If you’re looking for an uplifting message about what lies ahead for 2013, skip Daniel Henninger‘s latest column for the Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, a reality has become too obvious for the world’s dazed inhabitants not to notice: The greatest threat to the upward arc of human progress is the collapse of public policy making. That is the biggest cliff of all.

Governments are giving government a bad name.

Japan’s once-thriving economy has been in the dumpster for years. California, said to be the world’s sixth-largest economy, is joining Japan in decline. The euro crisis, now in its third year, is less a crisis than a chronic condition of policy failure across Western Europe. As to America’s fiscal cliff, no comment.

Then came the Newtown massacre. A few days after this event, a familiar American policy-making consensus called for federal gun-control laws. More precisely, they want Congress to re-pass the ban on big, dramatic-looking assault-type weapons that existed from 1994 until the law sun-setted in 2004.

Government, for the past 80 years or so, has seen its purpose as mainly to “respond” to society’s failures the moment they occur or whenever they are imagined. Adam Lanza killed with guns, so modern policy-making logic posits that government must pass a law. Whether that law will accomplish its goal is . . . irrelevant.

Policy making has become an activity that supports the genetic and financial needs of policy makers and their follower tribes. The community’s role, we’ve lately learned, is to provide revenue. Medicaid, for example, is medical care for the poor. As administered by the policy professionals, it has been allowed to become awful.