Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 8, 2012

– Or are we on the verge of becoming irrelevant?

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Last month I had mixed emotions as I watched the flight of the “Discovery” space shuttle orbiter on television as it was being retired to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.; on the one hand I was proud of our achievements in space, but on the other, I was sad to realize the shuttle’s mothballing represented an end of an era, that our space program for all intents and purposes has stalled and we are now dependent on others to get us into space, a service we used to perform with great regularity. This icon from our past made me think how our country has changed over the years. Whereas not too long ago America was considered the premier engine for business, the model for democracy, and a beacon for hope and freedom in the world. Now, I am not so sure.

In terms of business, America used to be considered a manufacturing dynamo with a “can do” attitude for tackling any assignment, large or small. Now we have slipped to the #3 exporter in the world, our GDP remains in decline, and the “Made in USA” label has lost its luster. Whereas other countries are building massive bridges, dams, buildings, and harvesting their natural resources, America’s infrastructure is crumbling and we get excited about electronic trinkets and social networking.

Another indication of change quietly occurred in 2008 when, for the first time, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued more patents to foreign entities as opposed to here at home. This indicates a shift in balance regarding inventiveness, from here at home to companies overseas.

There was a time when we dictated the pace of technological developments in the world, thanks in large part to the space race. The United States was the envy of the world. Not only did our technology put us ahead of others, it vastly improved our standard of living, enhanced our educational system, and created numerous jobs and new industries. Today, NASA scientists are seeking employment elsewhere, which probably involves learning the Russian or Chinese languages. It seems odd to me that space, a field we at one time dominated, has been commandeered away from us.

The only industry we seem to be doing well in is entertainment, but then again, “So what?” It’s a pretty sad day when we are more concerned with computer animation, Botox injections, liposuction, and breast implants, than being leaders in space, energy, or anything of substance. This makes me believe that American business is doing nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

America’s military is still well respected and we are often called upon to act as the traffic cop of the world, but thanks to economic cutbacks, we can no longer afford to fight two wars, only one, which is a significant downshift in strategy. This means we now lack the means to fight in two arenas simultaneously as we did in World War II (Europe and the Pacific).

Our government, which was once regarded as a model of efficiency and leadership, is in gridlock and can no longer be depended on to live within its means. Budgets cannot be developed and passed, and our national debt continues to soar out of control. Polls clearly show the American public no longer has faith in their politicians who are widely regarded as people who can no longer competently tend to the business of the nation.

Years ago, we were proud to pay our fair share of taxes to help the country, but we now have a convoluted tax system which nobody trusts, and criticizes it as unfair. It is so twisted that 49% of the people do not pay any taxes whatsoever. A flat tax would simplify everything and force “everyone” to pay their fair share.

Overseas, countries no longer respect us. They quietly grumble and undermine us as they cheerfully take our economic subsidies. While we swing our gates wide open for business, they carefully guard theirs. Instead of being regarded as trusted leaders of the free world, we’re now being portrayed as suckers and saps.

In terms of our people, we’ve gone from being good and patriotic citizens who cared about their neighbor to a litigious society where everything must be settled in a court of law. No wonder our judicial system is overwhelmed at all levels. Our morality and sense of volunteerism is in retreat as indicated by the decline of people attending organized religion and participating in nonprofit organizations. More than just the politicians, the citizens are divided over ideological differences. It’s like two distinctly different countries somehow living together under the same roof, each deeply distrusting the other. Our perspectives have changed, our values have changed, even our sense of humor is different. Whereas we used to be admired for our ability to unify under difficult circumstances, such as a disaster, today we are more polarized than ever before, and it might even get worse as we approach the 2012 elections.

So, is America still great? I guess it depends on who you talk to. The left says America is structured unfairly, that the rich should pay for the poor; the right says America has lost sight of the founding principles as expressed in the US Constitution and our sense of morality is in decay. Frankly, neither side is happy. Americans used to be proud of our history, our national anthem, our monuments, and the pledge of allegiance, but all of that is just symbolic. Frankly, we have an identity crisis; we no longer know who we are or what direction we should be headed. As long as the country remains ideologically divided, and we remain content to do nothing more than rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, our glory days will be over, just like the “Discovery” which is now nothing more than a relic of the past.

“I do not believe the greatest threat to our future is from bombs or guided missiles. I don’t think our civilization will die that way. I think it will die when we no longer care. Arnold Toynbee has pointed out that 19 of 21 civilizations have died from within and not from without. There were no bands playing and flags waving when these civilizations decayed. It happened slowly, in the quiet and the dark when no one was aware.”

– Laurence M. Gould
President Emeritus
Carleton College

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

SOME MONOTONOUS WORK: JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED – The therapeutic effects of collating and punching paper.


2 Responses to “IS AMERICA STILL GREAT?”

  1. olemike said

    You have described our situation to perfection. I am very worried about the direction of the country. I think what you stated relative to our identify is right on. Many folks don’t have a clue about what our country was or is becoming. They are too busy texting and tweetng about nothing.


  2. Tim Bryce said

    A B.E. of Massachusetts wrote…

    “To answer that question, you would need to ask: ‘Are Americans Still Great?’
    (To which, I would answer: ‘Eh…some of them….’).”

    An A.E. of St. Petersburg, Florida wrote…

    “Excellent, so very true. We as a country need to change our ways. Wake up people!”

