Occam’s Razor states that the simplest solution to any problem is most often the best solution. A corrollary might be stated as: There are no complicated solutions, only complicated reasons to not adopt the simple solutions.
The seeds of decline for this grand experiment in democracy known as the United States were sown very early on. Our first president, George Washington, warned of the potential dangers ahead in his farewell address. It would be instructive for any not familiar with those words to do a quick search and read the text in its entirety.
In today’s political landscape, dominated by two major parties, the word most often heard is ‘compromise’. In my opinion it was an ability to compromise that started us on the long path leading to the problems facing the country today.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the framers of the constitution and a strict constructionist, felt compelled to compromise his beliefs when it came to the Louisiana Purchase. While freely admitting that he lacked constitutional authority to do so, he approved the purchase ‘for the good of the nation’. This act was widely acclaimed and remains the signature act of his administration. That it was unconstitutional was of little importance.
The numerated powers, section eight of the Constitution, clearly limits the real estate holdings allowed to the Federal Government. Jefferson’s compromise with his own conscience opened the door to the acquisition of the vast amount of land currently controlled by the government, all ‘for the good of the country’.
Andrew Jackson was a friend to the Native Americans. Absent the mutual trust he shared with the Cherokee Nation the United States might not have prevailed in the war of 1812. He pledged his lifelong support to his friends and allies among the Five Civilized Tribes. Then came the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Jackson struck a compromise deal with himself and, between 1831 and 1837, authorized the removal of 46,000 thousand of his good friends. His rationale was that it was ‘for the good of the country’ that he relocate the Indians rather than risk a civil war with the white population hungering for the land inconveniently owned by those Native Americans.
A great many empires have risen to power in the history of our planet. The Ottoman, the Persian, the Byzantine. We had the Han Dynasty, Holy Roman, Russian, British, Russian. Who could ever forget that playful group, the Mongol Horde? And the grand champion for longevity was the Roman Empire which lasted for 2214 years. But all have one thing in common; they ended.
While each may have succumbed to a different root cause, the reason for the decline of the United States can be easily seen in the aforementioned words of George Washington in his farewell address.
The framers of our constitution left us with a blueprint for a great nation. Perhaps over the years we have strayed too far from its constructs to ever return. Perhaps the greed among our elected leaders, greed for power, fame, status, ego gratification, wealth or whatever other motivating force, will not allow us to return to a reverence for our foundational document. If so then we might as well select our position on the shelf of history along with all the other defunct empires of the past.