Does America Seriously Want to Fail?

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In a column for the FT, I confess that I am having second thoughts about America's long-term prospects. Hitherto an optimist about the country and its future--a militant anti-declinist--I am increasingly dismayed by the chronic incapacity in Washington. It's not just the debt-ceiling impasse, though heaven knows that is bad enough...

This deterioration in the country's governance would be worrying in itself. But the problems confronting the US have shifted too. Often in the past, noisy impotence was not a bad response to the supposed crises of the moment. This is no longer so true. On several fronts, "do nothing" is now a formula for likely decline. Sustained and purposeful action is required. The federal government has less capacity to act intelligently just when it needs more...

On one side you have the unrivalled energy and ambition of the American worker. On the other you have the unrivalled complacency, self-righteousness and bloody-mindedness of Washington. I never thought I would say this, but I am starting to wonder which will prevail.

Speaking of unrivaled complacency, self-righteousness and bloody-mindedness, you might be interested to read Paul Krugman's response. He actually blames America's plight on me, and on moderates like me. What can one say?

By the way, I don't think that the blame for incapacity in Washington lies equally on both sides, certainly not in the debt-ceiling case. I think previous columns of mine (such as this one) have made that clear. But I do find it funny that Krugman is so appalled by the idea that, if positions were reversed, Democrats would be equally intransigent, and feel entitled to do whatever it took to frustrate what they regarded as a radical GOP agenda. I concede that this prediction on my part might be wrong. But one thing I'm quite certain of is that Krugman would be leading those who would say that the Democrats are not just entitled but morally obliged to stop the evil Republicans by any means necessary, and would be deploring and calling out all those who suggested, ugh, compromise, just as he is now.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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