by Ed Mattson
The decline of America and its global stature probably began with the implementation of our modified capitalistic society, though I choose to discuss the decline from the end of the Second World War when it is far easier for us to view and for us to remember.
I say it started back at the beginning because capitalism is an economic system that emphasizes private ownership of the means of production or a privately controlled economy, rather than goods, services, and central planning provided by government. When we realized freedom was ordained by the natural order of a spiritual being we call God, and that all persons were given the power of self-reliance and responsibility, capitalism is the only system that fits the mold of what freedom is all about. In a true capitalist society, you have a free market and companies live by the profit motive. They exist to make money, and not as some people believe, to provide jobs or for the greater good of the community. Prices, production, and the distribution of goods are determined by competition in a free market, and by such a system, there are guaranteed to be failures.
In a capitalistic system the people grant power to a governing body to provide specific services to enable a free flow of commerce and to protect the citizens from threats, both foreign and domestic. The government in essence plays a very small but important role in the system. Other forms of government such as socialism, communism, Marxism, theocracy, monarchy, totalitarian, and variations thereof, are contradictory to a capitalistic system and the theory of freedom being a God given right. They are based on the assumption that certain and specific rights need to be granted by government.
In any of the authoritarian governments, power lies with a very small minority or single individual who calls the shots. Decisions are made for the individual populations under such rule. Any freedoms one has are granted by the government and can therefore be rescinded by government. In nearly all economic systems that are not totally capitalistic, such as so-called democracies or democratic socialistic countries, the government generally controls much of the individual freedom, liberties, entrepreneurial spirit, and creativity genius. They are often stifled because the incentive to make a profit is hampered…so to is the freedom to choose when, where, and how to work.
In a theocratic system, the government is controlled by and dictated to by religious philosophy and thought. Those in power claim their power by a higher being, much as monarchies have done since the beginning of government. Often these governments proclaim that all activity is dictated by the doctrine of a specific religion, and in many cases can be as restricting as any authoritarian form of government. Often punishment for wrong-doing in such societies can be more brutal and savage than most would imagine…cut off your hands if you steal, cut out your tongue if you lie, and being stoned to death for adultery. Capital punishment is more often the rule rather than the exception to the rule.
Many find fault with capitalism, yet it is capitalism and the notion that a person is free to pursue goals, work for someone or go in business for themselves, make a profit, and purchase what they want with their profits, choose what kind of life they want they want, and if they don’t want any of that, choose to leave such a system of government to one that is more amenable to their way of thinking. The decisions are left to the individual and not the government. From such a system, capitalism has created more wealth, prosperity, happiness, and freedom, than all the other forms of government combined. With profit as a motive coupled with the freedom to make one’s own decisions, the genius of thought and ideas flow freely to invent or develop new products and services.
I realize this is a simple explanation of varying complex forms of government, but those of us down on Main Street say, “it’s a simple explanation, verified by a history that has seen implementation of nearly every concept of governance man can envision. It doesn’t take a Masters or Doctorate Degree, to write a ten-page thesis or a book on the subject; we have witnessed it with our own eyes”.
Following World War II, we entered into an era of mistrust among nations. Two totally destructive wars in two decades seemed unfathomable to many. Did we learn from the mistakes that caused World War I? I think it is obvious we learned little as the many provisions in the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war, were not only punishing to the countries of Germany, Austria and Hungary but were controversial in that it required them to accept responsibility for causing the war. Country borders, differing societies, ethnic differences, territorial disputes, and the Seven Deadly Sins (wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony), which often are the cause of war between countries, were exacerbated by the terms of the treaties.
Coupled with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (which dealt with Austria) and theTreaty of Trianon (dealing with the break-up of the Hungarian Empire), Germany was forced to basically disarm, make substantial territorial concessions and pay heavy reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente Powers. The total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion Marks which is equivalent to $442 billion in US dollars. It was deemed by many to be excessive, and a became the road map leading to World War II (The final payments for reparations ended up being made on 3 October 2010, some 92 years after the end of the war).
Harsh treatment by the victors over the losers was recognized by the Allies as the leading cause of World War II, and were not about to be repeated. Instead, the United States enacted the Marshall Plan which in essence, provided the funding to rebuild much of Europe, much to the chagrin and jealousy of Russia and its newly ordained Soviet Union, which viewed the program to be one in which the US would exert its political influence. The Russians viewed the end of the war as a chance to expand its control and authoritarian rule over the counties they marched through in driving Germany out of Eastern Europe. This was a completely opposing view the US and Western Europe had in mind, and lead to a state of tension which became known as the Cold War.
Again, the same compounding issues that followed World War I…close country borders, differing societies, ethnic differences, territorial disputes, and the Seven Deadly Sins (wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony)… were once again present with two distinct views with how to deal such differences. To the new Soviet Union the answer was simple…force people to live together through the threat of military might; dictate what people could and could not do. Micro manage and plan economic details, control education, provide collectivism in which every citizen (except for those in charge), would share the fruits of everyone’s labor, and indoctrinate the citizenry into a single mindset that government is the answer to all situations and problems. The population becomes merely servants of the government and the system. To the US and Western Europe, the solution was to allow every country to chose for itself what kind of government and economy it wanted and allow such choices to be made by open election.
The result of these competing and very conflicting ideologies or goals, drew to a stalemate, and Europe became divided by the two opposing forces with the use of war to enforce either doctrine… and thus the world entered into an era of tension where the slightest variance may trigger a Third World War. At this point it became an East versus West arms and political ideology race, filled with secrecy on both sides. The East became a completely closed society, and the West, a free but anxious society, with varying degrees of capitalism and ideas relating to “social equality”.
This is the point where I’d like to pick-up the decline of America. As I previous stated in my opening argument about our decline, it all began with secrecy created by the Cold War:
“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
The countries of the West, for the most part, I think mainly because of their close proximity and shared common borders, gravitated to economies that were far more socialistic than intended. With the advent of the Marshall Plan and the political influence it exerted, most the European countries opted to focus their rebuilding with US financial assistance and investment, on infrastructure and social welfare programs, while leaving the Cold War and confrontation of Soviet Union aspirations to the United States. Very little spending by our Western Allies is centered on their militaries, forcing the US to become thepoliceman of the world. Because so much anxiety emanated from the political tension between the Soviets and the US, strategies of both sides were conducted in secrecy. Spying and espionage on both sides became the rule of thumb.
We will pick-up the discussion as to how the Cold War and the policies we enacted back then, have created a continued perversion and bastardization of our once free and open society, and eroded the capitalistic system that made America great.
Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism
Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina.
Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.