regarded him as a gloomier version of me, and he regarded me as a hopeless Pollyanna. Nevertheless, much of what he writes today will be familiar to readers of both After America and The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, personally autographed copies of which make kind and thoughtful Christmas presents and really aren’t as suicidally depressing as you might think. Derb’s mournful refrain was taken from a throwaway line a correspondent made re immigration:

Replied my friend:

‘I think that withdrawing birthright citizenship from the children of illegals would be a good move, and highly appropriate. I don’t see why we couldn’t do it going forward. But of course we won’t, because we can’t do anything.’

It was that closing phrase that stuck in my mind. We can’t do anything. It’s so damn true.

   John focuses on the big headlines: the Afghan war… immigration… law enforcement in Ferguson… America can’t win wars, enforce its borders, prevent looting. He could have added a bazillion others: build a flood barrier that prevents one measly not-so-Superstorm Sandy ruining people’s lives for years after… replace the dingy decrepit dump of LaGuardia with an airport that isn’t a total embarrassment to one of the world’s great cities… upgrade the most primitive bank cards in the developed world… stiffen Republican spines to come up with plans for debt reduction that kick in before the middle of the century…

  But I’m increasingly struck by how “we can’t do anything” applies to all the small stuff, too. If you’ve ever spent hours on the phone going round in circles with your health insurer over some nothing little thing, you’ll be aware that “we can’t do anything” is not a monopoly of the big geopolitical strategists. The whole joint seems to be seizing up, and it bothers me. Americans now have less health-care freedom and less banking freedom than many Continental Europeans. But let’s not get all comparative about this. In absolute terms – and certainly in comparison with the America that was – too much of daily life has become over-complicated and over-regulated and over-sclerotic, and too many people are content to string along with it. “

 

Mr Steyn’s piece is , of course , the mandatory read of the day