Glenn Reynolds calls our attention this morning to a piece in Forbes, written by John Tamny, entitled “Mark Steyn Resides In a Crowded — and Centuries Old — Echo Chamber of ‘American Doom’”. Here’s a sample:
Mark Steyn is easily one of the most entertaining – and frequently insightful – opinion writers in existence today. Agree or disagree, his National Review op-eds count as a must-read for many – including this writer – as evidenced by his popularity.
But right or wrong, and it says here that Steyn is wrong, one of his most popular modern narratives is the one about how the U.S.’s best days are behind it. To quote Steyn from a recent book, After America, “the prevailing political realities of the United States do not allow for any meaningful course correction,” and “without meaningful course correction, America is doomed.” …
To be blunt, ‘America’ has been ‘doomed’ for longer than the United States has even existed as a country. Steyn has entered an echo chamber of doomsayers that is long in tooth, and that could fill many Rose Bowls. Maybe Steyn is correct this time despite joining a chorus of naysayers who’ve always been wrong, but even if correct, it seems he misreads what ‘doom’ is, or what it will look like.
Tamny then goes on to assess the soundness of Steyn’s arguments regarding particular cases in point: long-term demographics, immigration, budget deficits. He concludes that Steyn’s overall take is narrow and unnecessarily fraught:
No doubt we can do much better, better in the sense that without all the barriers erected by government that our present lifestyle of plenty would seem like Haiti relative to what we could be economically. But to posit as Steyn and others have for centuries, that we’re on the path to destruction is not credible. And as evidenced by the massive capital inflows that our productive are still entrusted to deploy, markets confirm this basic assertion.
To be clear, ‘doom’ per Steyn’s definition isn’t some horrid future that never seems to reveal itself despite centuries of predictions offered up by our wise commentariat. Instead, ‘doom’ is today, it’s the ‘unseen,’ it’s what we don’t have when it comes to future Googles and Intels, cancer and heart disease cures, and transportation advances that would make the automobile and the airplane seem positively pedestrian. That’s what Steyn and the chorus of doomsayers might be talking about were they not so blinded by inconsequential notions of birthrate, unwashed immigrants who renew us, and deficits that investors line up to buy the income streams of.
So who’s right? Is Steyn a crotchety old coot, or is Tamny a pie-in-the-sky goofball?
In a funny way, the very quality of Steyn’s writing tends to make me suspect his conclusions a little. It’s too seductive. Reading him always gives me an uneasy feeling that I’m being lured down the path of despair by dazzling turns of phrase. I confess that I have not yet read After America because I’m afraid I won’t be able to resist Steyn’s rhetorical juggernaut. There’s only so much lacerating wit I can withstand before I swoon — and then where would I be?
I know there are many Steyn fans here at Ricochet. What do you feel, in your heart of hearts? Do you agree with him that America is down for the count? And if so, I have to ask: what are we all still yammering about?
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