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Essay: America is a Beacon of Stability for a World in Crisis

In a recent New York Times editorial, Timothy Egan opined that America, a "bad-tempered country," is "a hot mess." Egan's sentiments are par for the course, but they miss the forest for the trees: Thanks to the Constitution endowed to us by our Founding Fathers, America is one of the few countries in today's world not engulfed by the flames of chaos.

Granted, the U.S. Congress is about to impeach President Donald Trump because he solicited politically-charged investigations from the Ukrainian government. However, the process actually demonstrates the efficacy of America's constitutional order, which has perpetuated a constancy of government unseen by any other civilization. In few other countries could one branch of government attempt to remove the head of another branch while maintaining a relatively cool, civil, and strangely-productive atmosphere. In nearly any other locale, coup-plotters would be sharpening their knives instead of wasting their time with legislative procedure.

Some genuinely believe that America is an island of chaos in an orderly world, and it is imperative that they consider the disarray that exists beyond our borders. Nearly every other country in the world is embroiled by some mix of political unrest, economic free-fall, or uncontrollable crime, with some nations on the verge of constitutional and/or governmental collapse, precipitously inching toward "failed-state" status. In fact, considering all that has happened, TIME may be inclined to call 2019 the year when things fell apart (to borrow Chinua Achebe's title).

Hong Kong is the poster child for the political chaos that exists beyond our borders. The Chinese island territory is engulfed in a seemingly-endless state of protest, with the BBC reporting that "[c]lashes between police and activists have become increasingly violent, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs."

The protests are significant on several levels. For one, they may lead to the dissolution of the Sino-Hong Kong union established in 1997. This would be a major slip for Chinese President Xi Jinping, but the island accounts for only 3% of the Chinese GDP and its exit would not lead to the collapse of mainland China. However, on a greater scale, the protests -- which are described by Reuters as a direct challenge to the Chinese Communist Party -- may instruct the mainland Chinese on the virtues of political liberalism. This could signal catastrophe for the long-term prospects of Xi and the Chinese Communist Party.

Whereas Hong Kong's troubles are limited to the political sphere, Mexico -- our neighbor to the south -- is victim to all three of the detrimental attributes I mention above: political unrest, economic free-fall, and uncontrollable crime. The Wall Street Journal reports,

Crime has hit record highs, with murders climbing another 2.2% during the first 10 months of the year compared with last year’s record tally of 36,685 slayings. More than ever, parts of Mexico appear ungovernable as powerful crime syndicates take on the government. In October, the Sinaloa cartel overran the northern city of Culiacán in a successful attempt to force the army to liberate a captured drug lord.

Moreover, political observers warn that the Mexican political system is headed toward populist authoritarianism, a surefire recipe for future governmental collapse.

French Workers Protest Pension Reforms
Macron's France (Bloomberg)

France, which was paralyzed by the Yellow-Vest protests last year and earlier this year, is suffering from another bout of societal disarray. The Yellow Vests have teamed up with pension protesters to challenge President Emmanuel Macron's overhaul of the pension system, and tear gas has ensued. Furthermore, the New York Times reports that "train traffic was still heavily disrupted across France, and some businesses have started expressing worries that the strike could affect Christmas shopping." This is assuming that the Yellow-Vests do not retrogress to their antics of March 2019, when they destroyed the Champs Elysees and attempted to "damage the Republic" (in the words of Macron).

Iran, which is in a state of political unrest caused by their economic free-fall, is facing governmental collapse. Just a few weeks ago, the country was rocked by protests in over a hundred cities, the result of a 50% increase in gasoline prices. The theocratic government responded by killing between 200 and 1,000 demonstrators and detaining 7,000 others; this political repression is certain to spark even more discontent throughout the Islamic Republic.

In neighboring Iraq, protests have continued unabated since October, forcing the resignation of the prime minister and opening the door for complete governmental collapse. It is quite possible that Iraq will join the Mideastern failed-state bloc, currently composed of Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

Almost every nation in South America suffers from a combination of political unrest, economic free-fall, and uncontrollable crime. Consider the examples of Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina.

Image result for chile protests
Chile in protest (The New York Times)

Chile has been an especially sad tale. Thanks to the constitution established under General Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean people enjoy a fantastic national inheritance -- unparalleled protections for private property rights, which permits them the second-highest per capita GDP in Latin America. However, because of a four-percent increase in transit costs, the Chilean people protested for a month and forced party leaders to agree to "a nationwide plebiscite in April 2020, asking Chileans if they want a new constitution and how they would like it to be drafted." It is inevitable that the Chilean people will enshrine their "rights" to the products of others, ending their unique success story and relegating their country to the status of Venezuela.

The German streets are calmer than those of Santiago and Hong Kong, but the coalition government of Angela Merkel is nearing collapse. The federal republic -- which consists of former East Germany in combination with West Germany -- is "diverging again after a long period of growing together," a political reality marked by the election of extreme parties in former East-German states. The German economy is in even worse shape; according to the Telegraph: "[Germany's] main industry is in freefall. ... The banking system is in crisis, and consumer demand is stuck in the doldrums."

Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is also a victim of political unrest. They have had two elections this year, but because their proportional-representation system prohibited any party from forming a coalition, they are in a state of political paralysis. It is unclear whether a government will be able to form in the foreseeable future, and a third election is almost an inevitability. To boot, the Israeli prime minster -- Benjamin Netanyahu -- was recently indicted on corruption charges.

The list goes on. Italy's government collapsed in August, and only a weak caretaker government stands in between the republic and economic collapse. Great Britain's government has been paralyzed because of the Brexit issue, and the debate has already felled two prime ministers: David Cameron and Theresa May. If the Conservatives do not perform well on December 12th, it is entirely possible that the United Kingdom will have its fourth prime minister in three years. Even in the Eastern bloc, where political authoritarianism perpetuates stability, protests are hindering the foreign-policy objectives of Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus' president since 1994.

Against the backdrop of the world's chaos, the relative peacefulness of the United States is undeniable. We are blessed by a robust, unshakable economy; a relatively-humdrum Congress, which is debating trade deals even amid the impeachment process; and stable crime statistics. Anyone would prefer the streets of New York to those of Paris, and better yet, we have been able to obtain these results without political repression.

It is one thing for Singapore and Russia to be in a state of mandated peacefulness; it is another thing entirely when our society of free individuals voluntarily maintains political, economical, and social harmony. The American constitutional experiment becomes even more impressive when you consider that our society is more heterogenous than those of the counties in chaos -- Germany, France, Iran, etc. -- and we have enjoyed less time for developing national cohesion.

Discerning the catalyst for American stability requires some thinking, as we do not have Russia's police state or Singapore's laws against demonstration. Instead, we have an unflinching commitment to the separation of powers and the rule of law, which allows us to recognize that no matter the result of one presidential election, the opposition is guaranteed another chance in four years. In the meantime, because of our protections for free association and private property ownership, there is only so much that one president can do to destroy the system.

It is because of our Constitution that we have escaped the chaos enveloping every other continent, making America the beacon of stability for a world in crisis. Our success will be unceasing as long as we remain committed to the belief that presidents are mortal and the work of the Founding Fathers is everlasting. The worst mistake we could make is to go the way of Chile.