Berman's book, as I say, is odd and annoying. He imagines that Americans are and always has been, devoted to greed at the expense of everything else. He calls it "hustling". The USA is a nation of pool-hustlers, or something, so of course it would decline. That's about his thesis.
This is curious to me. I know a lot of Americans, and I can't say I know even one who is a "hustler", a greed-fanatic, or whatever Berman imagines the typical American to be. I think the personality he alludes to may actually exist in today's East-Asia at a much higher rate than in today's (or yesterday's) USA.
The book-jacket says:
In "Why America Failed". Berman examines the development of American culture from the earliest colonies to the present, shows that the seeds of the nation's "hustler" culture were sown from the very beginning, and reveals how the very tools that enabled the country's expansion have become the instruments of its demise.
At the center of Berman's argument is his assertion that hustling, materialism, and the pursuit of personal gain without regard for its effects on others have been powerful forces in American culture since the Pilgrims landed.
I'll say it again: This book annoys me. I don't think Berman writes in good faith. He just grinds an enormous axe.
Who is Morris Berman? Professor; Born 1944 in NY; Jewish; now lives in Mexico. His background, as he describes it:
Although I [Morris Berman] was born in America, I am only first generation, my family having emigrated from eastern Europe in 1920. As a child, I was raised in what might be called a European socialist ethic: you help other people. As a result, I lived, in the United States, in a state of perpetual culture shock for nearly six decades.
It's pretty outrageous, isn't it, for him to so casually imply that "helping other people" is a un-American trait, only subscribed to be "European[-style] socialists"! (This is in line with the thesis of his book). Later, he writes:
Not helping other people is systemic in the United States; it’s as though it were woven into the very DNA of American citizens.
Some time ago, I came across a website called "New Hope Journal", subtitled "The Poetry, Essays and Personal Journals of Larry L. Dill". I don't know who this Mr. Dill is, other than (like Berman), he was born in 1944. Dill says he graduated from high school in 1962 (in another an entry, he reflected on his 50th class reunion in 2012).
I will reproduce, below, an essay from that site (originally from 1980) that describes "Americanism" a lot better, I think, than Berman does in Why America Failed: