A question that comes to mind for many American conservatives in the days following Jan. 20, 2021, is whether our nation is in decline.
Joseph Johnston Jr.'s book, "The Decline of Nations: Lessons for Strengthening America at Home and in the World," seeks to not merely address this provocative question, but to offer a roadmap for America to regain its prestige in the world in perhaps our country's most dire moment in modern history.
Johnston lays out the foundations for what ails our beleaguered nation by using the historical lessons of bygone superpowers who once walked the world's stage.
"What's happened is that the basic values that were established when this country was founded — patriotism, loyalty, and governmental accountability — have been fundamentally eroded," Johnston told Newsmax.
He went on to spell out that "[i]t is a Nietzschean problem of nihilism in that when you destroy the basic societal frameworks of a workable republic: federalism, localism, strong families, strong churches, and strong local government, then you have an uncontrollable situation where nihilism enters and dominates [civil society]."
This occurs throughout history because, as Johnston notes, "When nations become wealthy, they tend to become addicted to decadence and subsequently become soft. The military and societal discipline decline, and they rely more on the government to support their feebleness."
Perhaps one of the most paradigmatic aspects of America's decline is the public education system, which, Johnston argues, "is a failure because children are not learning what they need to know to succeed in the modern world. They no longer learn morality or civics, and this is pure folly. We need to raise the standards so students can respond better to literature, great works, and vocations."
"Some students go off to college, but a lot of them don't. We have just sat back passively and allowed for all of this to take place. Young generations have to be taught the Declaration [of Independence], the Constitution, and our country's history and civics.
"Otherwise, our nation is doomed."
Another aspect of America's decline delineated by the author is a lack of enforcing the rule of law, which runs contrary to the view of the framers of the Constitution.
In Johnston's view, "The rule of law is so vitally important because we need to rely on it because when you don't have that public trust in our system of government. This directly connects to the excess of law and regulations that comes out of the administrative [or deep] state. Our regulations grow and grow every year, so it's impossible for ordinary citizens to know the law."
The way that Johnston proposes to remedy this bloviation of federal regulation is to "have Congress reclaim its power instead of delegating it to these agencies. We can do that by electing leaders who are committed to limited government principles, who actually will vote for that change."
"It is up to us as a people to counteract all of the ailing and overweening state control that we have now," he said. "We have to do something about our education system, and that means retaking control at the local level through local elections. The only way the national mess will be sorted out is by looking to the most local level possible and changing where decisions are made."
As Johnston sees it, "You have to get on school boards, local municipal offices, and state offices. When we work from the local on up, then we can rebuild and redefine these institutions like the Marxists have for decades."
Johnston's work and words serve as a testament, a guide, and a call to those patriots seeking to rekindle the sacred fire of liberty that George Washington, the father of our country, spoke of at our nation's first inaugural address.
Upon reading Johnston's book, one is very likely to conclude the task at hand for patriots is arduous. Nevertheless, the most challenging of tasks are indeed the ones worth the fight.
Michael Cozzi is a Ph.D. candidate at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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