Declining prosperity is now a settled fact of American life.
Prosperity is not measured by the day’s average of stock speculation, or the profits of bankers, or the munificence of government subsidies and salaries, or the consumption of luxury goods, or even by the Gross Domestic Product. It is amazing how in a few short decades American “educators,” “experts,” “journalists,” and “statesmen” have banished age-old truths from public discourse.
Prosperity is when the great bulk of families have some property and a secure source of living, large or small. When nearly everybody has an abundance of necessities and access to some small luxuries and leisure. Naturally, debt, the ancient nemesis of prosperity, is minimal and temporary in a prosperous society for both government and people—it is a device for emergencies or starting up promising ventures. A prosperous society is made up mostly of people of middling economic status, with relatively few very rich and very poor. The government apparatus is small, unobtrusive, and mainly local. Religion, charity, education, and the arts flourish, especially where there is cultural cohesion, through private patronage. (Cultural cohesion would seem to be typical of societies with widely shared prosperity.)
Americans have been too pretentious in touting our country as the land of...