Updated August 2022
The behavior of the present administration should remind us of the fragility of democracies. In the introduction to the principles of good government section, written over 20 years ago, the fundamental things good government should not do and the greatest internal threats to a successful democracy are listed. This administration is either doing or attempting to do nearly all of the things government should not do included on the first list and pursuing policies that increase the danger from each of the threats on the second list.
Threats and Failures
Defense and Foreign Policy
Failure to Keep Order
Social Support System
Entitlements, Federally Funded Infrastructure, Deficits and Inflation, Modern Monetary Theory
Politics, Political Parties, Election Regulations
Except for the threat from China, continuation of the current administration’s southern border policy may be the greatest long-term threat to our democracy . It is allowing, in effect inviting, people from all over the world to cross into our country illegally with little risk of any penalty once they have crossed our border. These illegals are being transported and distributed into communities all across the country so that the crisis they are creating does not become as obvious to the public as it would with massive holding facilities near the border. This, along with our absurdly complex deportation judicial review process makes it much more difficult to deport them.
The previous administration had instituted policies with Mexico and the northern triangle countries to hold migrants south of the border until they were approved by the US for crossing. This policy drastically reduced illegal immigration and was reversed immediately by the Biden administration with the consequences we are seeing.
Since the way to control illegal immigration has so recently been demonstrated, the most obvious conclusion for the current policy’s purpose is the intention to change the demographic and political character of the country with massive illegal and legal immigration from countries with dysfunctional governments. The addition of significant numbers of new voters whose experience of democracy in their own countries has been miserable is apparently seen to be an opportunity to shift the country radically to the left. This type immigration coupled with widespread teaching of critical race theory in our educational systems is thought to be a winning combination for those on the left – an approach to radically transform this country’s institutions and government.
With respect to immigration policies, it is important to remain mindful of the truism, “people would rather be ruled badly by their own kind than well by anyone else”.
For books on how uncontrolled immigration can fundamentally change countries see Georgie Anne Geyer’s, Americans No More, Douglas Murray’s, The Strange Death Of Europe, and Pat Buchanan’s, The Death of the West and State of Emergency.
Defense and Foreign Policy
It is agonizing to watch the Biden administration’s missteps in attempting to respond to the China/Taiwan threat. To its credit it is trying to solidify our allies in Southeast Asia and bring critical supply chains back to the US. Where it is failing so badly is that, it is telegraphing weakness and incoherence and is starving our military of the funds needed to successfully convince China that invading Taiwan or other nearby countries would be an unacceptable risk. While there is little doubt that China could take Taiwan if it made an all-out, no holds barred, effort to do so. The US mission should be to convince China that it would not be worth it by having the ability to inflict on it an unacceptable cost militarily and an unacceptable cost in world opinion and alliances.
While the Army has had excellent leadership in the past few decades (quality of Army leadership at the very top has declined recently, as evidenced by their weak opposition to the incredibly foolish strategy for Afghanistan withdrawal, their embrace of climate change mission creep, and compliance with the woke agenda), the Navy’s leadership seems to have deteriorated, particularly with respect to training officers to be too risk-averse by following the principal, one significant mistake and you are out.
The Navy needs a credible strategy to prevent the invasion of Taiwan by building the capacity to deny China the ability to invade Taiwan across the Taiwan Straits. To do this we have to be able to forestall China’s ability to knock out our satellites and communication systems and to develop comprehensive missile systems to both defend against incoming missiles and to destroy Chinese ships and aircraft and military bases on artificial reefs. We need to build up the Navy’s surface and submarine fleets and short range and midrange missile capability, both defensive and offensive. Such a theoretical battle would probably employ large numbers of drones for both attack and observation.
In the last decade China has been modernizing and increasing its Navy and its anti-ship missile systems at an accelerating rate so its ability to counter the U.S. Navy in the Western Pacific may have achieved superiority. The Biden administration’s plan to draw down the current Navy’s forces to shift funds to create a modernized naval force that will take about 10 years to reach full effectiveness is too risky. The period of greatest danger for war in the Western Pacific starting with a Chinese attack on Taiwan is probably near term. China is most likely to attack when it feels America is weakest and about to get stronger. We urgently need to increase production of the types of weapons, including modernizing existing ships and building new ones, anticipated to be most effective against China’s potential for establishing military control of the western Pacific, including Taiwan. China is also rapidly expanding and upgrading its strategic nuclear forces and our planned nuclear force structure needs to adjust accordingly. Arms control treaties with Russia that do not include China are dangerously shortsighted.
