on October 30, 2011
I picked up this book after learning about Mark Steyn and his contribution to Canada's Maclean's magazine. I was interested in this book solely because I wanted to hear what one of Canada's prominent writers has to say and not because of any personal political view. Without a doubt, Steyn is a fine writer, one of those genius self-taught writers. To an extreme left-wing reader, this work would come across as nothing but a collection of right-wing conspiracy theories and the language in the book can be extreme in his descriptions of the nanny state, especially the "conformacrats", and the commander-in-chief of conformacracy - Barack Obama. However, one has to agree with his some of Steyn's observations, especially his view that college education is failing the students. The government's approach to education and easy student loans have not been helpful. Nevertheless, the book is in large part an attack on the Obama presidency. His obsession with Barack Obama at time seems unfounded. He appears to be a Bush-era war crime apologist and throughout the book, he makes no mention of George Bush's role in further endangering the American economy by amassing trillions of dollars of debt to fund two wars. Instead, his focus is on the incompetency of Obama and his "citoyen du monde" approach to governing. Consistent with a right-wing conservative's views, Mark Steyn fails to question America's complicity in Middle East and the ongoing senseless wars.
Overall, Mark Steyn is a fine writer and I greatly admire him for his use of literary references. The book is humorous throughout, typical of Steyn's style. The left-wing environmentalists and socialists will not be too amused with this book. But the book does point out some of the ills of our society as a result of outrageous spending by the government. Despite the author's no-nonsense, acerbic tone, this books is worth reading for anyone who wants to understand what is going on behind the all too politically correct facade in our society. The book spells out the dangers brewing underneath "conformacracy." Mark Steyn adeptly points out the hypocrasies within our conformacracy. And it's much more than Al Gore preaching the importance of saving the environment while leaving a giant carbon footprint of his own.
The book sounds an alarm bell to not just Americans but people everywhere living under an ever expanding government that is more interested in ensuring the shifting of wealth rather than the creation of wealth. This author's main audience is American, but because of his Canadian background, he weaves in various Canadian anecdotes to show our own struggle with the same set of challenges our neighbour to the south is dealing with at this moment. The book's message is clear - that over-reliance on government is unsustainable in the long term. Mark Steyn's book is an attempt at reorienting our priorities as a society.
To summarize my appreciation for this book, I echo the sentiment of Ann Coulter in that only Mark Steyn could make you laugh this hard while reading a book on the death of America. However, unlike Coulter, my praise for Steyn's astute observation and critique of the ills must be counter-weighted by my disappointment and downright puzzlement at what Steyn proposes in place of the status quo. With a problem this bad, the solution must be far more radical than Steyn proposes. For these reasons, I give him 4 stars for this critique and elucidation of the problems but only 3 for his answers to them (more on this later).
In his previous book, America Alone (see my review), Steyn argued from a demographics perspective that the Islamic world was taking over the west and that the U.S. was the only nation in the west with a birthrate that didn't portend a hopeless national death spiral. In After America, Steyn looks at the world through the lens of economics and he determines that the U.S. has joined the rest of the west in a self-destroying debt spiral, one which will result in a short shift of power to countries like China and Russia, but which will ultimately end in the balance of power going to the new world order that radical, determined and forward-planning Islam is working hard to establish.
Since Steyn published America Alone, a lot has happened. Obama was voted in by a star-struck, celebrity worshipping, fiscally suicidal U.S. majority who believes that Obama's personal charisma can underwrite an eternal and bottomless credit line with China and other (often hostile) foreign creditors. But unlike most party-line republicans, Steyn recognizes that, while Obama has done much to worsen and hasten the U.S. fiscal death spiral, he is not the real problem. In fact, the best America could hope for from a majority of republican politicians and presidential candidates would be to slow the car from 90 to 70 miles per hour as it speeds toward the cliff. What the U.S. (and every other western nation) needs is not token cuts to spending but systemic and wholesale change to how the whole nation thinks and functions. The umbilical cord that runs from the over-weaning nanny state to citizens everywhere needs to be cut and tied until it withers and drops off. People need to come to value personal liberty and the resultant responsibility for their own well being once again instead of looking to the state for everything from unemployment income to health care to education to old age security to grants for the arts to...well, pretty much everything. We need to ditch the mindset that sees the left-leaning media's latest panic-crusade and responds with the knee-jerk reaction of "there oughta be a program for that" or "the gummint should do sumpin `bout that".
