March 22, 2012 Dylan Ratigan

Mini Essays Pour In: “Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?”

“Are America’s best days behind us?”  We asked this question earlier this week when we had the author of “Why Nations Fail” on the show.

Some of these mini-essays are edited for brevity, but the full (unedited) comments of everyone who wrote in are available for your reading pleasure here.  You can also check out our segment with economist Daron Acemoglu here, and find out who won the copy of his book.  Here’s what some of you had to say:

I don’t think it’s an issue of the U.S.’s best days being behind it. I think it is a question of global proportions.  Nations fall because of concentration of wealth, resource destruction leading to imperialism and over-extension, and massive corruption. The sector of our society that causes most corruption is the business/corporate sector.  Corporations, world-wide, have become the new center of wealth-concentration and resource destruction. They are also actively undermining rule by the people in favor of corporatocracy.  So, to answer the question, unless corporate corruption and influence is curtailed, yes, our glory days are gone. “ – Chris, El Paso TX (@ChrisDalzell)

As a college English Professor, I am seeing on a daily basis how the erosion of our educational system is adversely affecting our greatest resource, our people, especially our young people who will have to be in leadership positions one day.  We have students who no longer read and instead believe looking at a screen will educate them.  And, thinking skills?  Most have never been asked to THINK!  When I ask questions, they look like the cliche “deer in the headlights.”  We must put a clear priority on meaningful education. – Maeve, Chicago (@Ablazia)

No!  I do not believe, nor do I accept that America’s best days have happened yet!  I think what is occurring is similar to “a market correction”, as they say on Wall Street.  What I’m observing is that people are starting to gather the facts and are ready to throw out the “less is more” charlatans and get on with the business of being the great and innovative country that the rest of the world admires!” – John in Memphis, TN (@MemphisJohnny1)

Our problems are becoming increasingly complex, but the electorate isn’t keeping up, both in terms of their understanding and their willingness to deal with the complexities. Democracies get the governments they deserve. If we’re too busy, too angry or too dumb to participate, then, yes, our best days will be behind us. @Gmsearth

A nation’s best days are behind it only when that notion is accepted as the norm. – Grant

America’s best days will be behind us if we ignore the history of every other failed democracy. Americans must choose to educate themselves on the issues rather than buy into the talking points and platitudes of either political party. We must choose to be responsible, ethical, moral people once again, not bowing to pressure from external groups. We must choose to save our money and spend what we spend wisely. Without these changes, we will fail. History proves it.  – Wes, Nashville, TN (@WesHartline)

Honestly, it sure feels like it. The evidence supports my intuitions, and then some. Just take a look at the wealth gap – the income inequality, and wealth inequality numbers are surreal.  Extractionism, indeed. We could discuss the military-industrial complex, the collusion of big gov and big business, abject poverty, anti-democracy legislation signed into law, education numbers (science!) and so on  – Patrick

Absolutely not. Americans are very resilient people… I feel that our citizens are becoming more involved as time goes on. The advent of social media is largely behind this and I applaud it. People are getting more, and better, information rather than waiting for decrees to “trickle down” from on high – Mike, Michigan City MI

The problem for our nation is the many powers that have an investment in the very structural problems that have lead us to where we are. As long as our version of capitalism allows short term profit to dictate long term social-economic policy we will not find the impetus to alter our path. Other nations, less dictated to by business, will adjust their policies to meet the needs of their citizens and the businesses that work within those nations will adjust to the changed demands while we suffer the economic costs of being mired in past practices and policies. We have allowed the cart to overtake the horse and it will cause us to lose the race for the future for both our citizens and business. – Keith, South Sioux IN

Thanks to everyone who wrote in — we were amazed at the number of thoughtful responses, and are thinking of making “Mini Essays” a weekly feature on  Let us know what you think!  Send us an email to with your feedback, and if you’d like to see another mini-essay contest next week.

PHOTO CREDIT: Port of Oakland Shipping Containers via Mental.Masala (Flickr)


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