The ability to retain superiority in cyber warfare capability is critical. We need to build up our cyber warfare capabilities, both offensive and defensive. Our military is now so dependent on advanced technology that is so vulnerable to disruption that, unless we have the ability to protect our high tech supported systems better than our adversary can protect its own communication, guidance systems and observation ability, we will lose.
In addition to bringing back critical supply chains to the U.S., we need to make sure we retain the advantage in space, high tech, chips, AI, computers, satellites, and all key areas of advanced technology. The government needs to help private industry here but in a very careful way. The country that will lead the world will necessarily be dominant in technological and productivity advances. China would not be the hegemon it is today had we not helped it tremendously by freely sharing our technological advances and providing an enormous market for its exports.
China has reaped huge benefits from its Confucius Institutes in top American universities where Chinese students are exposed to the cutting-edge advances in American science and technology. The Trump administration was the first to significantly address this problem effectively, but more needs to be done to minimize China’s stealing high tech and technological know-how through its students in American universities.
The Chinese have also benefited greatly from insisting that American companies doing business in China share their technology as a cost of doing business in China. The Trump administration cracked down on this but it is still a threat to a more limited extent.
The reason it is so important for Taiwan to retain its independence from China is that both the US and China and the rest of the developed world are heavily dependent on Taiwan’s chips. Taiwan has a number of key chip manufacturing companies and one of them, TSMC, is both the largest chip manufacturer in the world and the producer of the world’s most advanced chips. Should China gain control of Taiwan before the US can build the capacity to make chips equal to the most advanced Taiwanese chips China would have a huge stick to wield over us. We need to supply Taiwan with the weapons it needs for a successful defense before China attacks. It will be too late once China attacks because of their ability to blockade Taiwan as they are currently demonstrating.
Should China gain control over Taiwan it would solidify its control of the South China Sea and send a message to all the nearby countries that opposing China was very dangerous indeed, making them more accommodative of China and less willing to maintain alliances with the US. We need to formerly recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation and formalize a defense treaty, but this should be preceded by a crash program to improve our ability to defend Taiwan. The worst thing we can do is, by promising to help defend Taiwan, give China an incentive to invade it before we have the credible ability to defend it.
The reason it is so important for the US to successfully counter China is that China’s concept of government is hostile to liberty and freedom. Its aim is to prove that its model of government of iron control of the population with very intrusive social monitoring, coupled with a considerable amount of market capitalism (which exists at the whim of government), is superior to the US model of genuinely democratic government, free markets, a widely respected and impartial legal system, and a considerable amount of individual liberty for its citizens.
Good books on the China threat are Michael Pillsbury’s, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower and Jonathan Ward’s, China’s Vison of Victory.
The war in Ukraine has been handled by the Biden administration and our European allies better than expected, but we still need a lot of improvement in the quality of our support if Ukraine is to survive. One of the most promising things that has come out of the war is the unity of our European allies and the proposed expansion of NATO with the addition of Finland and Sweden, and the apparent determination of our NATO allies to shore up their defenses.
What Ukraine desperately needs now is more sophisticated weapons – more Himars, more sophisticated drones and air defenses, particularly antimissile defenses, long range anti-ship cruise missiles, and training on American F-16s and other sophisticated weapons (in addition to other advanced weapons Ukraine will need a fighter force to match the Russians if it is to take back significant territory).
It is critical to protect Odessa and the adjacent part of Ukraine and to break the Russian blockade so that grain can be exported.
For the support of both Ukraine and Taiwan the US urgently needs to ramp up production lines to produce a much higher volume of the type weapons anticipated to be needed for Ukraine to prevail and to make Taiwan far less vulnerable to a Chinese attack both by sea and from the air.
