Anyone not alarmed by the state of the U.S. economy is not paying attention. As our Dear Leader begins his term, the theory of very big government has the support of an alarmingly broad political consensus. Despite the obvious dangers—devastating inflation and the ruin of the dollar—the United States seems pledged to a debt-funded spending spree of gargantuan proportions.
...The country in question is Argentina, and even mentioning the name might initially make any comparison seem tenuous. The United States is a superpower with a huge economy. Argentina is a political and economic joke, a global weakling legendary for endemic economic crises. Between them and us, surely, a great gulf is fixed. Yet Argentina did not always have its present meager status, nor did its poverty result from some inherent Latin American affinity for crisis and corruption. A century ago, Argentina was one of the world’s emerging powers, seemingly destined to outpace all but the greatest imperial states. Today it is … Argentina. A national decline on that scale did not just happen: it was the result of decades of struggle and systematic endeavor, led by the nation’s elite. As the nation’s greatest writer, Jorge Luis Borges, once remarked, only generations of statesmanship could have prevented Argentina from becoming a world power.For Americans, the Argentine experience offers multiple warnings, not just about how dreadfully things can go wrong but how a nation can reach a point of no return. Not only did Argentina squander its many blessings, it created a situation from which the society could never recover. Argentines still suffer from the blunders and hubris of their grandparents without any serious likelihood that even their most strenuous efforts will make a difference. A nation can get into such a situation easily enough, but getting out is a different matter. A corrupted economy can’t be cured without being wiped out and started over.