Because the Great Depression followed a period of intense financialization, he argues, we’re probably now headed for another catastrophic downturn. But no matter what the tabloids are saying, there isn’t enough evidence to support that argument. The current crisis, though worrisome, is so far remarkably self-contained. Big loses have hit the financial and subprime mortgage sectors; but unemployment has remained low, and most people still have their homes.
Mr. Phillips marches on, undeterred, pushing his narrative of inevitable American decline by pointing out that other imperial powers suffered dramatic and rapid collapses in fortune. The end of domination for the British, the Spanish, the Dutch and, yes, even the Romans, was marked by characteristics mirrored in contemporary America.
This is familiar territory. In 2004, Mr. Phillips’ American Dynasty made the case against the dynasticism of the Bush family. In 2006, he inveighed against the twin evils of peak oil and religious fundamentalism in American Theocracy. He revisits these topics here—offering along the way numerous variations on “As I’ve written in an earlier work …”—compiling, by the final chapters, a disjointed litany of impending crises.
Bad Money is Kevin Phillips’ culminating tale of American woe. It looks at the problems confronting the economy and spirals outward, to argue that this nation, like previous great powers, is doomed to decline. That may very well be true; indeed, to argue that eventually America’s standing will significantly wane is to take a very non-contentious position. World power is not fixed. Yet neither is history a guarantor. Solutions—notably absent from Mr. Phillips’ work—may present themselves, and usher in a future less grim than this would-be Jeremiah foretells.
Ethan Porter is the associate editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas (www.democracyjournal.org). He can be reached at email@example.com.
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