The decision to withdraw from Afghanistan with no preparation, or warning to our allies, was tragically foolish. It not only left Afghan citizens to a very sad plight but encouraged our three main adversaries, China, Russia, and Iran to feel that the time was ripe to take advantage of our weakness. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was likely precipitated by the Afghan withdrawal and China’s determination and planning to take Taiwan accelerated. The decision to abandon Bagram air base was inexplicable. Had we required of the Taliban a long-term lease on Bagram as a condition of withdrawal it would have been greatly to our strategic advantage for many obvious reasons.
The Biden administration’s determination to achieve a one-sided nuclear agreement with Iran is extremely dangerous and of course endangers and alienates our most important Middle East allies. Fortunately, Iran is being so unreasonable that it is unlikely even this administration will reach an agreement. All signs indicate that the only way to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power will be by force and we should be preparing a strategy with our Middle East allies to take out Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons if we have to.
Failure to Keep Order
Failure to keep order is one of the surest signs of a country’s decline. The Biden administration and currently most American major cities controlled by Democrats are seeing greatly increased levels of lawlessness and civil disintegration, violent protests, riots, looting, aggressive shoplifting, robberies, rapes and murder. All this is being treated with calls to defund the police from the radical left and increased leniency toward criminal behavior by our legal system.
The greatest failure to keep order currently is on the southern border where we are allowing massive entry of illegal immigrants and spreading them across the country. This is threatening in two ways, a decrease in the respect for law and a demographic shift in the population of the country from adding large numbers of people from countries with a history of dysfunctional government where the law is neither properly respected nor effectively enforced.
Social Support System
One of the biggest threats to a modern democracy is to have a social support system so designed as to cause ever increasing and eventually unsustainable pressures on the budget and that functions to diminish self-reliance and increase dependency and irresponsibility. A poorly designed and overly generous entitlement system reduces productivity in two ways, one, by drawing funds out of the capital markets (through taxes and/or borrowing) which otherwise would be used for production in the market economy and two, by spending them counterproductively and reducing the incentive to work and produce by those heavily dependent on government subsidies.
The legislation currently proposed by the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate is designed to addict a high percentage of our middle-class population to a whole menu of federal entitlements. The point of making the majority of middle-class voters dependent on federal subsidies is to make it very difficult politically to rationalize or eliminate these programs. The end result is to create a snowballing effect on the federal deficit and the need to raise taxes, both of which will be serious impediments to productivity advances. This is social policy designed for political advantage rather than for the welfare of the country.
There are no real world examples of a successful country with democratic government, a very generous and comprehensive system of government social support and a racially polyglot population. Unless the population is relatively homogeneous, and voters feel that the government support is fairly distributed among them, they will divide into politically warring factions. The United States has been uniquely successful so far in governing a mixed-race country but the edges are beginning to fray, and identity politics and critical race theory and the like, coupled with increasing demographic diversity, can quickly degenerate into a political crisis.
Entitlements, Federally Funded Infrastructure, Deficits and Inflation, Modern Monetary Theory
Entitlements when they become addictive necessarily lead to explosive deficits followed by productivity retarding tax increases and inflation. The political ratcheting effect on entitlements is almost irresistible.
The very worst return on federal spending comes from excessive and poorly designed entitlement programs. This is money that is transferred from those who pay taxes (and from future taxpayers when the transfers are paid through borrowing) to those who don’t. A reasonable level of transfers in the form of social support is necessary but once the process is begun an inevitable ratchet effect occurs because of political pressure to increase the amounts and types of subsidies.
The harm is twofold. The taxation levels required to fund a high level of transfers will reduce incentives to produce and retard productivity. The borrowing if excessive will eventually lead to destructive inflation. But the worst effects of poorly structured and excessive entitlement programs is that they diminish the lives of their recipients by reducing their self-reliance and sense of responsibility.
One of the worst things about our budgeting and political process is that the proponents of new and/or expanded government programs so often lie about how the program will work by saying that it will end by a certain date when they have no intention of agreeing to its termination and by estimating savings they know will not occur.
A massive federal infrastructure program creates an opportunity for political favors on a large scale and creates political incentives that ensure much of the funding will be spent wastefully. The federal interstate highway program initiated by Eisenhower is one example of a very effective infrastructure program that contributed greatly to the country’s productivity and economic growth, but it is a rare example. It would be much less wasteful if states funded most of the infrastructure improvements needed within the state. This would eliminate the struggle between the states to get a bigger share of the federal funding.
