Victor Davis Hanson
“Be assured young friend, that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.”
— Adam Smith
Are we sure that there is all that much ruin left in the United States?
We are $31 trillion in collective debt. The new normal is $1.5 trillion budget deficits. The military is politicized and short of recruits. We trade lethal terrorists for woke celebrity athletes as if to confirm our enemies’ cynical stereotypes.
Our FBI is corrupt and discredited, collaborating with Silicon Valley contractors to suppress free speech and warp elections. We practice segregation and racial discrimination and claim we do not because the right and good people support it and, anyway, the victims deserve it. The country has seen defeat before but never abject, deliberate humiliation as in Kabul, when we fled and abandoned to the terrorist Taliban a $1 billion embassy, a huge, remodeled air base, thousands of friends, and tens of billions of dollars in military hardware—and hard-earned deterrence.
We are witnessing the breakdown of basic norms essential for civilized life, from affordable food and fuel to available key antibiotics and baby formula. Old Cairo seems safer than an after-hours subway ride or stroll at dusk in many major American cities. Medieval London’s roadways were likely cleaner than Market Street in San Francisco. Speech was freer in 1920s America than it is now.
The Breakdown of Basic Society
Our California always is a preamble to America’s future. Our present is likely your tomorrow.
Each summer here we impotently expect forest conflagrations. Millions of acres of flames pour more millions of tons of smoke and carbon and soot in the skies. Tens of millions of hated combustion engines cannot begin to match the natural blankets of aerial dirt.
The state seems to shrug it off, saying wildfires are both inevitable and natural. Old-fashioned forest management and fire-fighting strategies, honed over centuries, are deemed obsolete by our green experts. So, we let fiery nature take its better course. What is the implicit message to those in the way of fires that devour homes and trees? Nature’s way? Natural wood mulch? Or that such fools should not build their cabins or homes where they are not wanted?
What was bequeathed to us from a state of 15 million—magnificent aqueducts, once brilliantly designed freeways and airports, superb universities and schools, perfectly engineered reservoirs, and downtowns of majestic skyscrapers—in a California of 41 million are frozen in amber or in decay. They have few updates and even fewer replacements. The decrepitude recalls the weedy forums and choked fountains of Vandal-era Roman cities, which is what happens when a later parasitic generation mocks but still consumes what it inherits but cannot create.
Our own generation’s pale contributions are multibillion-dollar, quarter-built, graffiti-defaced high-speed rail Stonehenge monoliths. We prefer to shut down rather than build nuclear plants. Our solar battery plants are as prone to combust as they are to store electricity. And our urban streets reek of feces. All seem testaments to our incompetence, arrogance, and ignorance. We fear the idea of homelessness, and so cede to the homeless our downtowns and avoid what follows.
Our great universities, once the most esteemed in the world from Berkeley and Stanford to UCLA and USC, grow burdened with commissars, too many of their outnumbered faculties are weaponized, and their students have never been more confident in their abilities, and with so little reason for that confidence.
A return to syllabi and grading standards of just 30 years ago would result in mass flunkings. Failure on tests apparently means the test, not the test taker, is found wanting.
What follows is the erosion of meritocracy and competence. And that reality is starting to explain the great unraveling: why our bridges take decades to build rather than a few years, why train tracks are not laid after a decade of “planning,”and why to drive down a once brilliantly engineered, but now crammed and dangerous road is to revisit the “Road Warrior” of film. Sam Bankman-Fried and Elizabeth Holmes are the apt characters of our age.
Institutions That Went Rogue
The FBI has imploded. It has all but become a Third World retrieval and investigatory service for the Democratic Party. Its last four directors either have lied, misled, or pleaded amnesia while under oath.
In 2016, the bureau with the Democratic National Committee sought to destroy the integrity of an election by fabricating a Russian collusion hoax. Its continuance and coverup ultimately required FBI agents and lawyers to alter legal documents, to lie under oath, to destroy subpoenaed phone data, and to outsource illegal suppression of First Amendment rights to Silicon Valley contractors. The nation now fears there isn’t anything the FBI might not do.
