American Exceptionalism or Declinism. Lessons in Leadership and Ethics from the Twelve “Minor” Prophets

Hershey H. Friedman, Miriam Gerstein, Paul Fenster


America is in distress. We have been going from one crisis to another. Here are just a few: the savings and loan debacle which began in the 1980s; accounting fraud and financial irregularities scandals that involved such firms as Enron, Adelphia, Tyco International, Global Crossings, and led to the Sarbanes Oxley Act; the Great Recession of 2008 which led to the bankruptcy of such major firms as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and finally put to an end to the myth that “greed is good”; the Madoff Ponzi scheme and the BP oil spill which hopefully made us aware that some regulation is needed; Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy which made us realize how unprepared we are for any crisis, and so on. It is not surprising that a large number of declinist books have appeared that posit that America is in decline and will never recover. True, some people still take the exceptionialist position and state that America will always be special. Who is right? This paper will examine the words of the Twelve Prophets – Amos, Hosea, Micah, Zechariah, Habakkuk, Malachi, Zephaniah, and others – who were both declinists and exceptionalists at the same time. The answer to the question as to whether America is in permanent decline can be found in their writings. These prophets prophesied that several empires would eventually disappear and gave the reasons. The primary causes had to with social injustices, corruption of leaders, greed, and oppression of the poor. Countries that have compassion for the helpless members of society and do everything to provide respectable jobs for those seeking them are assured of growth and prosperity.

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