Is the United States a failed country?

Is the United States a failed country?

That term “failed state” (I prefer “country”*) is often tossed around in news reports to describe other countries, the most dramatic of which are predominantly Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Pakistan (one of the three pieces of what was one country on independence from Britain).

Then there is Latin America, where two of many examples are Venezuela (an example of pure government incompetence leading to breakdown in vital services and widespread starvation) and Brazil (whose infrastructure and services are collapsing under corruption, impeachments, and the 2016 Olympics).

You know: countries with governments that can’t govern, countries riven by ethnic and ideological strife and about to fall apart, countries with leaders on the take and huge gaps between the wealthy and the impoverished, countries whose citizens can’t get along because they lack the long tradition of respectful democracy founded long ago in Europe, of which it is accepted wisdom that we are the greatest exemplar.

And Europe? Come to think of it, Germany was split in two states after World War II. Czechoslovakia split into two parts and Yugoslavia into, eventually, seven. The USSR collapsed into its 15 constituent republics. Belgium periodically looks like the Flemish and French speakers are breaking up. The UK again is threatened by possible Scottish independence and Spain by the long-standing Catalan and Basque independence movements. And Greece, the birthplace of democracy, has been undergoing a bit of turmoil itself recently.


Our distrustful Founders, in the movement initiated 240 years ago today (image above**), hoped to safeguard democracy by playing off three branches of government against each other. We have been finding out ever since then whether a tree with three equal trunks (and one of them itself divided in two sub-branches) is prone to fissure.

We are still, in Abraham Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, testing whether a nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal… can long endure.” The outcome, these days, depends on leaders many of whom don’t wish to lead and people many of whom don’t wish to vote.

You’d have to say that the United States was a failed country leading up to 1861, when an extraordinarily bloody Civil War tore it apart, with wounds that still haven’t healed in areas like race relations and vote suppression. Is it failing again?

One sign of impending country failure is a breakdown in national institutions. As pointed out in a recent New York Times article, “3 Separate, Equal and Dysfunctional Branches” by Carl Hulse, 6/23/16, our legislative branch does nothing about the epidemic of gun violence, refuses to restore the Supreme Court to full strength, and tears down the executive branch’s major principles like safeguarding immigrant parents of American citizens, while the states chip away at the Affordable Health Care Act and abortion rights long recognized by the judicial system.

The article ends by quoting Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass), following Democratic representatives’ sit=-in demanding the right to discuss and vote on a gun bill: “So we’re locked out of everything, if I am understanding the rule correctly? This is a lousy process, Mr. Speaker.”

Amid all the turmoil, one of the most divisive presidential campaigns since perhaps 1860 lurches along toward yet unknown heights of financial coercion and verbal and physical violence, making one wonder how much longer, at least under the current form of government, the American experiment can continue.

Oh, and Happy Independence Day!

* To me, a state (or a colony like Puerto Rico, or a city, or any political unit) fails if it becomes dysfunctional, stops following its own rules, does not use its resources to meet its people’s needs. A country fails if it does not meet its own expectations, if its principles are subverted in practice, if its citizens are disaffected and divided by more than unites them, if it loses the desire for consensus that holds a nation together. I am not sure that Czechoslovakia was a failed state; it was a country whose people preferred to form two states. The USSR was manifestly a failed country even while it still had a strong state. UK has (at least till the current uproar) a long-respected state, but as a country it is losing its unity; in fact, the desire to strengthen the state against foreign influence is driving its collapse as a single country.

**from Wikimedia Commons: John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the US Capitol rotunda.

About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
This entry was posted in Constitution, History, Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Is the United States a failed country?

  1. Joe Lantieri says:

    As far as the US being a “failed state”, this upcoming election and what happens after the results are in, will answer this question in a big way. If we look back at previous elections, we will see that this election possesses the two “worst” candidates ever to run for the office of President (assuming they both get nominated). When the “Founding Fathers” set up the system, I believe that they assumed that whoever runs for office will be a loyal American. In this way, candidates will put the Nation first before political party. When was the last time when a candidate “hated” the Nation for which that candidate was running for office?

  2. Jon says:

    I suggest you take a nice long look at that one document.. what’s it called again…?? Ugh I hate when this happens.. OOHHH yes I remember, it’s called the constitution of the united states! Your democratic party has placed every nation on earth ahead of our own. Ever tried to get your son or daughter a scholarship to attend a university? No, they go to foreigners. This is a fact. Your party is so afraid to accept that you are leading this nation to a socialized state. Don’t believe me? Ask any surviving person who lived in Austria before WWII and ask them how similar these situations are. Don’t get me started on the Republican side either. Both parties are out to serve the elites of the country while the people suffer. Instead of serving the people their goal is to serve their own interests. The disinterest in politics and lack of education has produced a nation of slaves. Not black and white but elites and non elites. The United States will rule the day they turned their backs on history and allowed what every superpower on earth has suffered before them. Sad thing is I do not believe it is salvageable.

  3. Harry Hoopes says:

    The United States is indeed a failed country and just might fall apart as long as liberals retain any semblance of power. To understand liberals one must be able to understand their core belief: anything that they believe should be, must be, and therefore is. The fact that work and investment is necessary is irrelevant to them. They simply decree that what they want is. To them, it doesn’t matter where you were born or how you got here, as long as you vote for them. In fact, I can see them extending voting rights to the man on the moon as long as he votes for them. They care only about themselves and nothing else, including this country.

    • Brian Lesyk says:

      The United States is indeed a failed country and just might fall apart as long as conservatives retain any semblance of power. To understand conservatives, one must be able to understand their core belief: anything that they believe should be, must be, and therefore is. The fact is that equality and social progress is necessary is irrelevant to them. They simply decree that what they want to forward their antiquated ideals in the name of quasi-theological stances, hate-mongering, and privilege. To them, it matters far too much where you were born and how you got here, and it doesn’t even matter if you vote for them. In fact, I can see them eliminating voting rights by way of otherwise inexplicable re-districting and ballot day buffoonery. They don’t even truly care only themselves unless they just so happen to be affected by a certain policy…then, mysteriously, they fain sympathy. Admittedly, it’s become equally comical and satisfying witnessing their inevitable implosion after decades of choosing the wrong side of history. I’m just glad I get to watch it first-hand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.