In this paper the author attempts an analysis of the current financial/economic crisis that is wider ranging and more fundamental than he has been able to find. For this purpose he reviews some social science literature that views the current crisis as an episode in the secular decline of the United States and more generally of the Western Democracies. The timidity of current reforms, which is striking when compared to those that followed the excesses of the Gilded Age and the Great Depression, can be understood in this framework. The author discusses alternatives to the financial bailouts and shows how the crisis could have been dealt with more efficiently and at little cost to taxpayers. Finally, he discusses fundamental reforms that would greatly reduce the volatility of financial markets and increase their efficiency.