July 17, 2009
The Roman Empire had 1100 years. The Ottoman Empire had maybe 400 years. The British Empire had 200 years. The U.S. Empire– 1950-2010. Technology allows empires to rise and fall quickly these days. Which means the Chinese Empire may last 25 years followed by, who knows? Korean Empire, Indian Empire, Indonesian empire. Eventually in a Warhol world, this blog will be an empire for 15 seconds.
What causes empires to fall? Think about the beginning of Gladiator which is the story of the fall of the great Roman Empire. The battle front takes weeks to get to, the battle lines are spread to thin. The general doesn’t even know what way of life he is fighting for because Rome isn’t Rome any more. Rome is a city where the slaves do all the work and the wealthy sit around and are fed grapes. The middle class eliminated. Eventually the barbarian hordes will win. The leadership is corrupt and the people in Rome are addicted to mindless pleasure rather than learning or work.
- Empires stretch out all over the globe… the sun never set on the Union Jack until their supply lines are too thin.
- All the funds of the empire are going into fighting abroad.
- Surprise! The countries on the border hate the empire! They fail to appreciate being conquered.
- The country at home falls apart. Poverty grows. The gap between very rich and very poor widens, infrastructure disintegrates, literacy rates tumble, middle class collapse, the prison class grows, there is no strong country at home to support the idea of empire.
We can’t reverse the end of the empire. It is over. But we can still make this a strong country. Britain is still worth visiting. When you visit London, which I have a few times, you feel like the wake of the empire came home to roost with neighborhoods from all over the globe—great Indian food and Malaysian food and Middle Eastern food. But the Brits still love the vestiges of empire, one notices, and they want us to do the work. What if we pull out of the empire business all together? I know it would give Dick and company a heart attack, but 71% of the world thinks that the U.S. is the biggest threat to world peace. Is that what we want?