When major shifts in history take pace the participants in those events don’t often realise the magnitude of what’s happening around them. After over a decade of travelling to the USA regularly, dipping in and out of different cities several times a year, it’s clear that the country is in decay.
Admittedly, this is a view of America from my personal lens. And I have a particular world view that says the job of government is to protect those least able to protect themselves and to make them self-sufficient so they can contribute to society positively.
The Swedish professor of population studies, the late Dr Hans Rosling, in a TED Talk (from the time before TED talks were generic happy-fests) looked at how the world has changed over the last 100 years or so.
Using data from a number of different sources that he cleverly put together with a bespoke big data analysis tool, before that was a fancy IT buzzword, he looked at the impact of a number of different factors to measure the effectiveness of a society. The TL;DR is that health is a very important predictor of national wealth, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He showed that before a country can be wealthy it needs to be healthy (as measured by child mortality).
The challenges of America’s health system, such as its inability to come to grips with the value of universal free health care, is seen as a cost issue. But good health is critical to the development of a robust country according the long-term data trends revealed by Rosling.
Incidentally, child mortality is getting worse in the USA.
President Trump has shouted about how unemployment is at a record low because of his presidency. It’s possible that one could argue under-employment is at a significant high as well. Many people are employed at salary levels that are below the poverty line. That poverty, along with poor heath care and a failing education system creates a perfect storm where people are forced into homelessness or constantly moving from one temporary housing arrangement to another.
Employment is important. As well providing funds for food and shelter, it gives people an opportunity to further invest into their community. When you have money, you spend it. And that creates more jobs.
Much has been said about declining education standards in the US (as well as locally). The college system with its incredibly high fees put students into a poverty cycle where, even if the end up in highly paid professions, they spend many years reading large debts.
Why don’t politicians give more funds to education? Steve Wozniak recently said that a household with three kids gets two votes and household with no kids gets two votes. Simply put, the people who benefit from education don’t get a say in who governs the country (the same goes here).
A solid education (and I don’t mean everyone needs a degree) that teaches skills such as numeracy, literacy, the ability to use a computer competently and clear thinking and problem solving is critical.
Will It Take A “Revolution”?
I’m not sure what can break America out of this cycle. And, sadly, I see Australia following many of the same patterns. My gut feeling is it will take a significant event of some sort. Not necessarily a civil war or anything like that but something that breaks the existing political order.
We know that financial events, such as the Great Depression or the GFC aren’t going to do it – if anything, those events consolidated the power of a relatively small oligarchy.
Even then, it will take a massive act of political will. And that’s something I cannot see in the existing cohort of political leaders.