Tuesday, April 21, 2009

James V. DeLong: The Coming of the Fourth American Republic

Writing in The American, James V. DeLong lays out the thesis that the United States is about to enter what he calls the Fourth American Republic. American Republics last about 70 years. The first lasted from 1787 to the Civil War, the second from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the New Deal and the third, which he calls the Special Interest State has lasted from then to now. He expects that it will collapse of its own weight in the not too distant future.
"The needs of the Special Interest State have also come to dominate electoral politics. Both parties have become alliances of special interests. The focus of conflict is on the fact that most people belong to more than one group, and so electoral contests focus on emphasizing one or another group identity. Only a small band of sort-of Republicans holds out—lonely free marketers reading the Wall Street Journal by flames kindled from
old issues of The Public Interest—regarded as amusingly quaint by the other players."

A little further on he continues:

"But it is more likely that the Special Interest State has reached a limit.

This may seem a dubious statement, at a time when the ideology of total government is at an acme, but it is not unusual for decadent political arrangements to blaze brightly before their end. Indeed, the total victory of the old arrangements may be crucial to bringing into being the forces that will overthrow it. In some ways, the grip of the aristocracy on 18th-century France tightened in the decades leading up to 1789, and the alliance-of-states idea could have lasted a while longer had the Confederacy not precipitated the crisis. So the utter triumph of the Special Interest State over the past 15 years, and particularly in the recent election, looks like the beginning of its end."

He goes on to make his case as to why the Special Interest State is going to have to give way to the Fourth Republic and though he isn't sure exactly what shape it will take, he is confident that it will be another democratic republic because it is just in our national DNA.

The article is both worrying (major change is always a little worrying because of all the unknowns involved) but also hopeful because he seems to take the view that whatever emerges will be better that what we have now.

Read the whole thing.
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1 comment:

Megan B-G said...

Lord, I hope he is right. Meanwhile, I'll be working on making it come about.