Not Exactly Light Summer Reading: Will America Summon the Will to Correct Course?

If you’re still putting together your summer reading list here are a couple of books to add in case you haven’t gotten to them yet: Mark Steyn’s “America Alone” and “After America” are well worth your time. Let’s first look at America Alone.

One of the things that I love about this book is that Steyn isn’t afraid to address head-on the cultural challenge facing Western Civilization. I’ve called America Alone a book for the ages — a forward looking, humorously written wake-up call to the beneficiaries of the best cultural inheritance ever. It contains both an excellent analysis of the global threats facing the West, as well as an effective argument in support of limited government and self-reliance.

The message the book contains — that current demographic reality and a weak will is a deadly combination — is right on target. Internationally when communism collapsed some saw the battle as over, the good guys victorious, and “the end of history.” The subtitle of Steyn’s book states his alternative view — that we’re facing instead “The End of the World As We Know It.”

Steyn also states what I see as the most important question: whether “America can summon the will” to get its act together.

Steyn outlines the present day fact that the birth rates in most Western Countries are so low that much of Europe will cease to exist by the end of the century except as places on a map. Those who aren’t having babies (population decline) are at a disadvantage compared to those who are having babies (population increase) when it comes to “shaping the age we live in.”

The crisis of will being faced throughout the West manifests not only in demographics, but also in its unwillingness to “get real” about its lavish social programs. On this Steyn nails it. Western Europe is the world’s leader in severing “its citizens from humanity’s primal instincts, not least the survival instinct.” How does government do that? Through programs that “corrode the citizen’s sense of self-reliance to a potentially fatal degree.”

Steyn is a Canadian, and uses that country’s “psychological makeover” as an example. In 1945, Canada —

  • had the third-largest surface fleet in the world,
  • had one of the most effective air forces in the world,
  • Canadians got the toughest beach on D-Day.

“But,” Steyn writes,

in the space of two generations, a bunch of rough hombres were transformed into a thoroughly feminized culture that prioritizes the secondary impulses of society — rights and entitlements from cradle to grave — over all the primary ones.

Regarding those American conservatives who “still think the dragons are at the far fringes of the map,” Steyn says that globalization and technology means, “Everyone lives next door now.”

For those who “think the rest of the world can go hang but America will endure as a lonely candle of liberty in the new Dark Ages,” Steyn encourages them to think it through. Listing a multitude of current and realistically future problems around the world, he writes that —

…a country that can’t even enforce its borders against two relatively benign states will somehow be able to hold the entire planet at bay? Dream on, ‘realists.’

It’s a fair question to ask whether self-reliance and decentralization are really still American values. Steyn warns that they are both critical to constrain the size of government so there will be “enough space so that a nimble and innovative citizenry [doesn’t] degenerate into mere subjects of an overbearing state.”

The challenges on the world scene over the next few decades will be immense, but “In the end,” Steyn writes, hard wars are won on the hardest ground—at home.”


Every generation faces a test. Future generations will have to live with the consequences of how well we do on ours.

Next time let’s look at Mark Steyn’s After America.

First posted in June 2014.

Image credit: