How to Stay Upbeat During the Decline of the American Republic

I receive notes like this, from appreciative readers, all the time:

Dr. Hurd: Hi ! I came to America almost 30 years ago from Latvia. As a person who escaped socialism I know that every word you say is true and with sadness see the direction [American] people took because of ignorance and lack of education in philosophy and history. In this time of constant “noise” it is practically impossible to be heard. How many readers do you think you have ? My wife always advise me to open a blog or another similar platform, but I am only an IT manager[;] if you, a professional in this field, [are] not known to at least 50 millions of Americans (you should !!) — what can I do ? I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter (and also how to keep my sanity in these crazy and depressing times). Cheers, G

What’s interesting is the kind of letter I never receive. I never receive a letter that goes like this:

Dr. Hurd: You fool! I came to America almost 30 years ago from Cuba. I also have relatives who grew up in Soviet Russia. What’s wrong with you? As a person who left socialism, and who now regrets it, I know that every word you say is false. With sadness, I watch the American people stubbornly refuse to implement the socialism we all know will eventually be in place. First Ronald Reagan; then the treacherous George Bushes; and now Donald Trump all stand in the way. Socialism is great. I have the fondest memories of life in Cuba. Why did I leave? Forces beyond my control brought me here. It certainly wasn’t my fault. I’m voting for Bernie Sanders. And I look forward to the day where elections will no longer be necessary. The state will wither away, and the people shall rule. Living under socialism taught me to love it, and I’m never leaving it again.

No, I have never seen a letter like this, and don’t expect I ever will.

Why do people who have lived through socialism find so many flaws with it? It can’t be that they’re whiny complainers. Whiny complainers are not drawn to America. (Not an America without the prospect of freebies, at least.) They have a much better home in the socialist lands, where they will get a lot of sympathy from people who wish to keep them down, so they may retain power, and where a living — however mediocre — is guaranteed from cradle to grave.

America, although closer to complete socialism than ever, does not offer the absolute, alleged “comfort” of a Cuba, or even a Westernized socialist democracy, which imposes the same thing, in the end. Why do so many people from those socialist countries rush to this still semi-capitalist one?

One thing’s for sure. You will not hear Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders) asked this question during the nauseating general election debates that will take place this fall. Can you see Megyn Kelly of Fox News asking a question requiring that much abstract intelligence? Instead, they will talk about Hillary’s gender and Donald Trump’s nasty comments attacking Hillary, assuming he’s the nominee. Freedom, liberty and individual rights will not get a moment’s notice. It will all be personal. Yes, they’re doing what sells. But the fact that it sells is on Americans, the majority of whom will treat the 2016 election like a Netflix series.

I appreciate this Latvian reader’s enthusiasm for my writings. I am read by more people than ever before, have thousands of social media followers, and my new column at is exposed to 7 million readers monthly. My profession is psychotherapy. Quite honestly, my writing is a side hobby, something I enjoy in my free time, although I love doing it. I am not an immigrant; I was born here. It astonishes me to see how little most Americans appreciate what they have, and show no remote recognition of how fragile it all is. On the topic of freedom, even otherwise rational and intelligent people are breathtakingly clueless.

I suppose my understanding of psychology helps me cope with the fact that most Americans are squandering a legacy of unprecedented freedom, prosperity and never before seen innovation. They don’t know what they’re losing, but they will when it’s gone. They think prosperity can and should continue automatically, and can go on forever, even though for most of human history, there has been nothing of the kind. They see no link between freedom and production.

They view production as an entitlement, as something to be handed to them. It’s not even a righteous or nasty sense of entitlement, not in most; it’s more of a given, a premise which it never occurred to them to question. What do you think all the anger is about? It’s rage fueled by fear. Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders; take your pick. Millions are afraid, because they sense they’re losing something, and they do not know who or what to blame. I know this because of psychology. It’s as plain as day, to me.

But it’s never completely over. There will never be a utopia where everyone agrees, and where liberty will be enshrined, never subject to attack again. No such utopia is necessary. At a minimum, there will always be criminals; and there will always be intelligent and organized criminals, the people we know today as career politicians. (Hillary Clinton belongs on a Most Wanted poster, and in a virtuous, free society she’d be there.)

The rational virtues of reason, independence, self-reliance, individualism and free markets will always be under attack, precisely because they are virtuous, and precisely because certain people (the ones most often drawn to academics and political office, sadly) despise virtues for what they are. These virtues — individual rights, private property, reason and self-responsibility over emotionalism — have been the minority trend throughout human history to date, which is why there has been so much pain and suffering for most of human history, to date. Now, thanks to the American experience, we know it never had to be that way, and it never has to be that way again. That knowledge is power, a more immense power than most can yet appreciate.

The thing you always have to remember is that evil, irrationality and error have no power, at least not lasting power. The irrational is weak, and cannot survive other than as a parasite on the good or strong. The greatest enemy human beings face is not evil; it’s the humility of the good people who let evil get away with it. Eliminate that irrational humility, and evil will never dominate again.

Nazis, Communists, terrorists clearly can and do destroy. But in the end they’re left with their own destruction. Hitler, Stalin and others murdered millions. But what did it get them, in the end? They back themselves into a corner. They created nothing of value, and contribute nothing of lasting significance, other than death and destruction. They would have no power — no guns, no tanks, no computer software — without the talents and energies of the smart, the good and the productive who made those things. Look at terrorists. They bomb us using our own technology, created by our own wealth, so they can blow us back to the medieval stone age their religion tells them to cherish. They could not do this without our technology, without all the things they despise, and without our weakness and unwarranted humility.

The people in charge now, as well as those seeking to replace them, are not the movers and shakers of history. They too shall pass. No great figures are running for office right now. We will know one when we see one. Why? Because they’re so rare. A great political figure would be a modern day Jefferson, Washington or Madison. These were people who wanted to set mankind free. Find me a politician today who wants to set men free, and you’ll show me a politician with a hundred votes, tops. Sadly, most of us want someone to provide for us. We want our due. We want what’s ours; not what’s really ours, but what we have been trained to think is our birthright. Most of us would not support a Madison, a Jefferson or a Lincoln, not today. That’s why we have who we have. We claim to be disgusted with them, but they’re merely a reflection of our own most immature and not-so-pretty desires.

I see no rational reason to give up, or to despair. Life is about creating and maintaining values. Your home, your career, your house, your car or your loved ones are all values; but so is your freedom. If we treated our freedom with even 1 percent of the care the most negligent among us treat their cars or their loved ones, freedom would be secure. It’s not that freedom does not matter to most Americans. They just assume it will always be there.

The challenge today, for us freedom-lovers, is to convince the yawning, indifferent majority that their freedom matters too, and that they could lose it. I’m not optimistic about that quest, at present; but I am certain that once Americans have lost most of their freedom, the shock of recognition will be unlike anything human history has ever seen. It will be the mother of all wake-up calls. It might even end well; who knows? America is a nation of unprecedented freedom. When it’s all gone, the people will have lost more liberty than any society in history. We cannot predict the reaction.

So long as there’s a record, then human beings will always know that a place like America existed, for a time, and it can exist again anytime we wish. All we have to do is choose it.

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