John Robb: What Went Wrong with America?

Cultural Intelligence
John Robb
John Robb

What Went Wrong with America?

America has been in decay for decades (since the mid seventies).

It’s a problem that has consumed a large portion of my thinking for nearly a decade.

I’ve read the analysis.  Listened to the debates.

Very little of it resonated.

That was a bit depressing.  Without any insight into the real problem, all we could do is accept inevitable failure and eventual collapse.

Fortunately, at that moment, I was able to find the clarity I needed to answer this question (due to the support of a great friend).

It was in front of me all of the time and I just didn’t see it for what it was.

It was this simple idea.

I should have known, given my work on open source conflict, that only a simple idea would be powerful enough to change the world.

Nothing else would unite most of us in common purpose or connect with us at a deep level than a simple idea.

However, this idea wasn’t just the US.  It started before the US was built and it has now expanded to claim the hearts and minds of nearly 3 billion people around the world.

This idea was also powerful.  It was the engine that built the modern world of the 20th Century.


Of course, you probably think this idea is socialism, capitalism, communism or some sort of ism.  It isn’t.  Those complex ideologies are merely derivatives.

Engineered systems built to take advantage of the energy and innovation unleashed by this simple idea.  Rules of the games built to exploit this idea, and sources of fuel for endless debate (and occasionally brutal conflict).


So, back to the original question.  Why did the US decline?

The US declined because we spent the better part of four decades killing this idea, largely because we didn’t acknowlege its centrality.

Trying to kill it, largely unsuccessfully, at the very same moment it capturing the hearts and minds of 2.5 billion people.

However, now something has changed that will actually kill the idea.  Kill it dead.

What that will do to the world over the next couple of decades is potentially catastrophic.

What happens when the expectations of 3 billion people are crushed, in a world full of technologies that make it possible for one person to declare war on the world?


Fortunately, there is a way out.  A way to head this off.  We can come up with a new idea.  A new motive force to drive the world forward.

We’ve done it before.

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