Mitt Romney, “No Apology” Book Analysis. Chapter Two, Why Nations Decline. The Flawed Analogy
WHERE I COME FROM
The Flawed Analogy
In this chapter Romney attempts to analogize the American experience with other empires and civilizations that have declined in the past. This is a lesson in what we should do to avoid becoming a second or third rate power. For instance the Ottoman and the Portuguese Empires, built on conquest and pillage, declined as a result of the failure to embrace new technologies. China, once the most powerful nation on Earth, which invented paper and gunpowder and launched the World’s most powerful navy, turned inward sealing itself off from the world, new ideas, technologies and as a result declined intellectually and economically. Great Britain also once the World’s most powerful economy with the largest navy failed to embrace new technology. (Some say its colonial system was an unsustainable financial burden plus the fact it bankrupted itself in two world wars.)
The point he is that the empires’ either were unsustainable economically or in the face of advancing technology and changing conditions failed to embrace new ideas or adjust to changed conditions which others did more successfully.
He also points out that often the class in power was unwilling to embrace new developments and ideas because the status quo benefitted them but was detrimental as a whole to the societies they led. Kim Jong Il and the Castro brothers must know by now that the communist economic system is unsustainable and damaging to their countries yet they are unwilling to open their doors to free trade, democracy or capitalism in any form because this might lead to the end of their power.
Comparing the U.S. to these former empires and others is really not that productive. Empires rise and fall because the economic system that supports that power is unsustainable in the face of new technologies embraced by more open countries.
As expected the present day comparison is made between China and the Western Industrialized Societies led by the United States. Romney thinks that we must meet the challenge China poses head on or we will also become a second rate power . (However China’s power is based on its decision to open itself up to trade and more importantly providing cheap labor. It has not given up its political system. This move has benefited about 300 million of its people but another 700 hundred million remain in rural poverty.
How it will deal with this remains to be seen although it has many projects to embrace new technology and to improve the lot of the 700 million left out of the present boom. Otherwise it will probably face more internal, political unrest than there is at present.
India has many of the same problems as China; a rural society converting to an industrial and technological one although it appears to be less entrepreneurial than China. Despite the fact it is the world’s largest democracy it also has millions of people who have been bypassed by the improvements made when it abandoned a centralized economy for a free market one.)
Pure Democracy Is A Flawed System
Romney quotes Ronald Reagan who was quoting an unknown Scottish philosopher when he said that democracies have the seeds of their own demise because when the voters discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury this leads to financial collapse and then dictatorship. ( We don’t have this problem because we are not a pure democracy. The Senate among other factors does not represent the popular vote but the propertied interests. The Supreme Court answers to no one, apparently, for its decisions.)
(The Scottish allusion, vague as it is, apparently is a reference to Social Security and Medicare which are supported by taxes on the wages of eventual recipients as well as employers for today’s beneficiaries. Not exactly like a direct usurpation of the public treasury. However this sounds like another argument for tax cuts on the wealthy that are not conducive to preserving one of Americas’ greatest strengths, a large and prosperous middle class.)
Romney states a free and strong America will have leaders who will recognize the threats to our power and to take measures to meet those threats. Globalization, terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons to hostile groups are some of the major threats facing the country. However another major threat is from politicians like Bush II and perhaps Romney and the crowd they bring into office with them who are intent on reducing taxes on themselves and exploiting the natural resources of the country for their own gain. The middle class shrunk and more people fell below the poverty line under Bush II. (Romney misses the point a free and strong America is based on a large, free and prosperous middle class who produce, educate and elect the best leaders not vice versa.)
Energy and Climate Change
(In the long run whether America remains the dominant power in the world is based on how we deal with energy and how we evolve from fossil fuels like oil a finite commodity, which is now in the control of hostile nations in the Mid East and Russia. Iran and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez are major problems. These countries would have no role to play on the world stage if it were not for their oil resources. Then there is climate change caused by fossil fuels. How that condition plays out also will be a decisive factor in world leadership.)
Romney believes we have the resources to meet these challenges, a free press to debate the issues that confront us, a democracy to elect leaders to do the job that needs to be done and the intellectual and economic resources to do the job. (It appears that the Obama Administration is already meeting those challenges better than the last Republican Administration. Whether Romney would do better is a best doubtful.)