I basically agree with Rush Limbaugh these days. Or at least with Max Weber. It is a fact of history that American culture was born out of Christian Puritan culture, and then more broadly the Protestant culture that immigrated from Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Now, education has taught me to see objectively: that Protestant culture cannot be said, objectively, to be a superior cultural model to any other culture. Nevertheless, a culture that was has become a culture that is no longer, and the change (gradual as it has been) very well might be ascribed to immigration from cultures other than Protestant Europe. Whatever, tho' -- the question of cause doesn't interest me so much.
My interest is in the result: the result of the gradual disintegration of that Protestant culture that Weber identified as the foundation of American culture more than 100 years ago is now a major problem. Not "objectively," mind you, but seen from within that culture -- it is a problem.
See, my thesis (derived from Weber's) is that capitalism is a system that works only given a particular set of moral circumstances. Like a car's engine won't run on olive-oil, but requires petrol, this country's economy is/was tied to the moral culture of Anglo-Protestantism.
Now, that sounds rough -- might even sound racist or xenophobic to an uncareful ear. But if we keep in mind that culture is "transferable," and not intrinsic or biological, then it shouldn't be such a delicate issue. For example, African American culture, which has been present within American culture since near the beginning, is not inherited and may be learned by people of other cultures. So... the point is: somewhere around the 1960s (finally) and the 1850s (maybe initially?), America stopped "exporting" that culture and started "importing" cultures from elsewhere.
The problem is: other cultures don't make this car's engine run. Now that may not be a transcendentally negative fact: there are other sorts of engines, and other means of "going somewhere" than engines, and hey, maybe there's nothing wrong with just sitting there (there's gotta be a really laid back culture that makes that work?). But the point is: America's "system," lumbering and tottering as it is, was designed to work in conjunction with that Protestant ethic that Weber described.
There's lots of sources for this: Weber, as I mentioned, and Perry Miller, and Cotton Mather himself, and Toqueville, and so on. But none of them lived in the post-Protestant America... whether Elvis ended it, or MTV, or jazz music, or whatever... it's over.
Any thoughts about all of this? I admit, as a person with at least some identity rooted in that disintegrated culture, I feel a little disappointed to see that culture go away... I am disappointed when I hear about airport security and corporate bailouts and trying to save homeowners from underwater mortgages and other things that my Protestant forefathers would've found repulsive. So I do have "a stake" in this, but I also think I can see rather plainly that there's no possibility now of going back in that direction.