The problem as Steyn sees it is that, while the U.S. may have a 2 party system, any difference in worldview between the two are rendered ineffectual since both parties are beholden to a centralized, heavily regulated, over-taxing, gross deficit spending mega-state bureaucracy and it's attendant maverick justice system bent on reinterpreting the constitution to mean the opposite of what the founding fathers intended. Sure, the president or congress or senate might change, but the bureaucracy never does. The system is broken and continues to be so. The way Americans (and citizens of other western nations) view the state needs to change. The federal government is the most powerful institution in the U.S. today, with oversight and regulations that touch every aspect of daily life, like telling a local hardware store it can't provide free coffee and donuts for its patrons as it has for 30+ years since it does not have a licensed kitchen. This was not what the founding fathers envisioned for the republic. They believed the sphere of family should have the most authority, then church and other voluntary associations of citizens, then local communities, then individual states and then, last and least of all, the federal government. When the state becomes so very big, as it has, it creates small citizens. The more powerful and larger the state, the weaker and smaller its citizens.
As we have come to expect from Steyn, the book is full of sharp verbal barbs, snappy shots and devastating blows and his scathing critique of the ethos of present-day America and the west is nearly spot-on. He ably examines the deterioration of family, community and the can-do spirit of an America gone-by. But his strength lies in pointing out the heights from which they/we have fallen and in describing the problems, not as much in proposing solutions. Not that Steyn has no good advice to avoid what is surely certain ruin if there is no radical and immediate change of direction. In the last chapter, he does propose some crucial and necessary sea changes to western society. And yet, even he is not radical enough. There are some glaring inconsistencies with his approach. For example, you can't both radically scale back government and sever the over inflated borrow-spend Keynesian mentality of both bureaucracy and the general public at the same time as carrying on a global "war on terror" which, as it turns out, is primarily an excuse to secure cheap oil for the average American consumer who believes that the constitution somewhere protects their right to cheap foreign oil. Radically cutting government spending while continuing to be the world's beat cop through a massive military spend (more than the next several highest military spending countries put together) isn't possible. The U.S. needs to get their own house in order, not provide unwanted maid service to half the third world, the middle east and legacy Cold War bases across the west. Steyn talks about this as well, but his solution seems to be that the US demand compensation from the rest of the UN countries which benefit from their security services. This is about as intelligent a solution as it is likely that the DND will start receiving multi-billion dollar free will donations from the EU. Get real. Along with the domestic big gov't nannyism and bloated, hippopotamic bureaucracy, it was foreign military-industrial imperialism that got the US into their massive economic woes in the first place and the only reason many nations went along with it was that the nation instigating it was the financial powerhouse of the globe. The phrase, "not any more" applies here in multiple ways.
The logical conclusion of Steyn's observations and the most clear and decisive thing the average American citizen could do to begin to transform and reform the US back into the constitutional republic it was intended by the founders to be is to vote for Ron Paul as the next president. I kept waiting for Steyn to draw this conclusion himself but Paul doesn't even get a passing mention in this book - a glaring oversight as Steyn spends some time talking about the Tea Party, the very grass roots movement which wouldn't exist without Ron Paul. Could Steyn himself be a little too mainstream republican/neo-con to really take the radical steps necessary to see the U.S. return to its true, constitutional republican roots? That's the conclusion I'm left with in light of Steyn's disparaging remarks about Paul in the media. Steyn needs to pick between US domestic fiscal and social survival OR extension of the "global war on terror" and an expansion of US global policing against radical Islam and every other interest which threatens to compete with US interests around the world because he can't have both. The former would mean getting one's own house in order, in part, by bringing home the military presence from the four corners of the globe. The latter would mean continuing and expanding it and continuing to bear both the cost and the backlash from it, thereby worsening the fiscal heart rate of the US (which is already nearly flat-lining). Steyn is better than most at critiquing the ills of the US but he isn't very astute at proposing a radical or real enough solution to fix them and perhaps his biggest fault is that he doesn't get Ron Paul. Like Steyn, I am no friend of radical islamofacism, but his desire to "take the fight to them" will not only perpetuate the very problems his book was written to expose but will serve to make them far worse.
I wish someone would introduce Steyn to Ron Paul at a Tea Party rally and Steyn could get to work campaigning for Ron Paul for the next President of the United States and the only one in the running who understands the dire situation in the US, which Steyn so rightly worries about, far better than Steyn himself does. Next to Ron Paul, Steyn is still a bloated, big government, big military, neo-con status quo preserver. Big problems require big solutions and Steyn's proposals ain't nearly big enough to do enough fast enough.
on June 27, 2012
When last we heard from Mark Steyn in "America Alone", the fate of the Western world was bleak. Europe had sacrificed itself on the altar of multiculturalism, Britain and the commonwealth were following suit and only fortress America stood as a bulwark against the corrosive effects of political correctness and suicidal demographics. Unfortunately, as the title "After America" suggests, things have gotten worse.
