The Power Line Show, Ep 189: Ross Douthat on “The Decadent Society”

“Decadence” is one of those familiar terms that is trivialized or rendered comic by overuse—perhaps you’d say from decadence itself. And while most people think decadent is mostly a synonym for “sumptuous,” it has a wider and deeper meaning, which is the subject of Ross Douthat’s new book, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success.

Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times and author of several fine books analyzing the current American scene, looks at several markers of a decadent civilization and culture, from falling birthrates, slowing economic growth, declining innovation, sclerotic institutions, and cultural stagnation. Is there a way out of this dead-end road, or is America fated to become the modern-day Rome? I cover these and other aspects of the question with Ross in this entirely non-decadent conversation.

(Exit music today is Chris Squire’s cover of the classic Pink Floyd tune “Comfortably Numb,” which also happens to be the title of chapter 5 of Ross’s book.)

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