I don't mean as a world-bestraddling empire and all of that; I mean as a polity with a government capable of responding to the needs of its citizens. Here you can see a moderately-libertarian fellow worrying that the United States is headed the way of Argentina. In comments you can read the counterarguments proposed by my friend and colleague, Carlos. Or you can read this post on the same blog, which summarizes Carlos’s arguments.
The above picture is of a beautiful woman in the most American part of America, the old stomping grounds of the Chase boys. Clearly not Buenos Aires. Could it become Buenos Aires, without the charm? Could American political institutions cease working? Read the links, then read the below, and tell me what you think.
CARLOS FOR THE DEFENSE: And to be fair, I should put up some indicators that I think would disconfirm my idea [that the U.S. is well within historical norms, and looks to muddle through quite well]. There might be too many “veto points” in the Federal system to resolve new problems of government in a timely manner. The military might not accept civilian authority. The monetary and regulatory agencies might be too slow or too unwieldy to deal with unexpected changes in the global economic system. The U.S. population might become apathetic and gullible to the point of civic dysfunction.
Out of those four indicators, I see maybe one-half (and it’s not the last one). I won’t count the experiences of the states, since the Federal system allows them a level of moral hazard that the U.S. as a whole doesn’t have.
Though that would be an additional failure mode: enough states go dingo that the Federal system can’t deal. That hasn’t happened since the 1850s.