The debt crisis, largely artificial because it is not that the US government is unable to pay its dues but that it is not allowed to pay, is a failure of the political leadership to be rational.
This emerging trend of irrational governance is apparent in the US, Japan, and in Europe (see “Turning Japanese” The Economist July 30, 2011).
In the US at least, this is partly the result of electing into office a vocal minority of fiscal extremists, the Tea Party representatives. But it would be overly simplistic to stop there. One needs to probe the reason as to why the extremists got elected in the first place.
In a psychological sense, all extremists appear to suffer from various degrees of delusion of grandeur, a narcissistic view that the ills of the society can be bettered by making heroic demonstrations.
We in the US have had little occasion to be heroic lately. We fight a war for which no sacrifice has been required for the vocal middle class, because we have let the poor and the minority to die in it; we get a tax rebate instead. The face of the war does not leave much room for heroism either, because we fight an enemy that is not afraid of death as the ultimate sacrifice—a supposedly Western prerogative that has received much mythological support in our culture. What is worse, we are now led by a black intellectual, who is often identified as a half-Moslem. Racial inferiority and religious antagonism are the most difficult cultural instincts to overcome. If the media are to be believed, our businesses are increasingly run over by the Chinese and the Indians; Latinos are on the rise; we don’t even have a rocket science any longer. Where should we now vent our delusions of being a hero?
The answer presented to us is simple: dismantle the status quo. This Samson-like act of narcissism appears preferable even at the risk of collapsing the institutional dome of legitimacy above us.