The events of the last several years has often made me thing about America’s empire. With the reckless spending, needless and unjustifiable wars, and a general lack of accountability in government, it seems that the stage is set for this nation’s downfall. Add in the general apathy and ignorance of American voters, and it’s hard to see how things could change for the better. Historically, numerous empires have toppled, seemingly soon after the height of their success. The United States recently lead the entire world’s economy, but our position is fading fast.
Ian Welsh at FireDogLake seems to agree in an article entitled American Parallels. The first comparison is with the British Empire:
History, they say, does not repeat – but it does echo. Looking back at other situations, other republics and empires, one is tempted to draw parallels between then and now. The parallel drawn most often is the decline of the British Empire.
American world dominance, as with British, was based on a military dominance that came out of economic dominance. From about 1890 on America had the world’s most powerful economy, outproducing Britain industrially, and backed moreover by a continental resource base. At the end of World War II the US was producing about half the world’s goods. Since then there has been a gradual decline, and the rise of larger powers – China and India, whose populations are significantly larger than that of the US. As in the decline of Britain, capital is fleeing the old empire, heading for the rising powers.
The article also compares the U.S. with Spain, Rome, and Athens. All of these economies tumbled relatively quickly. It makes me wonder – were all of the people that lived during these times caught off-guard? Or, did some of them see it coming? Clearly, the outcome wasn’t inevitable, but people didn’t do enough to stop it. I also agree with the article’s conclusion, which is somewhat more optimistic:
In the end America will follow its own unique path. All Republics end, and so do all Empires. There is, in human history, a series of cycles of renewal, decay and renewal. Each one ends in a crisis period, and each crisis must be overcome. It is never inevitable that you’ll fail – but it’s never guaranteed you’ll succeed either. It is this generation’s task to renew the tree of liberty and keep the American experiment going – to remain true to the ideals that made America and have driven it since 1776. It is my profoundest wish, as we come up on the New Year and look both back and forward, that you are successful in doing so, and that America once again becomes the beacon of liberty and hope that its founders wanted it to be.
In any case, this is probably a suitable last blog entry for 2007. Let’s hope that 2008 has some more encouraging news!