How Goes the ‘American Project’? II. The Prognosis


Every once in a while we should step back from our country’s everyday problems and look at the bigger picture.  In my last post I pointed out that, while there has been enormous human material progress around the world in the last two hundred years, some prominent thinkers say that the U.S. is now mired in complacency and is at great risk of deteriorating.
In particular, Charles Murray has well described how U.S. society has separated into a new Upper Class (20% of all Americans) and a new Lower Class (30% of all Americans) with totally distinct characteristics and interests. He presents two possible scenarios:

A Hollow Elite, characterized by:

  • The collapse of a sturdy moral code. It has lost self-confidence in the rightness of its own customs and values (marriage, industriousness and civic engagement) and preaches only non-judgmentalism instead.

  • Unseemliness. CEOs make increasingly enormous salaries and receive incredibly huge separation bonuses. Also, hundreds of billions of dollars in government funds are up for grabs as contracts or tax expenditures.
  • Drifting towards the European model of more welfare paid for with higher taxes because paying taxes is a cheap price for a quiet conscience.


A Civic Great Awakening, characterized by:

  • Watching the European model implode. As publicly financed benefits grow, so do the populations who think they need them, and the fewer people there are in the private sector to pay for them. There is no way out of the self-destructive dynamics of the welfare state and America is watching this happen first in Europe.
  • The increasing obviousness of an Alternative. Mr. Murray proposes that our current welfare state be replaced by a guaranteed annual income of $10,000 (in 2002 dollars) for all, phased out at incomes above $25,000. The idea is that such a proposal will become increasingly desirable as our welfare state becomes increasingly unaffordable.
  • The resilience of American ideals. Mr. Murray believes that a civic Great Awakening will take place among the new upper class. He believes that American exceptionalism has a historical basis and that the qualities of industriousness, neighborliness and self-confidence will reassert themselves and put the ‘American Project’ back on track.

Conclusion. Regardless of the specific details of what he foresees, Charles Murray is an optimist and so am I.

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What Are American Values?


Americans have the chance tobegin the world all over again”                                                                                          Thomas Paine, 1737 – 1809, Common Sense

As I reported in my last blog, I have been reading the relatively new book, “Still the Best Hope: why the world needs American Values to triumph” by Dennis Prager.  His thesis is that there are three competing ideologies for the allegiance of humankind: Islamist, Leftist and American and, furthermore, that these three ideologies are incompatible.  Any one of them succeeds at the expense of the other two. He identifies the American Trinity of Values as Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum.
These three expressions appear on all American coins.

  • Liberty

  • Liberty is the essence of the American idea
  • Liberty necessitates small government
  • The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen
    i)           Moral character begins with taking responsibility for oneself
    ii)         Reliance on the state creates a sense of entitlement
    iii)       The smaller the government, the more the individual is needed
  • In God We Trust
  • We are “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights …”
  • Judeo-Christian Values, not Judeo-Christian Theology
    i)           People are not basically good
    ii)         God-based morality
    iii)         Holiness – we are not like other animals
    iv)         Hate evil
    v)         Material well-being is one of many values
  • E Pluribus Unum – From Many One
  • Nationalism – the opposite of multiculturalism
  • American Exceptionalism – the U.S. is qualitatively different from other nations
  • America is Good – not perfect but good in comparison with other nations

The above values are selected and abbreviated from Mr. Prager’s complete list, to most accurately reflect my own views.  I strongly identify with these values which characterize America and its unique role in the world.  We are the strongest, freest and wealthiest nation the world has ever known.  For everyone’s sake let’s keep it that way!