What we are witnessing in Europe -- and what may loom for the United States -- is the exhaustion of the modern social order. Since the early 1800s, industrial societies rested on a marriage of economic growth and political stability. Economic progress improved people's lives and anchored their loyalty to the state. Wars, depressions, revolutions and class conflicts interrupted the cycle. But over time, prosperity fostered stable democracies in the United States, Europe and parts of Asia. The present economic crisis might reverse this virtuous process. Slower economic expansion would feed political instability, and vice versa. This would be a historic and ominous break from the past...
Economic progress -- progress that people can feel and that feeds hope and optimism -- favors political stability. If progress shrinks or vanishes, stability may suffer. People lose faith and feel betrayed. The role of economic growth in advanced societies is increasingly to satisfy the many claims from different groups. People can (or think they can) pursue their self-interest without harming the common good. When the system reduces or rejects many of those claims, as is now happening in Europe, the pursuit of self-interest becomes more contentious and destructive.
What's happening in America is different in degree, but not in kind, from what's occurring in Europe. Stalled economic growth there is straining the political system's ability to meet all expectations. People take to the streets; extremist parties expand. To avoid Europe's fate, we should reduce people's claims on the system and strive for faster economic growth. That's the lesson. If we ignore it, history may slip into reverse.
The nightmares of modern civilization-- the Nazis, the Bolsheviks, the Iranian Imams and so many of their spawn in the Third World-- arose from socioeconomic crisis, from Weimar and World War I and the Shah's reckless socialism. It is this scenario that concerns me the most in the West. What will happen if the economies of Europe and the United States implode? The recent past is not reassuring. People panic, mobs explode in anger and vengeance, and otherwise prudent citizens embrace demagogues.
If this scenario were not bad enough, keep in mind that the exploitation of economic collapse is a quite explicit tactic of the far-left political faction occupying our White House today.
The Left is prepared to exploit the economic crisis-- the unsustainable debt of socialism-- that they have created, and that they seem happy to exploit.