    An S.G. of Illinois wrote…

    “I think that our becoming a nation of consumers has much to do with the situation. We thrived when we were producers and had factories all across the nation. The countries currently thriving are producers not merely consumers. We did great with technology for a time but even that function was outsourced to save some bucks. Had we kept both here in America, we would have many well paying jobs. The service sector only provides crappy jobs which pay very poorly. The financial sector is great for condensing the wealth but we need our money in circulation, not salted away. The lousy political situation is more a result of our decline.”

    A D.K. of Palm Harbor, Florida wrote…

    “Hi Tim, Very good info. How about next week hitting our healthcare program hard. It is a train wreck! But it looks like some people out there have a solution. See
    We need to work smarter and not harder!”

    A K.B. of New York, New York wrote…

    “I really like this one. Great points.”

    An S.C. of Florida wrote…

    “I could not have said it better. I have been here through many Presidents. I have been here after WW2 when Americans became proud to be called Americans and women began getting out of the kitchen and being a large part of the earning power that helped to build America to what it is.

    I was proud to stand up in the auditorium and pledge to the Flag. I was proud to sing our National Anthem and knew every word. I do not think that most of the kids today even know who wrote or the words to it. I believe it is still sung at Ballparks and not at schools.

    I was happy to share a Christmas holiday and still keep my own beliefs. I enjoyed seeing a decorated Christmas Tree inside our school. It certainly did not make me think less of my own religion. I never gave it a thought and never complained.

    My teachers in school took over their class and taught us without worrying about kids bringing guns to school. Teachers knew how to punish unruly kids without having to call in the Police. We all wore the same white blouses and blue skirts or pants. We learned respect….

    Nothing is the same today. Nothing at all. I wanted to help out in school, but was afraid because of all the lockdowns that occur these days, and guns the kids take from their houses and shoot or burn to death their student friends.

    America is not as it was. I can vouch for it so ask me. I lock my doors at night or when I am in the house. When I was growing up we slept out on the firescape, windows all open throughout the house.

    America has less schools, less kids who want to learn, less teachers who have no fear of teaching. I see America as it was, becoming weak and that is sad when they raise loans to kids who want to go to college so they cannot afford to lear.

    How then is America to grow?

    The worse part is our Politicians fighting with each other like spoiled brats. If they cannot all agree of creating a better America than it seems to be now, then how can anyone else respect this country as they once did. All I can think about today is ROME…….”

    A J.P. of Toronto, Ontario wrote…

    “The first step towards dealing with the situation is to recognize it exists and clearly defining it. This you have done, and in detail and as an American speaking primarily to your fellow citizens. The fact you, as an American, can see this and speak thusly to your fellow citizens is, itself, a true sign of hope for the future.

    Not all America’s problems are internal, and the fact that vast millions all over the planet have ‘woken from the deep sleep of ages,’ and are now openly competing for resources, markets and industrial resources is probably something that could not have been prevented by anyone, anywhere.

    In many ways, the United States seems to have lost its way in this brave new world of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The world of 1945-1985 is gone forever but I believe, looking in from the outside, that the USA can re-invent itself successfully and continue for a long time to come to give its own people an advanced standard of living and the more subtle gifts of hope and joy without surrendering the really great principles of its foundation.

    There remains yet in the United States vast reservoirs of talent, inventiveness, courage and wealth, if only these can be managed and deployed with a sense of national purposes and for the greater good of all. Without going all the way down the road of radical isolationism, it might be better if the USA was to concentrate more of its human and material resources within its own borders and recognize that Imperial America is not the best model for this or succeeding centuries.

    It is probably important for the United States to recognize and work closely with its historical friends – cherished frienships within the larger family of the English speaking peoples. Pay attention to your Canadian friends and neighbours. They share so many of your own deepest political, social and cultural values. Canada should never be taken for granted. Also, value and cherish the Australians and New Zealanders, your family outposts in the Pacific.

    Pay especially close attention to your long and honoured ties to the United Kingdom. Here is a nation, once imperial, that also shares your best history and your highest ideals. That special relationship with the British matters deeply to the USA in the coming years.

    Look deeply into why other great nations and empires failed, so that your great nation shall not make the same errors.

    – Mercenary armies instead of solid, citizen soldiers.
    – Monies wasted on vain pomp, useless prestige projects and risky foreign adventures.
    – Too great a discrepancy in the over-all distribution of total wealth and resources, regardless of why.
    – The moral fault of hubris – the we can do anything, we are invincible, and we always win attitude.
    – The lack of ultimate loyalty to the whole, shifting to sub-units or sections.
    – Political instability at the core and a breakdown of law and order at local levels.
    – A vast mass of unemployed, unemployalbe proletarians and a corrupt leader class.
    – Failure to maintain at least currency with technical, scientific and economic innovation.

    But, speaking from the outside I would not count America out – not yet, and not by a long shot. That being said, time matters in getting things turned around.”

    An H.S. of Las Vegas, Nevada wrote…

    “I have nothing to add, Tim. You said it all. Amen.”

    A K.E. of Sacramento, California wrote…

    “I agree. Great job telling it the way it is.”

    A K.S. of Oklahoma wrote…

    “I think that America is on the edge of a precipice. We could go over the edge at any moment and if current trends in American societal continue in their current direction. Look at history. EVERY culture who was the leader at their time (i.e., Romans, Greeks, Turkish, etc) fell due to their own internal issues. Why would America feel that are any different than any of the other leading cultures of history?”

    An L.M. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wrote…

    “Not quite sure if it was Thomas Aquinas that stated: ‘A man is most powerful when he learns to rule himself and his own inclinations!’ I think this can also be applied to nations. The horse is out of the barn and is galloping down the road!”


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