Is the United States on the decline…or is it something else?

Yes, yes, I’ve hard about “The United States being on the decline” for all of my life. The reasons given are manifold (e. g., people not being religious enough, or worshiping the wrong way, or women’s rights, gay rights, not bombing another country enough..)

Personally, I am not that concerned with the relative decline of the United States vs. the rest of the world. WW 2 was a long time ago and it was unrealistic for us to remain the world’s sole Leviathan in most areas forever.

I am concerned that our own standard has dropped a bit; our infrastructure is headed downhill and we have growing social and economic inequality.

And there is our current President. It is bad enough that his deportment and behavior is rotten; it sucks that our current President sets such a bad example when it comes to being civil and polite. In this regard, he is the worst that I’ve ever seen. But even worse: he really does not appear to know what he is doing.

Yes, the same nation (under the same rules) elected Barack Obama twice, and he is pretty smart and aware. But, he (along with Bill Clinton) were what I call “purple unicorns”; they possessed the “showbiz” talent necessary to get elected while having a strong intellect and thirst for understanding what was going on. Trump has only the “showbiz” side of it.

So, in my opinion, what is going on? What the hell happened?

In my opinion, one huge problem is the information age that we live in. We can get quick access to “facts” right at our fingertips. We really don’t have to know how to use google; we can just ask our phones via a voice command. (not what I do).

This opens up a huge can of worms, as there are now experts who specialize in directing this information search and driving us to, well, fake information. That was a massive problem in this last election.

But I believe that something else is going on.

First: there is the fact that, in the United States, news is a for profit enterprise and the truth does not sell well. And the different sides handle the media differently.

Also, news from, say, Breitbart looks exactly as, say a report from the National Academy of Sciences to the undereducated reader. How does one distinguish junk that fits one’s narrative from the truth (yes, liberals sometimes fall for this too)

Even worse is the behavior of some very smart people. A dumb person cannot run a successful business, become a successful literature professor, get a Ph. D in mechanical engineering, pass a tough state bar exam, etc.

But sometimes achievement in one field leaves to overconfidence in other fields and sometimes such people speak out of turn in fields that they really don’t know that much about. But their own accomplishments makes them think that they know more than they actually do, and they speak in public…and people pay attention to them instead of the genuine experts. For example, you often see successful engineers make fools of themselves when they try to discuss evolution in public:

Re. April 1 story, “Study: Nose shape related to ancestral climate”:

To observe that the width of the human nose would change with time based on climate is an amazing discovery. As a professor of thermodynamics, I have learned it is important to be precise in the use of language in order to accurately communicate scientific discoveries.

It would have been more precise if the article would have attributed this discovery to adaptation rather than evolution. Evolution implies that one species evolves into another. Since the changes in noses did not produce a new species, then adaptation would explain the observation more precisely.

Here, the author confuses speciation (one outcome of evolution) with evolution (which can lead to adaptation).

And such people, smart people, mind you, spread such nonsense to the public (e. g., some deity will rescue us if we trash the planet) And people end up cherry picking what they want to hear (liberals and conservatives alike, I am afraid).

And this leads us to where we are now: an unstable man with the nuclear codes.

Yes, a more stable, more politically savvy Republican would have a better chance of getting damaging legislation passed. But I’d trade that to get him away from the nuclear codes.

So, now, how exactly did we get here?

For one, the Constitution provides for the Electoral College, and none of these tiny states are going to give up their disproportionate power. And no, we aren’t going to move there to flip the politics. Then there is the make up of the Senate, where Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have the same representation as New York, California and Illinois. We’ve given away power to a small number of angry rural people.

I see now way out. After all, the split is really rural vs. urban; for example, I’d be a better fit for Austin or Dallas than I would for rural Illinois.


June 2, 2017 - Posted by | political/social, politics/social, social/political | ,

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