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A Lot of Ruin In a Nation

It takes a lot to destroy a country - but our elites don't even believe it's possible.

By Petrarch  |  July 28, 2011

Recently your humble correspondent had the opportunity to sit in on an economic status meeting of a junior branch of the Elites.

No, this wasn't my long-anticipated invitation to the Bilderbergs, the Council on Foreign Relations, or even the Masons.  They were a mixture of successful people, mostly senior executives from private industry serving the government sector, with a smattering of senior executives from the government financial world, who may or may not have previously met.

Nobody would mistake them for the actual people who run the world; but most of them have contacts with those that do.  Their views on our current and near-future economic climate should be of interest to us little people down here on the ground, to say the least.

The more so since the moderator decided to open the meeting with a "get-acquainted" trick straight out of the Big Book 'o Public Meetings: go around the table, introduce yourself and your organization...

...And rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, your view of the American economy through the end of 2012, with 10 being "bullish" and 1 being "bearish."

Round the table we went, CEO of this, Senior Economist of that, Corporate Attorney So-and-so.  The economic outlook?  7, 6, 8, 10, with one shamefaced 4 trying not to be noticed.

Finally they got to me.  The national economic outlook through 2012?  "A one (1)."  Audible gasps from across the room.

Our conference room had blonder wood.

The Past is the Key to the Future?

The advertised purpose of the meeting was to listen to a presentation on current economic trends by a noted academic analyst.  This professional economist started her presentation by expressing surprise at everyone's optimism, then went into a detailed and well-supported discourse on everything that's gone wrong.  Regular readers of Scragged would be familiar with much of her data, but not all of it, and not to her level of detail.

She even put forward a well-known series of graphs from the Wall Street Journal demonstrating how America's fiscal position is just as bad as that of Greece if not worse; just how much our national debt and deficits have skyrocketed during the Obama administration; and how unlikely it is that the money can simply be taxed out of our hides.

Then, to conclude, she was asked what she thought the economy would be like.  Her answer?  A seven, "maybe 6.5".

Six at worst.  Did she not listen to her own speech?

Well, there are two explanations of caveat.  She said that she hadn't included the possibility of a severe external shock, like war with Iran or another terrorist attack; fair enough.

She was also foreign; she flatly stated that she did not understand the American political structure or system, and only barely was beginning to appreciate the dynamic between our two major parties.  Perhaps she considers them merely two sides of the same coin, as does the occasional Scragged reader?

At bottom, quoth she, the dynamism of the American entrepreneurial class and small business has always come out on top.  It's done so any number of times; it will again.  Just a matter of time - and the unspoken faith warmed the patriotic cockles of my heart - no matter what happens in the short term.

Faith, Founded or Unfounded?

Adam Smith, the patron saint of conservative capitalism, once pointed out that "there is a great deal of ruin in a nation."  He was making the point that nations, and economies, can survive disasters and trials that you'd think would destroy them.  America has been through tough times and has always come out on top before; why shouldn't we expect America to prevail yet again?

Well, we do, actually, at least in a sense.  We do not in fact believe that Obama's wealth-destroying policies and oppressive regulatory regime will actually succeed in destroying all Americans.  We don't even believe that our ruinously bad public schools and insane immigration policy will fully destroy American culture across the board, though there are increasingly large sections of this country that are American in no way other than the geographic.

We're optimistic in a way, but not because we aren't in deep, deep trouble.  It's because we believe that large numbers of Americans will take action to put an end to those who are destroying the American dream, American power, American prestige, and American exceptionalism.  The 2010 landslide was a bellwether; the Tea Party is a sign: our problems are dire, worse than ever before, and new solutions are urgently required, but Americans are waking up to realize this.  They are demanding action, but the longer their rulers refuse to respond, the more likely it becomes that the American people will take the actions they believe are necessary regardless of what their supposed masters say.

Our elites, whose views my fellow-conferees represent, simply do not understand this.  They consider us to be in a minor hiccup that their august wisdom will inevitably resolve.  They totally fail to comprehend that it is precisely because of their faith in their wisdom and the optimism of supreme self-confidence represented by their continued bullishness on the American economy despite every last bit of evidence staring them in the face, that we're in the trouble we're in.

So they won't let go.  They won't stop their machinations, their ever-more-intrusive regulations, their ever-more-oppressive rules, their ever-more-egregious taxes that have caused America's wealthy investors to go on strike.

Unless, of course, we make them stop.  Do we have faith in the ability of the American people to, once again, throw off shackles?  What will be the cost of the attempt?