After America: Get Ready for Armageddon.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Kellen, Mark
Pub Date: 03/22/2012
Publication: Name: Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Publisher: Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc. ISSN: 1543-4826
Issue: Date: Spring, 2012 Source Volume: 17 Source Issue: 1
Topic: NamedWork: After America: Get Ready for Armageddon (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Steyn, Mark
Accession Number: 293813002
Full Text: After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, by Mark Steyn, hardcover, 424 pp, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-59698-100-3, Washington, D.C., Regnery, 2011.

What to think of Mark Steyn is the inevitable question after reading this book. Are we on the brink of financial Armageddon, or is this just overblown hype by a man who cannot get over the fact that a socialist was elected President of the United States?

I have found that talking to people at social events about impending financial collapse gets one viewed as a conspiracy theorist who spends too much time on the Internet. I believe that this is a manifestation of the normalcy bias, under which people believe that their present reality will go on forever. The thought of mass starvation and fighting daily to stay alive is as alien to all Americans today as comfort would have been alien to our forefathers prior to the early 20th century.

Could we really be doomed? Can we look to the past and predict the outcome for our society? Will the collapse occur quickly, over an extended time, or will it not occur at all? Can an evolved, technically advanced society sink into many years of "dark ages"? Can civil society collapse into depravity?

Edward Gibbon called the first and second centuries A.D. in the Roman Empire the happiest time in human history. The Western Roman Empire began to crumble around 300 A.D., but did not completely fail until 476 A.D. Europe would not return to the standard of living it enjoyed during the Roman Empire for another 1,000 years. It would be fair to say that human nature has not changed. Still, can we predict an outcome for our society, which Steyn calls "the New Rome"? Steyn attempts to do so.

The true reason for our American decline, Steyn writes, is the structural problem of too much productive time being wasted complying with our excessively obese regulatory state. The idea from chapter one that we need a "Not Sitting Around on My Ass All Day "permit to do anything sums up his point. It seems that sex is about the only thing for which you do not need a license.

Steyn believes we do not have a fiscal crisis in America so much as we have a moral crisis. It is immoral to spend money not yet earned by generations not yet born. He also believes that American statists (socialists) live in a world of ignorance. They do not recognize that Europe does not function well and has been in a slow decline over the past 66 years. They do not recognize that Europe functions at all only because America has been there to cushion its fall since 1945. If America collapses, the fall will be swift and severe. The portents are not good. Steyn believes that the Western world has given upon the future. We do not save, we do not produce, and we do not reproduce. Europe's population is slated to decline, and if not for immigrant births, America would be failing to reproduce itself As well.

I can't say whether I did or did not enjoy reading the book. Steyn's gallows humor keeps the reader smirking rather than enjoying the avalanche of information about apathy and blatant lunacy. For example, he writes that after hurricane Katrina, firemen from all over the country who volunteered to help and who were urgently need for assistance in Louisiana were first shunted to Atlanta for diversity and sexual-harassment training.

He muses as to whether it is only a matter of time before some nutty judge finds the Constitution unconstitutional. He lays out the corruption of luminaries such as Rep. John Conyers (why read a bill I cannot understand anyway?) and Nancy Pelosi (we have to pass the bill to find out what's in it).

Steyn writes that we are governed by unelected bureaucrats, not Congress. He gives numerous descriptions of stupidity such as "Greek tax collectors, to protest government cuts, stopped collecting taxes," and "lesbian women in Sweden are being stymied in their desire for children by a shortage of functional sperm." He shows how socialism promotes apathy and hedonism and mentions that Britain has signs up that plead with citizens not to beat up public employees. Even Cicero in 55 B.C. knew that free benefits from the government would undermine people's will to work, and drain the treasury. Have we forgotten that? Steyn shows America has become a land that rewards failure at the personal, corporate, and state levels. After all, we are the first society in the history of the world where obesity is a symptom of poverty.

As an example of political correctness run amok, Steyn notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics decries circumcision, yet said we should support female genital mutilation out of cultural respect. His examples are so profuse that one would become breathless trying to recount them all.

I did at times have a hard time discerning themes in the chapters. It seemed that each chapter was another blast from the same shotgun. Just more and more stories designed to make me want to scream out at the senseless wasteland that is our country today. I did disagree with Steyn on just a few points: He wants America to be the world's policeman, and I think this is a waste of human and economic capital.

Steyn spends 324 pages describing a hopelessly depressing situation, then 25 pages on how to fix the problem. The first 324 pages are far more persuasive than the final 25. It is apparent from the first 90 percent of the book that accomplishing the last 10 percent is likely to be impossible, and would be a change from every relevant historical circumstance of similar magnitude and severity.

Ayn Rand's John Galt gave up and left society to crumble, but only as an instinct of self-preservation. Do we need to move away to protect ourselves from being slaves to those who live only at the whim of government handouts? It is hard not to be pessimistic: as Steyn shows, the moral fiber of the nation is in complete disarray, and there is a fine line between civilization and the abyss. Therefore, it is hard for me to imagine the nation correcting itself without a massive trauma, such as complete collapse of the currency.

Were this to happen, there would soon be no food, no medicine, and little water. Would the urban mortality be 5 percent? 40 percent? If such a horrendous scenario played out, the nation might turn to Steyn's prescription: De-centralize, de-governmentalize, de-regulate, de-monopolize, de-complicate, de-credentialize, dis-entitle, de-normalize--and DO.

"We must return to liberty and limited government or we will join the rest of the western world in terminal decline," Steyn concludes.

"Civilization is not an evolution of mankind, but the imposition of human good on human evil."

Mark Kellen, M.D.

Rockford, Ill.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.