If you want a quick measure of the state of American society, you might consider the federal government's use of unmanned aerial drones to monitor U.S. citizens, and in particular the EPA's matter-of-fact defense of its use of drones over the Midwest as necessary to "verify compliance" with environmental laws. And as the EPA's "environmental justice" agenda is quickly becoming the government's official overarching priority (see here), we might describe the Obama era as the dawning of the Age of Compliance.
The priorities of civilizations can be gleaned from a consideration of the virtues they cherish most. For example, Homeric Greece valued honor, so their crowning virtue was courage. Later, the Classical philosophers attempted to change Greece, emphasizing the rational life over the warlike, and hence upholding wisdom as the definitive virtue. Achilles vs. Socrates became Greece's great civilizational debate.
"The Star-Spangled Banner," though written in reference to a battle, perfectly sums up a broader aspiration of America's past in the final line of its famous first stanza: "the land of the free, and the home of the brave." It was courage again, but not merely the warlike courage of the Homeric era. Rather, America embodied the courage of the free individual, specifically the bravery to face life and its vicissitudes -- including, initially, its geographical unknowns -- independently, and without excessive "protection" by government. That is to say, courage was the prime virtue because freedom was the most valued social priority. It takes courage to resist the temptation of the security that forfeits liberty -- to resist its imposition from without or from within…
The greatest crimes of history have never been, and can never be, perpetrated by private individuals. The regulatory state's "policeman on every corner," whether literal or figurative -- and whether defended in the name of "public safety" or "saving the Earth" -- is itself the greatest and most manifold crime.
The difference between law-abiding citizens and compliant masses is more than semantics. It is the distinction between the life of men and that of slaves. It is not unreasonable to speculate that four more years of America's current trends will see freedom's last refuge drift inexorably, and perhaps irreversibly, into "full compliance."