The criteria for a failed state are pretty specific: Loss of authority over the use of force, loss of the authority to make collective decisions, inability to provide public services, and the inability to interact with the international community.
As critical as some Americans are these days, few of us think of our country as a “failed state.” Yet the Fund For Peace suggests that, in fact, we are the road to become one.
The Fund for Peace is a nonprofit, nongovernmental research and educational institution in Washington. It’s been around since 1957, and its Failed State Index has been used by such notables as CIA Director and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Fund for Peace has a four level-ranking system: Alert, Warning, Moderate and Sustainable. The U.S. is ranked “Moderate.” Compared with several troubled states in Africa and the Mideast, we look pretty good. But compared with the Scandinavian states and others with stable government and sound social systems, we have a way to go.
Is this cause for alarm? I think it is. While Americans complain about their government and the state of the nation in general, they are not analytical about either the causes or the solutions. It is always the other guy who is a fault — the other party, the other cultural or social system.
Get rid of those “others” and all will be well. Government itself is at fault so let’s have less government. Taxation is a burden so let’s do away with the Internal Revenue Service.
Pay attention to candidates running for office today. How many times to they promise less government or lower taxes without saying how they plan to manage the nation’s affairs without a functional bureaucracy and a reliable source of income?
Let’s examine The Fund For Peace criteria. The U.S. Military has few internal challengers, but the both the Congress and the President have trouble when it comes to collective decision-making. Public confidence in Congress is at an all time low, and the president is once again being threatened with impeachment.
It’s the nation’s inability to provide public services that is of greatest concern right now. We are all familiar with the problems at the Veteran’s Administration but I’m feeling the pinch closer to home. IRS documents necessary to probate my husband’s estate are always in the mail but never arrive. The Certificate of Sale for my new secondhand car has been promised for weeks, and I’m still waiting. These are minor inconveniences, but when registrations, permits, and other official papers take an inordinate amount of time, a system become vulnerable to bribery.
When all else fails, money becomes the lubricant of choice. This is one of the first signs of a degenerating state. I’m not suggesting paying off the right person would speed up the IRS, but then, I haven’t tried.
There is no question that money buys public office. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the candidate who spends the most money wins over 90 percent of the time. Money buys power, and power raises more money. This is one of the factors that leads to one-party state like Georgia.
Any biologist will tell you that a monoculture is not a good thing. It leads to the spread of pests and diseases. It depletes the soil and weakens the land.
This is just as true for politics as it is for biology. A single-party state is not healthy no matter how attractive the party in question seems on the surface, and this is something that can only be solved by American voters, if and when they rise above patrician politics
The stark division between right and left in the country is bad enough. The division between rich and poor— actually, the division between the super rich and the masses — is probably the biggest threat the country faces today.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.