Rich Karlgaard of Forbes searches for evidence of American decline.

The peak period of a culture is signaled by a spike in genius contributors in the sciences and the arts. (We could add technology.) The best Greek tragedies and comedies were written within a 100-year period when ancient Greece was at its peak. The peak in Germany’s music culture lasted less than 200 years. Of longer duration was England’s peak creative period in science and technology, which ran from about 1680 to 1910. The decline in genius contributors after that foreshadowed England’s decline as a global superpower.

Second, that cultures advance when ethics and values become understood and are deeply embraced and when competence is tested through competition. Cultures decline when the opposite happens. Most cultures don’t fall by being conquered, not at first. They wither from an erosion of values, insular thinking and a lack of competition. Not being robust from within or tested from without, cultures become weak without knowing it. Or sensing they might be rotting, they cling to comic book values, centralized authority and thicker walls of protective insularity as a means of stopping the decline. …

… [W]ould you say the U.S. is advancing or declining? Well, successive American Presidents have sought to consolidate power. Not a good sign. The two presidential candidates leading in the polls as of mid-October, Clinton and Trump, have turned their backs on trade policies that freely engage with the world. Another bad sign (have we lost our competitive confidence?). How’s the country doing on the ethics and values front? Sheesh–do we want to go there? Clinton and Trump should avert their eyes.

Conclusion: The American political system is in decline.

Karlgaard adds that news is mixed in the arts and sciences, while recent developments have been good for American companies. But he concludes that a political process that produces success for candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders “will hasten our decline.”