As we became hyper-legal with Trump, we are more sublegal with the entire Biden family. For a decade, with impunity, it gorged multimillion profits from selling the “Big Guy”/Mr. “10 Percent” Joe Biden’s name and access—sums for the most part hidden and likely not completely taxed. We all know it is true, and we all know the FBI and Department of Justice know it is true, and we know further that the truth means nothing.
This self-satisfied generation constantly brags of transforming elections. But it will be known more as the destroyer of a once hallowed Election Day. Not so long ago 70-80 percent of the electorate took the trouble of voting under transparent protocols. We replaced it in most states with 60-70 percent of the votes without audit and the product of vote harvesting and curing. Our generation, in just a couple of years, destroyed Election Day voting and Election Night counting.
The New Medievalism
Despite different calibrations, various data reveal what is self-evident to the naked eye. The American middle class is shrinking, if not insidiously sliding into indebted peasantry. Westerners are regressing and by design, now deciding daily whether to top up the tank, turn up the heat, or buy beef.
Society is also bifurcating. A tiny powerful minority has more leverage than any other elite in the history of civilization. And a large underclass of subsidized poor shares with the wealthy a disdain for the struggling middle class, the old bulwark of democracy.
In place of knightly penances and chivalric oaths, our elite takes Bankman-Fried-like vows to “fight climate change,” support “transitioning,” and ensure “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” But like their Medieval brethren, they do so only by first enhancing, not endangering, their own careers.
For the ruling class, prep schools, alphabetic certifications from tony universities, and revolving-door résumés are modern versions of having an abbey on site, a stately coat-of-arms, or taking vows from the correct religious orders. Otherwise, it is the same medievalism masked by pretension.
Our Rhine and Danube
America is rapidly resembling something like wide-open fifth-century A.D. Rome, when its traditional inviolable northern borders on the Rhine and Danube rivers vanished. Thousands of unassimilated tribes crisscrossed as they pleased on the premise that no one among their overripe, soft hosts could or would dare stop them.
Joe Biden just remarked that he is too busy to visit the southern border. And why not? There may have been roughly 5 million illegal aliens who have crossed it since his inauguration. He earns contempt both from those who try to enforce the border and those who cross illegally over it.
Biden surrealistically trashes Trump’s supposed archaic idea of a wall—always without noting self-evident truths about it: anywhere Biden stopped the wall or has not replaced prior rickety fencing, there are the most porous and trafficked entry points.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ various mendacities that the border is “secure” translate to allowing as many million aliens as possible to break the law to enter the United States in the four years of the Biden experiment. The administration sees itself in a race to create a one-off window of historic laxity through which millions can pour in—before a comatose nation wakes up and shuts it down.
We are approaching an historic 50 million residents who were not born in the United States, and of various legal and illegal statuses. In a sane world, we might survive the challenge—if newcomers had all come legally, learned the customs and language of their desired new home, were audited and queued by some logical meritocratic process, and were quickly assimilated and integrated by a confident host population that assumed any who wished to live in America surely desired help in becoming an American and felt gratitude to their hosts.
Instead, there is only chaos—and it is by design.
The legal immigrant waiting in line to enter the United States is considered a fool, while illegal aliens and residents instead quickly absorb three messages from their hosts. First, illegal residents will often be treated better than American citizens, at least in terms of lax law enforcement, various legal exemptions and amnesties, and unaudited entitlements.
Second, many will soon learn they can assume immediate moral claims against the majority population of their new home, who can be seen as racist oppressors and obligated to offer reparatory concessions in terms of hiring, admissions, and entitlements.
Third, too many will quickly learn, Ilhan Omar-style, to harbor a quiet derision for their benefactors. Their contempt is not due to Americans’ dearth of magnanimity and generosity, much less to “systemic racism.” Instead, their American hosts are silently assumed to be naïve, timid, overly solicitous, malleable, easily manipulated, rolled, and conned—especially when it is understood that if the roles were reversed and the entrants were the hosts, they would have a different notion of borders.
