The American Future: The Case for Optimism
Bradley Lecture by John Podhoretz

Video

Post-Event Summary

With Europe in a state of crisis, unemployment stubbornly high, federal spending out of control, entitlement obligations presenting a daunting future, state and local governments’ pension obligations far exceeding their ability to pay and a plethora of other worries, Americans might easily despair. However, Commentary editor John Podhoretz made the optimistic case for America’s future in his Bradley Lecture at AEI on Monday evening. Podhoretz argued that, despite current challenges, if we look to America’s past we can find solace. Unlike with previous financial crises at the beginning of the 20th century and during the 1970s, we are experiencing no rise in crime, no civil unrest and no social breakdown—the “Occupy” movement hardly compares to bank runs or Hoovervilles. Conventional wisdom is that America has left behind its “golden age” and become “overindulged, overindulgent” and a victim of excess, but this narrative is untrue. In truth, America has experienced recent hardships because we have fallen prey to the misguided notion that if government can only properly align the incentives, Americans can be guided to the right path, Podhoretz argued. Rather, we ought to return to the fundamental principle of the American founding: the primacy of the individual. Through reforming the tax code, entitlements and the prism through which Americans view government, this country can be saved. The case for optimism relies on the notion that we can avoid a collapse such as the one Greece is facing if we see it on the horizon. America, Podhoretz argued, has the capacity for substantive and substantial political change. Presented with the correct information, America’s course can be corrected, and our future can be bright again.
---JESSE BLUMENTHAL

Event Description
The enduring economic woes of the United States and their seeming intractability have raised profound doubts about the future. A symposium featuring 41 writers and thinkers in the November issue of Commentary suggests more intellectuals see a bleaker, more straitened, less exceptional America in the 21st century than believe this country's best days lie ahead. Commentary's editor, John Podhoretz, takes profound issue with this view: As ever, the hope for the future lies in the American people themselves, who have responded over the past decades in rational ways to incentives, largely the result of government policies, with ultimately perverse effects. Now that the effects of these incentives have been laid bare before them, there is every reason to believe they will make the right choices—and lead their country out of the doldrums and away from the abyss.
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