The greatest return on federal spending has come from funding basic research. Think of the benefits that have accrued from DARPA and from federal funding of medical research. Without increased federal investments in basic scientific and tech research and in advanced defense systems we are headed for periods of great danger and decline.
Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), the idea that it does not matter how much government borrows as long as interest rates stay low, is obviously nonsense. When it becomes widely realized that deficits are on an unsustainable path and the country’s credit and ability to repay has become questionable, investors will demand higher interest rates to purchase the debt. Even with interest rates remaining low, the compounding of interest over time will eventually have catastrophic results if debt service is entirely funded by increased borrowing, which it must be without an operating surplus.
When a country continues to run an operating deficit, exclusive of debt service, the compounding effect is on steroids, the interest accumulation from compounding is coupled with the operating deficits.
Most great countries and empires have begun their decline by overspending and the resulting inflation and loss of ability to finance their debt.
The failures in American education, until recently the best in the world, are self-inflicted, primarily by the teachers unions and the introduction of trendy leftist ideas about our society and how it should be reconfigured. The teachers unions really run the education systems and they run them primarily for the benefit of the union members, not for the children being educated. There are number of great reforms that could be implemented were they not blocked by the teachers unions. The teachers unions are such a key part of Democratic politicians’ support that it is very difficult to get them to agree to any positive changes to education that would diminish the power of the unions. This is one of the greatest problems with American education. Another is the increasing introduction of left-wing ideology into the classroom and the elimination of sound American history and civics education. Critical race theory and identity politics are poisonous to our social fabric and thus to our democracy. The textbook example of how they work in a country trying to function as a democracy where identity politics thoroughly permeates the society is Lebanon. The administration’s current policy of a de facto open southern border promises to seriously aggravate this problem.
Politics, Political Parties, Election Regulations
The left wing of the Democratic Party is attempting to transform the political landscape and the comprehensive scope of the federal government in one fell swoop. The most obvious levers follow:
Packing the Supreme Court
Statehood for DC and Puerto Rico to gain four new reliably Democratic senators
Open borders, encouragement of illegal immigration, massive amnesty for illegal immigrants, and continuation of immigration policy that favors family chain migration over a policy that welcomes the type citizens who will honor America’s traditional governing principles and contribute to its economic and productivity advances. While there are many instances of immigrants within the past few decades who have made significant contributions in starting and/or leading valuable high-tech companies, and making great contributions in science, practically none of them have come from the countries from which we have drawn the greatest quantity of recent immigrants.
The reason the Democratic left is promoting these immigration policies is because the immigrants that have come from the countries they favor have tended to support Democrats over Republicans in lopsided percentages.
Eliminating the filibuster
Massively expanding entitlements, even to the middle class, to attract more voters to government expansion
One of the Democrat left’s key objectives was to pass H.R.1, which, had it passed, would have crippled voter ID laws, given the vote to former felons, allowed same-day voter registration, publicly fund campaigns, eliminated states’ right to draw congressional districts, weakened the right to criticize the government, etc.
The Facts About For the People Act of 2021
The Biden administration’s so-called Green New Deal is pursuing a seriously flawed energy strategy that weakens America relative to its competitors. The most blatant example of a mistake is the cancellation of the Keystone pipeline and the simultaneous approval of Russia’s Nord Stream II pipeline under the North Sea to Germany. Cancellation of the Keystone pipeline, which was nearing completion after billions spent, was such an obvious mistake from a purely practical standpoint that it seems clear it was a purely political calculation to satisfy the left wing of the Democratic Party.
The administration’s energy policy, which is designed to rapidly eliminate America’s dependence on fossil fuels, has the cart before the horse. The US produces about 8% of the world’s emissions considered to be contributing to global warming. If the US eliminated them entirely it would have a negligible effect on global warming. Regardless of this, the administration seems determined to rapidly eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy without relying on an increase in nuclear power. The right approach would be to institute a carbon tax, invest heavily in nuclear power and in research in all areas of promising renewable energy, but in the meantime rely on fossil fuels, especially natural gas, until the various forms of renewable energy become more economically competitive with fossil fuels. To do otherwise will be enormously wasteful, very damaging to our economy and competitiveness and radically increase the federal government’s control over our economy, all without appreciably affecting global warming.