Prosperity is not the problem.
Many great nations have declined before we did, showing much the same symptoms as we are showing, and none of them were as prosperous as eighteenth century America.
I suggest the root of civilization is patriarchy.
Firstly, patriarchy with monogamy gives men posterity, and civilization is what men build for posterity. In a society where most men do not have children or do not know who their children are, do not raise their sons, they have no reason to work, to save, to invest, to build, nor to fight, to defend, to conquer, so their society leaves behind nothing for future historians to remember them by.
Secondly, patriarchy where marriages are arranged between families rather than lovers links families, creates tight knit extended families, links families through marriage, marriage in patriarchy being between families rather than purely between a man and a woman. The resulting society is able to create public goods, good government being one such public good. Instead of government creating the public good of the road serving your homestead, you contribute to getting the road built, because otherwise your father, your father in law, your brothers, and your brothers in law would disapprove of you.
Women get liberated, marriage and the family break down, society becomes atomized, a sea of isolated individuals. Becoming incapable of creating public goods, society looks to good government to create them – but who will create the public good of good government? (more…)