The idea of 330 million American citizens of different incidental races and ethnicities united by a common American identity of shared values, customs, and traditions is all but mocked. In its place is arising something like the former Yugoslavia—an undefined mishmash of competing and increasingly hostile tribal interests, with residents sorting themselves out into red and blue states that eventually will lead to two antithetical Americas.
So once assumed services, customs, institutions, and expectations are eroding—from a safe walk to a government office in a large city’s downtown, to a visit to the local public emergency room in extremis for humane, rapid, and competent care, to a clean, safe subway ride in a major city, or watching election returns conclude on Election Night.
A Nation of Thieves?
In a nearby Home Depot the other day, there were two long lines to check out. The other six were closed, as was the largest exit with several self-check-out counters.
Why? When asked the clerk whispered that the theft rate is high in the store and that from time to time it shuts down various exits to limit stealing or perhaps to confuse calculating thieves. I added that I had learned that almost any large item in a box purchased at Home Depot had to be first opened to ensure that key parts like knobs, wires, and screws had not been ripped off.
A local Walmart stopped its 24-hour service; again, the clerk said it was due to unsustainable looting during the early morning hours.
I also went to Walgreens and Rite-Aid recently. Much of what anyone wanted, from razors to antihistamines, was under lock-and-key. None of this was true just a decade ago. I live in a rural area among small towns—a world away from Los Angeles and San Francisco where smash-and-grab robberies and unapologetic looting have caused the mass closures of pharmacies and all-service stores.
Exemptions given thefts under $950 in some states may be the culprit. Others cite the post-George Floyd riots and the climate of unpunished street criminality. Maybe years of mask-wearing made us forget who normally had used masks and for what reasons.
Weaponized activist district attorneys and virtue-signaling mayors also signal to criminals that property crimes don’t warrant arrest, much less conviction, much less incarceration.
But whatever the cause, a once famously lawful America has become a veritable land of thieves. The criminal is all but exempt. And the middle class and poor suffer as a result from poor services, higher prices, reduced hours, and fewer stores.
We know the solution is to deter crime by assured punishment for the guilty. But the majority of Americans either cannot or will not demand a return to sanity for fear of some sort of undefined pushback from their elites. Pick your charge: “racism,” “privilege,” “bias,” “discrimination.” Any will do.
We have seen lots of cultural revolutions in this country, but never one that was so singularly focused on razing the foundations of America—until now. Yes, there is a lot of ruin in great nations. But even America is by now running low on it.
18 thoughts on “Our Parasitic Generation”
As usual, striking clarity.
As to California, maybe it is our salvation: “ If you can’t be a good example, maybe you can be a horrible lesson.”
I am still waiting for people to vote their self interest.
Incredibly prescient. And very sad.
Victor, one of your best and as always so well said! You truly are, our treasure. Wake Up America or is it as I fear, too late?
Yes, again a succinct summary of our ills. For many years i had a curiosity about the decline and fall of prior civilizations. Citizen sloveness, decline of education, religion, etc., were some of the common components. Now, so this is it. We are here. So many want the illegal drugs and human trafficking coming across our southern border. It’s not the fault of cartels or mules after all they merely are responding to our market demand. The illness is that so many here want it. We are a nation of drug addicts. Many of our own elected politicians and the elite class wanted use of Epstein’s unlawful business model and our DOJ did nothing to his customers after spending over a week on his compound procuring data from computers and his hidden videos. In fact, many of those same ” gov representatives” in a separate move created a taxpayer slush fund to cover their congressional sexual abuses and then covered-up that account setup. Justice here now is more a lever for one of the two political parties. Are the users of the drugs good citizens? Only Soros’ believers might think so. Perhaps it is time to just move on and let them play their game.
Pretty much sums it up. Well-written. If only 10% of the listed infractions could be remedied, we would be making some progress. Unfortunately, the non-existent red wave shows that at least 40% of the voters like things the way they are.
As always, your columns provoke thoughts and emotion. Daily I can feel the rotting of the very foundations of civilization.
