The dysfunction we are seeing in politics is a perfect example of “fiddling while Rome burns.” Not only are our political leaders more interested in rewarding themselves and their friends while most people suffer, but they are failing to provide leadership in a time of crisis and ignoring several major challenges.
One is that income inequality, the few acquiring a disproportionate share of the national wealth while many struggle to secure basic necessities, has throughout history always led to turmoil. Ours is approaching 1929 levels.
Two, we are ignoring damage to our environment on many levels. We fail to acknowledge that a healthy economy exists within a healthy environment, not apart from it. By overpowering the natural order with technology and fossil fuels, we are holding the negative effects at bay, but that will only work in the short-term. It is going to become much more expensive to build, travel, produce, insure and eat as nature rebalances the distortions we have created.
Third, our position as a world leader, established after World War II, has been squandered over the past 50 years. We were complacent in assuming overpowering force would keep us dominant only to see it fail in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and now, Syria. The complexity of our economy and the requirement for extensive international supply chains leaves us vulnerable to disruption by nonstate actors. We are suffering a death by a thousand cuts.
The current divisiveness, expressed in fear, anger and suspicion, is the inevitable result of diminished affluence brought about by our failure to resolve difficult problems and address core needs. If we don’t stop the bickering and work together, our affluence will continue to erode up the income scale and tear us apart.