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September 01st 2011 print

Bill Muehlenberg

Vintage Steyn

It is always a cause of great joy when the latest Mark Steyn volume lands in one's possession.

A good case can be made that Mark Steyn and Ann Coulter are among our finest political pundits writing today. They certainly would be the wittiest. And perhaps most quotable. Indeed, they join the ranks of such notable quote-mines as Chesterton, Churchill and Orwell.

Both Coulter and Steyn have brand new books out this year. I have reviewed Coulter’s volume here. Now we have After America (Regnery, 2011) to enjoy.

Steyn’s thesis, as in so much of his writing, is fairly straightforward: the West in general, and America in particular, are in steep decline, and unless something drastic occurs real soon to reverse this trend, we are all going to end up in the doghouse.

With heaps of documentation along the way, he shows what a precarious position America now finds itself in: “The existential questions for America loom not decades hence, but right now. It is not that we are on a luge ride to oblivion but that the prevailing political realities of the United States do not allow for any meaningful course correction. And, without meaningful course correction, America is doomed.”

The indications are all there. He begins by looking at the teetering American economy and its crippling burden of debt, and how our reckless spending patterns are a recipe for national suicide. Says Steyn, “There’s nothing virtuous about ‘caring’ ‘compassionate’ ‘progressives’ demonstrating how caring and compassionate and progressive they are by spending money yet to be earned by generations yet to be born.”

The consequences of this economic meltdown will be severe not just for America but for the entire world: “Faced with the choice between unsustainable entitlements and maintaining armed forces of global reach, the United States, as Europe did, will abandon military capability and toss the savings into the great sucking maw of social spending.”

The real problem is, America has followed Europe into the Big Government Syndrome. But history tells us this is unsustainable. It simply leads to the loss of liberty, the collapse of the economy, and social disintegration. What we see happening in England and Europe today is a textbook example of this.

America has been following one stupid idea after another from overseas. Take government health care for example, which as Steyn rightly notes, is not really about health care – it’s about government. You see, the “governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-centre political culture. It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make small government all but impossible ever again.”

Or take the modern obsession of the Democrats with diversity and rights. By the latter they do not mean negative rights which the US Constitution speaks of: “the right to be left alone by the government in respect of your speech, your guns, etc – but ‘rights’ to stuff, granted by the government, distributed by the government, licensed by the government, rationed by the government, but paid for by you.”

As to diversity, they mean “state ideology of stultifying homogeneity”. Steyn offers plenty of examples of this as well. And don’t get him started on government mismanagement and ineptitude. “In one year (2009), Medicare handed out $98 billion in improper or erroneous payments. A tenth of a trillion! Ha! Rounding error. Look for it in the line-items under ‘Miscellaneous’.”

For 350 pages Steyn details the slow but steady descent of America and the West into oblivion. He is not the first to have done so, and will not be the last. But the clock is ticking, and the question remains, will we heed the warnings before it is too late?

He even paints a picture of what the world will look like after America. I must say, it doesn’t look too good. If he is even half right in his forecasts, life will not really be worth living in a post-American world.

Of course at the end of the day all this decline and decay is not just about economics or politics. Steyn realises that the root problem here is a decline in faith and a decay of values. “Europe’s economic crisis is a mere symptom of its existential crisis. What is life for? What gives it meaning? Post-Christian, post-nationalist, post-modern Europe has no answer to that question, and so it has 30-year-old students and 50-year-old retirees, and wonders why the small band of workers in between them can’t make the math add up.”

Until America and the West regain their Judeo-Christian foundations, the rush to destruction seems all but certain. So what is to be done in the meantime? Steyn only addresses this question toward the end of his volume. The way we get out of our spiritual and moral hole may be too difficult for most commentators to offer much specific help.

But Steyn does offer some general clues: “Americans face a choice; you can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea – limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest – or you can join most of the rest of the western world in terminal decline.”

Statism must be addressed: “We also need a new trust-busting movement to bust the dominant trust of our time – the Big Government monopoly that monopolizes more and more of life.” But he is a bit optimistic, simply because of how the Big Government types always go too far:

“Statists overreach. They did on ‘climate change’ scaremongering, and the result is that it’s over. Hollywood buffoons will continue to lecture us from their mega-mansions that we should toss out our washers and beat our clothes dry on the rocks singing native chants down by the river, but only suckers are listening to them.”

Hopefully Americans will start saying enough is enough, and the move to whittle down Big Brother can begin in earnest. But our elites, bureaucrats and planners will resist this every step of the way. Which explains why Steyn has already had to defend himself against trumped up hate crimes charges in Canada.

They will shut down the sentinels one way or another. But before this book – and others like it – is banned, I suggest you get it now and read it, and then read it again. Let it soak in like good medicine. Then decide which way you want the West to proceed.