The Reader may recall that the inaugural premise of this site is to chronicle this reviewer’s New Year’s resolution to read 100 books in 2012. A Superfluous Man is happy to report that progress so far is exactly consistent with this aim: 25 books by the end of March. No doubt Amazon had a good first quarter.

TitleSuicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?, by Patrick J. Buchanan

Motivation: April being the cruelest month, your humble correspondent decided to start the month with an uplifting book about the triumph of the human spirit and truth, justice, and the American way.

Completed: March 31, 2012 (#25)

Recommendation: For those who have read Mr. Buchanan’s lugubrious 2001 The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Our Civilization, you’ve read this book already…which probably means you’ll read this one, too.

A Superfluous Man is no stranger to “Demography is Destiny” dirges and paleo-conservative laments. Indeed, it would not be amiss to state that the proprietor of this website enjoys subjecting himself to this sort of elegiac-masochistic reading. O tempora, o mores!

To the general public, Mr. Buchanan is the arch-conservative Republican par excellence, as effortlessly fluent in the language of politically incorrect phobias as he is graceful in his evocation of the Golden Era of 1950s nostalgia. It is, however, a misperception to associate Mr. Buchanan too closely with the Grand Old Party, from whose platform he dissents in a number of interesting ways, most of which are on display in this odd book.

Mr. Buchanan’s general theme and thesis may be discerned from his eleven chapter titles:

  • The Passing of a Superpower
  • The Death of Christian America
  • The Crisis of Catholicism
  • The End of White America
  • Demographic Winter
  • Equality or Freedom?
  • The Diversity Cult
  • The Triumph of Tribalism
  • “The White Party”
  • The Long Retreat
  • The Last Chance

Judging from this list, one might suspect that further explication du texte would be, well, superfluous, but there is more here than meets the eye. Mr. Buchanan wields a sharp pen and writes well, peppering the book with citations from his wide-ranging reading. Channeling Charles Murray, he writes eloquently and at length on issues of class disintegration and downward mobility in lower class America. He excoriates the Bush Administration for its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, declaring Americans to be “poor imperialists who lack the patience and perseverance of the British.” (Apparently, Rudyard Kipling’s exhortations failed to inspire.) He frets over the ill-effects of free trade and the decline of American manufacturing while lambasting the titans of finance for their indiscretions. There is a lot more of moderation, or at least of eccentricity, in Mr. Buchanan’s conservatism than most would credit.

And then he says something like this:

Democratic capitalism now has a rival: autocratic capitalism. In Asia, Africa, and Latin America, nations are looking to China as a model, as, in the 1930s, European and Latin nations looked to the Italy of Il Duce, where the trains ran on time, and the Germany of Hitler, with its stunning recovery from the depression. Yet, while China, having doubled its share of the world economy in two decades, is the rising power and America a declining power, the imperative remains—avoiding what happened between a fading Britain and a rising Germany in the twentieth century: ten years of war that bled and bankrupted both.

Every so often, even those who are predisposed to agree with many of Mr. Buchanan’s points are brought up short by such curious passages. Does one detect a soupçon of praise for a Nazi Wirtschaftswunder in that paragraph? Of China’s  forbearance(!) in conducting its affairs? The last sentence surely echoes the thesis of Mr. Buchanan’s 2008 book, Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, whose radical isolationism more resembles the Republican Party of 1940 than anything Mr. Romney will say on the stump this fall.

Mr. Buchanan is a formidable man and an interesting writer, and A Superfluous Man is disinclined to lampoon him when his enjoyment of a well-turned phrase or a provocative argument gets the better of him. Suicide of a Superpower is a grimly enjoyable choir-preaching book if ever there was one, but please do proceed with caution if you have an inkling that you might disagree. Life is too short to listen to those with whom you disagree–don’t let J.S. Mill fool you!