If you listen to America’s pessimistic populists, America is so over. We are all in the position of Emperor Honorius watching the Visigoths come over the seventh hill as the sack of Rome begins. (Guess who the Visigoths are in this analogy. Some, I assume, were good people.)
Or to update things a bit, this is the “Flight 93” election, at least according to a recent viral essay. This argument, as I recently described it, posits America’s doom “unless those who value an isolationist, protectionist, and perhaps paler America ‘charge the cockpit’ in Washington and seize control from the open borders–loving, free trading, perpetually warfighting ‘Davoisie oligarchy.’”
That’s not how I see things. My views are more in sync with this notion put forward recently in by Jonathan Margolis in the Financial Times:But he misses the point. The pessimists are not arguing that America is the Roman empire ready to fall. We are arguing that America is the Roman republic about to be destroyed and replaced by the empire. It's not the Visigoths we worry about, it is Julius Caeser and his army. The consuls and senate are about to be replaced by an emperor, or maybe already have been.
So for all its failings and warnings that the US is “over”, in reality, it is not just the new Roman empire, but a reincarnation of the Roman empire at the height of its power, perhaps around 117AD — 170 years before it began to fall apart.
He links an article he wrote at Vox which argues more in depth that, since America's economy is still strong, America is OK. His entire argument is economic.
I don't care how well the economy is doing if I am not free. If the republic is dying, the state of the economy is irrelevant. After all the ink and pixels that have been used to get that point across, to not understand that the populist argument is fundamentally about political freedom and the culture of freedom is a form of self-imposed intellectual blindness.