Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism.One of my favorite short stories - and possibly Heinlein's best - is called "Year of the Jackpot." It's a cute little tale about a mild-mannered statistician from Los Angeles who spends his free time charting the bizarre yet seemingly unique occurrences taking place around him. As the waves line up and the charts go parabolic, he realizes that something is about to change, and it may not be good*.
Horatio Alger, twist in your grave.
The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche is under assault. Eroding it is a dour powerlessness that is chipping away at the country's sturdy conviction that destiny can be commanded with sheer courage and perseverance.
Trends can go on for a long time - longer than most doom-saying chartists expect - but they cannot go on forever. So looking at our own charts, whether the US current account deficit (above), the national debt, the unfunded liabilities of government, or the purchasing power of the dollar, draws one inexorably to a similar conclusion: something is about to change, though my traditional American optimism tells me it may not be all bad**.
But the AP article ends with an interesting quote: "maybe this is what the 21st century will be about — a great unraveling of some things long taken for granted." I think the main one will be the collapse of debt-as-money and the messianic government that inevitably grows once all financial restrictions on the endless desires of the voters are removed. Hopefully it will be followed by the adoption of one aphorism Heinlein was fond of: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
* Since the sun explodes at the end, it turns out he was correct.
** For example, the collapse of the dollar and the American economy is not going to cause the sun to explode, nor should it bring killer earthquakes or droughts. So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.