On Political Books

March/April 2012 The Rise of the Amero-pessimists

Two political thinkers, a liberal and a conservative, believe America is headed toward inexorable decline. There are good reasons to believe they’re both wrong.

By Ruy Teixeira

There are certainly many reasons to worry about America’s long-term future, and you’ll find plenty of them in these two disparate Amero-pessimist works. But there are reasons for optimism as well, and you’ll find none of them in these two books. On some level, both authors are deeply upset about the modernizing changes we have seen in society since the 1960s and think American society has been irrevocably damaged. The reality is more complicated, a mix of positive (we are richer and freer) and negative (we are more unequal). Their failure to see this has led both authors into an intellectual cul-de-sac where only changes for the worse can be seen, both past and future. This Amero-pessimism is not justified. On both the right and the left, America needs, and deserves, to start looking ahead with optimism.

If you are interested in purchasing these books, we have included a links for your convenience.


  • Daryl McCullough on April 02, 2012 12:30 PM:

    I think whether the future is bright or dismal will ultimately be determined by politics: IF there is a supermajority (which is what seems to be required, these days) in support of progressive policies, I think that we can work toward solving our problems. If there is gridlock in Washington for the foreseeable future, then we will be hamstrung in our ability to address the problems facing us.

    It would be nice to think that demographics alone will make the difference---once we are a majority non-white country, a coalition of non-whites and liberal whites can work on making things better. But it might be that the new non-white majority splits into the same Republican/Democratic blocs that make progress impossible today.

  • samg on April 02, 2012 1:05 PM:

    I'm with Edsall. I don't remember the last time Teixiera, who wrote this review, was right about anything. I do remember that back in the closing days of the 2004 presidential election race, every post he and his blog partner made pointed to a Kerry victory over GW Bush. Which didn't happen. Earlier that year he co-authored a book entitled "The Emerging Democratic Majority," which finally happened in 2008 when Bush's record of failing to stop or punish those responsible for the worst terrorist attack in American history, killing tens of thousands of people in a war based on lies, increasing the national debt by 85 per cent, and topping it all off with a Depression meant that Donald Duck could have beaten the Republican candidate that year. Let's hope Obama can squeeze through again this time. But one of Teixeira's earlier books, about the importance of the white working class vote, says it is critical to which party wins. Well, all the polls show that in 2012 the white working class vote is solidly Republican. So if Teix is right, we're doomed.

  • Texas Aggie on April 02, 2012 1:09 PM:

    "cyclical factors that are likely to improve"

    When you have to invoke "cyclical factors" to make a point, you have just lost your argument. It's the moral equivalent of deus ex machina and doesn't explain anything. Things don't just happen without some reason and to claim that there is a cycle explains nothing. There has to be some cause, some feedback mechanism.

    The author glosses over the major factor that turned the increasingly stratified pre1929 society into the less stratified post1950 society which was WWII. When it takes a major calamity such as that to change the direction of society, you have to give more credence to the idea that things will keep deteriorating until a major catastrophe occurs.

    It would be nice if the author could have listed some reasons to contradict the theses of the two book authors instead of vague generalities. It's difficult to make fun of "Inequality is as bad as Occupy Wall Street says it is. Political polarization is as bad as No Labels ... say it is" when the data shows that indeed inequality is enormous and rapidly getting worse and when the data show that religious style morality has taken over the right wing and that they absolutely refuse to give in on anything preferring to bite off their noses to spite their faces rather than budge on any of their multitude of moral issues.

    While the author is trying to give us hope for the future, the fact that he fails so badly only adds to the despair and to the certainty that things will continue to get worse.

  • cwolf on April 02, 2012 3:10 PM:

    I think we have reached the point where the only thing that may stop the inevitable end of humanity is the abandonment or collapse of industrialization, whichever inevitably, comes first. But with over 400 nukes that need to be decommissioned before that can happen, it must be timed perfectly.

    The "smart" people already know that we are nearing and may have already hit any of a number of "tipping points"; any one of which can make human life, if not most mammalian life, impossible or almost impossible.

    Some of the "solutions" to the problems are ridiculous. A proposal to dump atomized sulfur compounds in the stratosphere to bounce sunlight back into space sounds like a Marvel Comic book plan. Such an idea would do wonders for the oceans which already increasingly resemble battery acid. Don't even get me started on Tundra Fires... but I believe they have a glowing future. http://tinyurl.com/76j3r2a

    More "growth" seems to be THE answer to everything. but what that means in the US and most of the world is more fossil fuel gathering, more mining, more logging, more trawling, more nuclear materials refining, more pollution, less drinkable water, less breathable air, less usable land... more wars over all the above.

    In a short while no one will be alive who can read the danger signs that would warn them off exclusion zones like Fukushima, Chernobyl and the inevitable coming additions to these inevitably overlapping zones of radioactive wasteland.

    No combination of scientific parlor tricks is going to stop the cancer from spreading.

    I believe, in a word, that "Growth" is the not a solution, it is rather THE problem. It's like a cancer and no combination of scientific parlor tricks is going to stop it from spreading... except the death of industry as we know it.

    Of course this all is just speculation, but it would be irresponsible of me not to.

    Maybe R. Malthus was right.

  • Morgan on April 11, 2013 1:21 AM:

    "But what if the austerity assumption is incorrect? What if America’s fiscal situation is difficult but not intractable? What if...in short, the extraordinary depth of our current problems is driven in large part by cyclical factors that are likely to improve?"

    And what if the Cubs win the World Series and the Moon IS made of green cheese?

    It's about the economics. When a technology advances to a point where it's economically feasible to go mainstream, it does. It doesn't matter if it's internal combustion engines fueling explosive growth in manufacturing and fossil fuels production or microchips creating a booming economy in personal data retention and targeted marketing or ship building and sailing technology opening new hemispheres to colonization and exploitation.

    These economic factors drive societies, cultures, and history. And right now tele-technological globalism is the economic engine driving all the changes we see. Some good (ecological awareness) and some not (loss of privacy) . It's a smaller world with more intense competition and a VERY unequal playing field. Transnational corporations in every field from agri-business to financial sectors influencing governments to rewrite tax codes and leverage labor.

    All forcing societal changes that ask schools to be babysitters because one parent households can't keep up; and financial institutions to increase the quarterly profits at the cost of sound public and fiscal policy. Meanwhile the 1st World is economically exploiting the 3rd World - exporting 'crisis capitalism' and arms & munitions...while trying to militarily maintain a hammerlock on oil supplies; all the while simultaneously moving to a more socialist state style safety net (trying to forestall the inevitable democratic decay caused by a dwindling middle-class) .

    The OP is right. The current global economic paradigm of perpetual growth cannot be sustained without a NEW technology. One cleaner than fossil fuels but with at least as much energy output. Cold fusion or Z point energy are the only possibilities that come to mind and both are decades to centuries away.

    So a MAJOR shakeup will occur. Just when and how? And what happens after? One thing is certain, the American Century is over.