This is a kind of book I am quite interested in – ideas about where we are now, how we got here, and what we could expect in the future based on whom we are.
So the first thing first – the future is bright. At least we have reasons to think that it is bright. These reasons are based on our history, especially on our traditional family way of life. Here is an interesting point that I did not think about before. The American nuclear family that authors trace back in history to typical family type of Germanic tribes is exceptional if compared with other family types usual among other peoples and that is where American exceptionalism is coming from.
The core difference is position and freedom of individual within the family structure, which in America’s case is nuclear with very week connections to extended family, tribe, and location. Americans setup up their family as man + women + children and that’s it. Parents, cousins, matriarchs, and patriarchs are out of picture. Parents interact with the world the best they can, obtaining resources and providing children with opportunity to grow, but as soon as children become adults they are supposed to get out and start their own nuclear family more often then not in some distant location. Children are not supposed to count on inheritance because the parent’s wealth belongs to parents and could be used as they wish with no consideration for children. By the same pattern children do not have to provide for parents at their old age – parent’s savings should take care about that. Certainly in reality parents leave inheritance to children and children take care about old parents, but point is that American culture unlike other cultures does not demand and/or force it. So the family life is basic training for Americans in individualism and self-reliance, which they are famous for. This is also an all-important conditioning for rejection of big government as substitute for family where father/government knows best just because such family is not an American family. Therefore, based on the deeply entrenched cultural feature of Americans the current period of big government sickness is expected to pass with relatively small changes, while opening new venue for flourishing of American culture.
Bennet and Lotus review in details how American family culture was formed and changed based on Germanic roots, through English inheritance, and consequently multiple influences of immigrants from all over the world who brought in some of their specifics. Nevertheless over time all immigrants accept American culture and become as exceptional as all other regular Americans.
In addition to family authors propose tree steps model of American development naming based, as it is usual now, on designation of software generations:
America 1.0 – original America of small farmers, manufacturers, and traders at the North in constant conflict with slave owning budding aristocratic society of the South. The conflict was resolved in Civil war with the North winning and then moving for full development of relatively free farmers agricultural republic and South losing war, but winning afterward low intensity war of rebellion and attrition, establishing segregation as substitute for slavery, and, as result, economically stagnating for the next century.
America 2.0 came to the life after version 1.0 ran out its course with end of frontier, disappearance of freely available land, and expansion of cities and industries populated by mass influx of new immigrants. The 2.0 versions did not come to life easy. It was born in long industrial wars with real shootings from 1870s through the New Deal in 1930s. This version was a combination of highly regulated welfare state with big government and massive limitations on individual freedom. For a while it brought in prosperity, which was based to the significant extent on the fact that all other industrial world was busy destroying itself in two world wars working out outdated notion of prosperity based on acquiring territory and slaves through conquest.
America 3.0 is being born now and it is America of free and independent individuals whose prosperity based not on land and agriculture, but on creating sophisticated services for each other and exchanging them on highly computerized and interconnected virtual market. The old material staff like manufacturing and agriculture would be brought to insignificance by such technological development as robots, 3d manufacturing, and such. Here I somewhat disagree, even if my opinion used to be very similar. I just do not see enough demand for services of other people especially when information by nature has unlimited simultaneous use by infinite number of individuals and consequently impossible to control. My current opinion is that universal property would have much better chance to do the trick, but this is a different story.
Authors claim and I tend to agree that we are now going through dying pains of America 2.0 and birth labor of America 3.0 which will be much more true to individualistic nature of America with social settlement between beneficiaries and supporters of America 2.0 somewhat dividing country with beneficiaries of America 3.0. They see such settlement in form of decreasing power of federal government and increasing power of the states, which will attract people with different preferences. Some states will be strong welfare states with big state government while others will be small government individualistic states. I am not sure that it could happen because welfare state is by its nature is an arrangement in which parasitic part of population such as bureaucrats, politicians, poor, and others who do not produce anything that other people need, live at the expense of people who are working hard and create marketable goods and services. It would be kind of difficult to maintain welfare state if productive individuals can easily move to another state and could not be robbed. We seems to have a good historical example of this in Berlin Wall.
Nobody really knows what will happen, but I agree with authors that it will be long and difficult, but peaceful process.