Your voice is a clarion call for people to wake up, before we are all washed away by the “flood” caused by indifference and greed.
Perhaps it’s just to avoid depression, but I do attend especially to trends (shocking Twitter exposures thanks to Musk/Weiss, 6-3 sanity, DeSantis, you/Shapiro/Prager, etc.) that might in time reverse the ruin.
Glad to know I’m not alone in feeling that we have lost this beautiful country and how quickly it has happened. I pray for a return of normalcy. I am a Trump supporter I hated his bashing and belittling of others so unnecessary. Not sure if he can rise above his past antics-Twitter posts. We need a real fighter to restore America and save the nation. Wrong way Dave
You all know the truth about crime: We could turn this around quickly by incarcerating the guilty after trying and convicting them. It wouldn’t be difficult, but it would require the the moral fortitude to stop the petty theft and destruction.
Victor, who caused this chaos and deterioration is social thought processes? Ultimately I believe history will show it is the Baby Boomer generation. I am a Baby Boomer…and am embarrassed for it.
What has kept the powder keg from going off with conservatives?
When did the people of the United States of America develop such an affinity for cowardice? I realize now what an important lesson I learned in kindergarten when I was taught that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” There is not one progressive accusation that has not been made against me! I stand accused of being a racist, hater, homophobe, privileged, nazi, kkk, uncaring, un-Christian like, the list goes on and on. This name calling should never stop us from speaking the truth!
A sad, fearful topic beautifully explained and backed up–as always. I am your contemporary and see the huge difference in patriotism, respect for others, accepting responsibility. Part of my family escaped Nazi Germany. 3 months after arriving here, they spoke enough English to apply for citizenship. The college age and recent college grads have learned nothing. They have no idea how to work hard. The screaming minority are simply large 8 year olds having a temper tantrum while trying to impose their personal or world view on others. There’s not much time left to fix many difficult problems. But I’m not giving up ..not yet. Thanks to your insightful words Professor Hanson.
DARK, SO DARK VICTOR.
BEFORE THE MIDTERMS I UNDERSTOOD THAT YOUR APOCALYPTIC (AND TRUE) VISION WAS A USEFUL NIGHTMARE TO GET THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO WAKE UP. BUT WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE NOW?
Beautiful and clear-eyed as always Mr. VDH.
Whenever I’m feeling similarly concerned for the future, I watch the last five minutes or so from this documentary on the Russian Revolution and remember that our ideas are better and feel reassured that those principles will win the day.
Highly recommended: https://youtu.be/F0m6uKwobGQ
We are literally on the brink of the final push to full on Marxist communist tyranny. Thank the Democrats and their cowering RINO enablers!
Late Georgia governor Lester Maddox was given a report of a serious increase in crime in the Georgia prison system. Upon reading it, he turned to his aide and remarked “Looks like what we need is a BETTER CLASS OF CRIMINAL.”
Substitute “CITIZEN” & “POLITICIAN” for “CRIMINAL” and there you have it.
The BLUEPRINT for “THE PLAN” is at this link: https://www.bitchute.com/video/Sb1MJCbfHZiz/
PLEASE SHARE THIS 4 minute video.
Almost forgot, get back to those TV sports events and, by all means VOTE DEMOCRAT & RINO!
And if you’re a parent, I’d also suggest writing a letter to your kids & grand-kids detailing all you did to stop this INSANITY.
Except for you who actually read an digested VDH’s essay, most of those letters would be mostly BLANK!
Who called for suspending the Constitution? Who hired his unqualified son in law and daughter? Who called for the Jan 6 insurrection? Who refused the peaceful transfer of power?
When leaders in our government lie, cheat, steal and refuse to cooperate with the judicial branch it sends a message to all—stealing is ok. Only the stupid pay taxes. Lying under oath is something you get away with. And threatening governors who don’t do your bidding is just part of the job. Should I add stealing campaign contributions, pulling out of our international agreements and supporting other authoritarian dictators?
Yes. You can thank 45 for the US falling to pieces.