Saturday, September 14, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Contemplation And Renewal

For some of the readers of The Prairie Editor, this is a
season for contemplation, atonement and renewal, and
in this spirit, it might be useful to review the mood and
prespects of Americans as we move toward the middle
of the second decade of a new millenium.

For many of the readers (but not all), the year 2013 has
been marked by political disappointment, domestic and
international; and further, to a growing sense of gloom
and foreboding. The recent crisis in the Syrian civil war
and our seemingly feckless role in it, has heightened a
general sense that the role of the United States in the world
is not only declining, but that both the nation’s and the
world’s security is entering a new period of high risk and
danger. Domestically, a recently rising stock market is not
being accompanied by lower unemployment, and credible
long-term increased profits and stronger markets. The
heralded conclusion of recent credit market intervention
has been signaled, and there is the uncertainty of prospects
of higher interest rates, the return of inflation, and a
damper on the housing market. Internationally, the U.S.
has seemed to go from debacle to debacle, especially in the
Middle East where a perennial tinderbox of violence and
conflict threatens international stability anew. Temporary
calm in the Eurozone disguises the chronic instability of this
important world market, and the return of Russia as an
international maverick has further set back the optimism at
the outset of the post Cold War era.

As I mentioned, not all agree with above assessment,
particularly those who remain as defenders of the current
White House administration. They are looking forward to
changes that the implementation of Obamacare, to the
consequences of higher taxes and more federal regulations,
seeing in them and White House policy a better, and more
fair, American society. They approve of the reduction of our
armed forces, and our reduced role in world affairs. Their
numbers, however, seems at present, to be declining,
especially in the absence of evidence that their goals are
being realized. To be fair, of course, that evidence could
come later, but the evidence so far indicates an opposite
direction and outcome.

But a sense of gloom and foreboding might not be merited
either. A bit more than a year from now, the U.S. electorate
will be able to pass judgment on current national policies.
The midterm elections provide an opportunity for voters
to return control of the legislative process to a different
mindset. At the very least, President Obama might well
become an even more “lame duck” in the White House, and
his ability to turn U.S policies more to the left and
disengaged will be limited, as voters express a desire for a
more center right government.

Beyond that, in 2016, voters will select a new president, and
unless the Democratic nominee that year can successfully
communicate a dramatic new policy direction, it is much
more likely than not that a Republican will retake the
executive office.

In a democratic capitalist society, voters and markets
assert themselves with a certain regularity, and the
periodic pessimism of alternating out-of-power liberals
and out-of-power conservatives is always replaced with
the challenges and opportunities of new circumstances and

Of course, profound events can and do intervene, as the
end of the Cold War was followed by September 11, the
Arab Spring-turned-Winter, and a prolonged international
economic downturn. Predictions about the future are almost
always problematic, and the notion of the world operating
merely in narrow historic cycles can be deceiving.

Gloom and foreboding about imminent disasters in the
economy and world political affairs are almost always
short-term matters. That is because democratic capitalist
societies are always visited by change, and so far, by
long-term improvements. That is particularly true of the
United States to date, and that historical reality is the best
rebuke to Russian president Putin’s recent rhetorical
attempt to belittle American exceptionalism and

It was not that long ago when a Russian government murdered
millions of its own farmers and citizens, and later made a
cynical pact with Adolf Hitler, finally needing the intervention
of the U.S. and the West to rescue it from being over-run by
Nazi armies. That does not mean to diminish the great
sacrifice and courage of the Russian people in World War II,
but it should remind Mr. Putin that he is no position to
lecture others, especially since the Russia he now leads
has tried to adopt the “exceptional” Western democratic
capitalist model to replace the failed Marxist one of the
Soviet era.

The message then, at this outset of the autumn season of
2013, is one of caution and vigilance, but certainly not one of
imminent doom and disaster. Of course, an asteroid could
collide with the earth, a new ice age could appear, and, alas,
natural disasters will surely occur, but this is a time not to
throw up our hands in despair.

Rather, it is a time, learning from our mistakes, to put our
hands to the hard work for better times ahead.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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