The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity"
The Second Coming,
William Butler Yeats
Business Insider, May 27, 2012: Yeats' lines aptly describe our current age of political mediocrity.
As we consider our politicians, we can hardly say that they're our best.
And the worst of them are full of passionate intensity, with passions
driven by ideology, rather than fact-based analysis.
States has been in decline relative to other countries for the last 30
years. On key metrics, we've fallen behind our peer group of
industrialized countries, such as the UK, France, Germany, and Japan.
Am I exaggerating? Well, according to the Corruption Perception Index, we rank 24th in the world (only slightly better than Qatar) for public sector corruption. We rank 25th (way behind our peer group) in the OECD for math scores among 15-year-olds.
Over the past 30 years, our national debt has grown from about 30 percent of GDP to about 100 percent, and will become much worse based on current trends. In a recent survey of 10,000 Harvard Business School Alumni, "66 percent of respondents see the U.S. falling behind emerging economies." It is difficult to find many encouraging metrics.
the above statistics don't convince you, visit the New Delhi
International Airport, then compare it with our JFK or Newark
International Airports. In many areas, our infrastructure is an embarrassment, already inferior to that of many third world countries.
facts (and many others) have escaped Romney, Santorum and our current
group of Republican leaders. Obama and the Democrats aren't doing
significantly better at confronting these challenges.
In the 19th
century, America aggressively compared itself against the world, and
aspired to be "best in class." We were an early adopter of kindergarten
because we saw evidence that it would improve educational outcomes. In
1862, the U.S. was suffering through the Civil War, but Congress still
had the foresight to pass the Land Grant Colleges Act, which created some of our finest universities. This investment
was made because it was important for our country's growth, and the
U.S. clearly lagged behind Europe in college and university education.
Today, many of us suffer from what Thorstein Veblen called "trained incapacity" and John Dewey described as "occupational psychosis." We filter the world through our own ideological training, believing only what fits our story. Or, as Stephen Colbert, cultural commentator and 2008 Peabody Award winner commented:
used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their
own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all...
What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?...
Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could
possibly be true.'
Many Americans still have an almost cult-like belief that America is
the greatest nation on earth. They systematically reject evidence
suggesting we have significant room for improvement.