Despite what is implied by some, America is a great country. The real question is for how long we will retain that greatness; we are, I think, already on the path of decline. However, we are still powerful and strong, and because other countries are also in decline or not much of a threat, we will stay dominate for many years to come. But eventually, if we are not careful, we could collapse just as the Soviet Union did. This would take a long, long time; my only point is that we are heading in that direction, not the other direction.
So why are we in a slow decline?
It is simple, a lack of reinvestment in many critical areas is allowing the deterioration of our nation’s infrastructure. So what is infrastructure? Infrastructure is all the critical things that allows a country to function, such as: roads, bridges, trains, buses, reservoirs and aquifers, water treatment plants, telephone wires, electrical wires, electricity plants, the ability to share electricity between states, airports, sewers, police departments, educational systems, health systems, financial systems, safety regulations, laws, the military and many other things.
It takes a lot to be a strong nation like the United States. Even a country with a free economy requires help from the government because free economies are created with laws and regulations. The government has to create laws and then enforce those laws to prevent individuals or businesses from taking advantage of each other. The government assures, or should assure, a level playing ground. Government also creates roads and a communication structure that allows trade to take place. Government insures that individuals and small business are treated fairly by those with more economic power such as the rich, big businesses, and employers. Of the infrastructures necessary for a great nation, the government is the most important.
So how is it, with infrastructure being so important to our strength and prosperity, that it could be in decline? The answer is simple, straightforward, and everyone does it in their private lives. Once you have something, and it works well, it’s hard to see the need to maintain it. It is, after all, working well. Then eventually all the pieces become old and worn and they fail at the same time. And because they whole thing has turned to trash pretty much at the same time you will need to buy something new. If it is expensive, this will require borrowing money.
For example, if you buy a new car it probably works well and drives well. Which it will do, year after year. And although you might change the oil and air filter yearly, you will balk at spending hundreds of dollars getting the transmission fluid changed, the wheels aligned, the tires rotated, etc. Maintaining a car is expensive and most of us will skimp on the maintenance because the car is running well. The result is that at some point everything in the car will stop working at the same time. At this point it becomes really expensive to maintain. So you must borrow money and buy a new car. Simply by maintaining the car it would lasted much longer, and you’d saved a lot of money.
Getting a new car is actually fun, so you might be okay with this. But for a whole country suddenly to need to replace huge bits of its roads, electrical grid, and other things would not be so fun. In fact, it could be overwhelming. I have a theory (admittedly, I can’t prove it) that this was the major cause of the fail of the Roman Empire. It fell apart from within because of a lack of reinvestment by its government, and eventual when it started to collapse it became weak and foreign invaders were able to, well, invade.
And what causes this lack of reinvestment? Apathy by the country’s wealthy and powerful. Everything seems to be going well, and it is going well, so the infrastructure that makes the “going well” possible is ignored. It is not improved or even repaired unless it must be and then it will be only patched. Because of this apathy toward the system, the system although it still works, grows weaker on the inside.
Then, one day, it stops working and everyone seems surprised.
To prevent this what can we do? Instead of ignoring problems, accept the need for reasonable taxes so we can robustly reinvest in our nation’s infrastructure.