Think about the markers of a stable society. Our nation is losing many of them. While the United States is not an analogue for the Roman Empire, there are parallels that our seemingly paternalistic federal government has allowed to fester. At the same time, China has been rivaling our military, economic, and technological might as the world superpower. This nexus is particularly troubling, likely presaging an era of American decline and Chinese hegemony. While we are navel gazing, China is naval gazing. While we debate gender roles, China is building new aircraft carriers.
A critical failure of social bonds and law enforcement is crippling our nation. Opioids are killing Americans at a record pace. The spread of fentanyl caused a major spike in overdose deaths in the last five years. Perhaps even worse, the actions taken by the government to fix the problem are gaining little traction. The White House estimates that the opioid crisis will cost us $2.5 trillion over four years. A recent study estimated the lost wages, health care costs, welfare spending, deaths, and prosecutions added to a $179 billion loss last year. All the service announcements and prison sentences are not reversing this trend.
The nation is also spending itself into French Revolution levels of debt. After the disastrous deficits of the previous years, President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE seems to want to keep those irresponsible precedents alive and well. Our new trillion dollar deficits are unsustainable, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. Our social structure is not doing much better. Even as overall fertility rates continue to fall dramatically, out of wedlock births in the United States are increasing sharply. About 40 percent of all births are now to unmarried parents. This includes 28 percent of whites, 52 percent of latinos, 69 percent of blacks. The Great Society programs enacted under President Johnson and later codified by his successors accidentally subsidized single motherhood and increased illegitimacy.
Young people born to wedded and unwedded parents are failed by our public education system. Primary and secondary student rankings in the United States are just above the middle compared with the rest of the world. Meanwhile, our college system often produces students poorly equipped for the future while saddled with catastrophic amounts of debt. More than one university observer noted the pending crisis of not enough workers in science and technology. Federal intervention in college tuition built the ticking student loan bomb about to explode at over $1.5 trillion.
There is no sign that such policies will end anytime soon. While we have a large head start, that is diminishing rapidly. China is sentencing fentanyl smugglers to death and life in prison. Its economic growth last year was 6.6 percent. The “Made in China 2025” blueprint to make the nation the premier technology powerhouse is gaining steam so fast that even the Council of Foreign Relations describes it as an “existential threat.” As Western nations quibble about the cost of joint defense, China builds military bases across the planet and is embarking on soft imperialism.
At least there is no sympathy for China. Its repression of minority groups, human rights, and democracy in Hong Kong are intolerable. This is why it is critical that we do not allow our slowdown to accelerate. Even the trade war could likely end up as a footnote in the exponential gain in Chinese military, economic, and diplomatic prowess. Our American government debt, declining economic growth, and gradual dissolution of the family is occurring as China is outdoing us on our own terms. Interestingly, our problems are not caused by our free society. It is rather the opposite. The social and criminal justice programs meant to solve our societal ills are actually making them worse and fueling our skyrocketing federal deficit.
Look no further than what is happening in California to consider where our nation, as a whole, may be in a generation or two. Growing debt, tax rates, poverty, homelessness, and restrictive housing policies all intersect in the collective misery of the Golden State. The United States today is fortunately much more free than China. However, when our government interferes in markets and families with poor policies, as well intended as these policies may seem, it only furthers our disadvantage with China.
We may not be interested in the struggle for global domination, but those in Beijing are. From military to economic to technological matters, China is starting to best us on these fronts. As we focus on the less important markers of cultural survival, China is setting itself up to be an emerging superpower. Only with determined American leadership can we avoid an era under Chinese hegemony. The time for concerted effort starts now.
Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer and an analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is an author whose latest book is “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.