Those living during the decline of Rome were likely unaware that anything was happening. The decline took over a couple of hundred years. Anyone living during the decline only saw a small part of what was happening and likely never noticed it as anything other than ordinary.
Countries don’t have genetically determined life spans. Nor do they die quickly, unless the cataclysm of some great war does them in. Even in such extreme cases, there are usually warning signs, which are more obvious in hindsight than at the time.
Few citizens of a dying nation recognize the signs. Most are too busy trying to live their lives, sometimes not an easy task. If death occupies their mind, it is with respect to themselves, a relative or a friend. Most cannot conceive of the death of a nation.
A Country Dies Slowly First
For those interested, signs or symptoms precede death for a country. There are patterns:
1. The Economy
Economically, people become poorer. It becomes harder to feed a family. Growth stalls and stagnation occurs. Job opportunities decline. Disincentives to work rise as government tries to ease the burden on the unemployed and lower-skilled. These efforts require more revenues, necessitating higher taxes or debt financing. Disincentives to create jobs are exaggerated as a result of attempting to ease the hardships. Higher taxes and other burdens on the productive make work less attractive.
2. The State
The State is threatened by the decline. Its first reaction is to blame others for causing it. Eventually, it moves into pretend mode, trying to convince people that things are on the mend. All States seem to want to deny, divert and become more powerful.
Three behavioral traits characterize the States reaction to a declining situation:
- things are not as bad as they seem.
- the State is not responsible for the situation.
- the State must do more (grow bigger) in order to solve the problems.
State-controlled data are fudged to convey a false image of well-being. Government spending soars as a means to juice reported economic activity. Much of the increased spending is both unproductive and counterproductive. Disincentives and distortions are introduced as a result, further weakening the economy’s ability to recover. Proper price discovery is disrupted and capital allocation decisions are based on improper signals.
Society coarsens as this process progresses. People increasingly are less able to provide for their families. Some turn to unethical behavior, even criminal acts, out of desperation. Common decency declines.
Regulations reduce the sphere of voluntary interactions between people. Government dictates more and more of what must be done as well as when and how it must be done. Political correctness is increasingly used as a club to direct behavior and language. How you must live increasingly becomes determined by others rather than yourself.
The United States, the beacon of freedom and wealth, is deteriorating. and doing so at an increasing pace. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway’s response to a bankruptcy question:
How did your country die? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.
Do people understand what is happening to them and their country? I suspect some have partial awareness. Few appreciate the full consequences of what is happening. People are not trained to think in these terms, nor should they have to be. For most, it is a chore to get through each day. That is true of the dullards and the brilliant, for most of us end up at levels that tax our abilities.
People sense there is something wrong, even though they may be unable to identify what that something might be. Many believe that what is happening is temporary, sort of like an economic slowdown that reverts back to normal. For them, it is just a rough patch that is painful but will soon be over.
Full article: How A Country Dies (Economic Noise)