According to Steyn, the America we once knew is declining fast and will no longer be the guarantor of Western values that it once was. Rather than standing as a beacon of liberty and freedom, America has jettisoned the founding ideals of the Republic and embarked upon a Euro-trip of big government spending, over-regulation and unsustainable debt. The end result of this inexorable growth of government has been the suffocation of individual liberty. In the name of "progress", America has become an economically and spiritually bankrupt nation; unable to pay the bills and unwilling to defend the culture.
Lest you delude yourself into hoping that "Uncle Sam" can weather the economic and demographic storm by electing a Republican to the White House in November 2012; don't bother. Setting the stage for America's perpetual big government political environment, has been a bi-partisan effort.
Mark Steyn will have you turning pages quickly, just so you can alternately chuckle and then wave your fist at the many anecdotes produced to illustrate the point that America has become a land of "small citizens" living in a "big government" country.
Read "After America" to gain a full arsenal of real world examples highlighting the excesses of big government. The next time you hear someone say "the government needs to get involved", "why don't we have a law for that" or "celebrate diversity", you'll be glad you did.
Mark Steyn is no stranger to controversy and to the particularly scathing vain of apocalyptic social commentary. In 'America Alone' he addressed an increasing sense of isolation on the part of America in world that seems to be irrevocably sliding away from the many principles that had built the Western Civilization. Unfortunately, in the intervening years even America and Americans have been drifting away from those same values and principles, and in Steyn's view are headed towards the inevitable doom. In 'After America' he presents his case for this assessment.
A doomsday books ought not to be this much fun to read. Steyn's wit, erudition, and style are second to none in today's polemical political punditry, and in his latest book he's been combining them and using them to the max. He strips naked all the liberal sacred cows and reduces to the brutal essentials many of the big-state arguments from the left. Steyn argues that the recent encroachment on individual liberties in the US under the Obama administration, and a concomitant increase of the nanny state, are actively undermining the political and economic health of America, and make it far less competitive in the ever more treacherous seas of the changing geopolitical realignments. Aside form the economic uncompetitiveness, it's the lack of leadership when it comes to individual freedom that is rapidly eroding America's unique leadership position. As many generations of immigrants have known for well over two centuries, including Steyn and myself, America has for well over two centuries been a beacon to all who try to escape or overcome tyranny in all parts of the world. And in our view, the world without such strong and unique American leadership is a much more dangerous and uncertain world.
Steyn is a very opinionated writer, and this is one of his main selling points, as well as one of his biggest liabilities. He has a particular set of opinions, and although most of them form a coherent right-leaning worldview, he has enough of the personal pet peeves thrown into the equation that it's inevitable that some of that stuff will not resonate with all of his fans. I personally don't see the decline of government-sponsored space program as part of the decline of America itself. The space program was conceived and executed at the height of the cold war and it had its own rationale and value in promoting the American know-how and acting as a stand-in for all of American technological supremacy. Unfortunately, in my opinion the space program has been a victim of its own success. Like all other government programs of that size and scope it de-incentivized any privately initiated space exploration ventures for the better part of half a century. As it has been successfully demonstrated recently with the launch of Space X, the private sector has fully caught up and is able to execute space programs on its own. If this trend continues or, even more likely, accelerates, then in the decades ahead we may witness the true renaissance of the space exploration, and America-based private ventures at the center of it.
This book is a great read that provides a lot of insights and food for thought. However, it is an extremely partisan book and it's unlikely that anyone who is not already persuaded by its premise will find it convincing. For those of us, on the other hand, who are concerned with the future of freedom in America and beyond this book can serve as a much needed and welcome call to arms.
on August 30, 2013
Mark Steyn is back at it again. Hard hitting, funny and factual. How could you not get a chuckle or two reading this book? Oh, at the same time it will drive you angry about the crazy ways that America's politicians have acted in the past decade or so. Mark Steyn has packed this book with facts and just that makes it even more valuable. His previous book "America Alone" was about the decline of the western world sans USA. "After America" is about the impending decline of the United States due to massive spending and growing debt. Steyn warns that fall of the USA will be a catastrophe for the whole world and it will be a nasty thing. Mark Steyn provides the reader with substantial facts and anecdotes that can not be denied. The problem with the US economy is not lack of spending or regulations. He proposes a variety of remedies that might prevent the collapse of the sole super power. This book is an excellent (yet depressing) read for every one. Leftist or right wing, this book is for you. Read it, devour it and give it to your friends and colleagues. I want a strong America and a strong America is good for the world. The current path the US has embarked upon will lead all of us in the western world to agony and collapse. This must not happen.
on January 27, 2012
As I recall from the original references on Amazon, this book was initially planned to be released in February 2010. I'm glad Mark Steyn waited the additional 18 months (and presumably added a lot more information), since it gave more time for the free-spending idiocy and radical-liberal fanaticism of the Obama administration to underscore and validate Mark's arguments even more. In a nutshell, it looks like a (slight) majority of Americans (i.e., Leftist/socialist/Marxist academics and entertainers, many of the students -- of all ages -- that they've successfully brainwashed, embittered trade unionists, public-sector employees, and the 95-plus percent of blacks who voted for Barack Hussein) are in SEVERE denial about the fiscal and social realities of their nation -- and how these are combining to render the future a dark and nasty place for America.
