Mark Steyn is no stranger to controversy and to the particularly scathing vain of apocalyptic social commentary. In 'America Alone' he addressed an increasing sense of isolation on the part of America in world that seems to be irrevocably sliding away from the many principles that had built the Western Civilization. Unfortunately, in the intervening years even America and Americans have been drifting away from those same values and principles, and in Steyn's view are headed towards the inevitable doom. In 'After America' he presents his case for this assessment.
A doomsday books ought not to be this much fun to read. Steyn's wit, erudition, and style are second to none in today's polemical political punditry, and in his latest book he's been combining them and using them to the max. He strips naked all the liberal sacred cows and reduces to the brutal essentials many of the big-state arguments from the left. Steyn argues that the recent encroachment on individual liberties in the US under the Obama administration, and a concomitant increase of the nanny state, are actively undermining the political and economic health of America, and make it far less competitive in the ever more treacherous seas of the changing geopolitical realignments. Aside form the economic uncompetitiveness, it's the lack of leadership when it comes to individual freedom that is rapidly eroding America's unique leadership position. As many generations of immigrants have known for well over two centuries, including Steyn and myself, America has for well over two centuries been a beacon to all who try to escape or overcome tyranny in all parts of the world. And in our view, the world without such strong and unique American leadership is a much more dangerous and uncertain world.
Steyn is a very opinionated writer, and this is one of his main selling points, as well as one of his biggest liabilities. He has a particular set of opinions, and although most of them form a coherent right-leaning worldview, he has enough of the personal pet peeves thrown into the equation that it's inevitable that some of that stuff will not resonate with all of his fans. I personally don't see the decline of government-sponsored space program as part of the decline of America itself. The space program was conceived and executed at the height of the cold war and it had its own rationale and value in promoting the American know-how and acting as a stand-in for all of American technological supremacy. Unfortunately, in my opinion the space program has been a victim of its own success. Like all other government programs of that size and scope it de-incentivized any privately initiated space exploration ventures for the better part of half a century. As it has been successfully demonstrated recently with the launch of Space X, the private sector has fully caught up and is able to execute space programs on its own. If this trend continues or, even more likely, accelerates, then in the decades ahead we may witness the true renaissance of the space exploration, and America-based private ventures at the center of it.
This book is a great read that provides a lot of insights and food for thought. However, it is an extremely partisan book and it's unlikely that anyone who is not already persuaded by its premise will find it convincing. For those of us, on the other hand, who are concerned with the future of freedom in America and beyond this book can serve as a much needed and welcome call to arms.