On page after page, Mark reveals the inexorable expansion of Big Government (on all levels), and the Big Deficits they inevitably create. It doesn't take an accountant to see the unsustainability of this level of spending (take a look at this Web site: [...] if you want to REALLY get scared), but Mark makes an equally compelling argument that it's not just -- or even primarily -- the out-of-control spending...it's the crushing of human spirit and personal freedom when the traditional American values of self-reliance, hard work and discipline get replaced with government over-regulation, societal micro-management, inter-generational Welfare dependency, and what I call the Tyranny of Political Correctness (which denies people the ability to truthfully and accurately discuss problems or criticize conduct, if doing so would hurt the feelings of any of the favored ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations in our Brave New World).
Bottom line: the brown stuff is going to hit the fan absolutely before 2020. And, for you contemptuous Leftards who despise such messages, After America has FIFTY-ONE pages of footnote references to verify the author's horror stories. This is NOT just some politicized author's screed of personal opinion and biases (however much I might wish that were the case....).
on September 30, 2012
Steyn never disappoints. He's incisive, witty, and totally a master of his subject. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is gutsy enough to want to know the truth about the state of the USA, and how to remedy it, or to be knowledgable enough to prepare for the worst.
on June 13, 2013
Makes you scared for the future of your children. The way the welfare state is destroying all virtue and how extreme ideologies will fill the gap when Western liberalism fails. After reading it, the only consolation you get is that it is worse in Canada and the UK.
on August 8, 2011
In November of 2010, bestselling author and radio personality Mark Steyn gave a speech in London, Ontario, Canada entitled 'Head for the Hills: Why everything in your world is doomed.' While comical, Steyn put forth a very negative outlook for the West that addressed a lot of the major demographic challenges facing Western nations.
Steyn, is his new book After America: Get ready for Armageddon (Regnery Publishing) the much anticipated sequel to America Alone: The End of the world as we know it, focuses almost exclusively on the United States. The country that once shone as the beacon of wealth and freedom to the world lost its way, and Steyn doesn't pretend that patriotism and belief in American exceptionalism alone can fix the problems plaguing the nation.
At one point in After America Steyn recounts a speech from Dennis Prager in which Prager dispelled myths that America's biggest threat was Barack Obama. Prager said that if Obama were to drop dead, nothing would change. Rather, the threat was that 'we have not passed on what it means to be American to this generation.'
That's what Steyn sets out to change in his newest book.
Mark Steyn brings to light the fact that the 111th Congress (2009-2010) spent more than Congresses 1-100 (1789-2009)'combined, that in just a few years, the U.S. will be spending more money on debt service than on its military, and the money spent on interest payments will be enough to fund the entire Chinese military, and many other shocking facts, accompanied by an in depth analysis of why people need to care.
Drawing from some of the greatest thinkers of the past and present in his book, Steyn brings home lessons that people should have learned through history, particularly the recent history of Europe's economic and cultural crash, as well as many anecdotes and chapters in ancient history. Most shocking was Steyn's use of classic novels to illustrate his points. The shock comes not from an author using fiction to make his case for the decline of America, but that what's happening in the present day is so unprecedented, plot lines previously thought of as bizarre fantasy have become reality.
Make no mistake: in the author's eyes, the United States is not facing a decline ' the decline is already happening, and has been since mid century. What's next for America is a fall, a plummet, and the result is not pretty.
In addressing how the U.S. got to this point, Steyn seems to suggest that over-education (the word 'education' requires a very loose interpretation when discussing North American universities) and ever-increasing focus on feelings over pragmatism is one of the primary catalysts for the disaster that lies ahead. The average American is twice as old when they finish school as they were in 1940, and that was the generation that won a war and created more innovation for the United States than any generation prior.
Steyn's After America is more than a summary of current events; it's a textbook for common sense that every patriot needs.
on March 31, 2014
It takes a lot of guts to tell the truth and Steyn is as gutsy as they come. This book is a sequel to America Alone, but updates the sad decline of unique American values. This is a picture of how America is losing its way and the vision of the founding fathers.