Seeking Alpha

Teutonic Knight's  Instablog

Teutonic Knight
Send Message
Teutonic Knight Is a retired senior system engineer with a large Fortune 500 technology company. Investing is his hobby.
  • A Tale of Three Empires 128 comments
    Dec 7, 2009 10:05 PM

    A Tale of Three Empires

    By Teutonic Knight

    December, 2009


    As the Old Trader put it, he always enjoys studying history, and believes it can be useful in plotting one's investment strategy.   Likewise, John Lounsbury once asserted it is important to understand the history of a country in order to gain insight into its politics and economics.

    A recent Newsweek magazine cover page article “An Empire at Risk” (Sept. ’09) by Harvard Economics Professor Niall Ferguson reminds me of a related good read by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne Emeritus History Professor Bernard Porter's "Empire and Super-Empire" (Yale University Press, 2006).  So, are we an Empire?  If so are we at risk?  The Teutonic Knight  contends that those Anglo-Saxon views of the United States are distorted, and offers his alternate view.

    Dear Professors: did you say "American Empire"?

    The notion of an "American Empire" is a cold case and an Enigma - An Empire that never was! Unlike the illustrious Roman Empire epitomized by the Five Good Emperors (and Hadrian was a standout, kicking in the Hadrian Era), the Americans are either an ultimate hypocrisy, or a God-ordained benevolence to Mankind.  Case in point: Toward the end of the 19th Century, President McKinley was pursuing his expansionary policies, but Mark Twain adamantly advocated anti-colonialism.  We took over the Philippines after a brief and brutal war only to giving it up after some 50 years, and now we are saddled with a 20 plus-year backlog of would-be immigrants from that now independent country.

    In short, we are forever caught in that giant space of indecision - To be, or not to be - An Empire!

    The “American Empire” vs. British Empire

    The “American Empire” if indeed it exists, would be in many respects diametrically opposite to that of the British.

    The U.S. has been a giant magnet drawing huge influx of immigrants from all continents.  Whereas, the British Isles soil being thin  was the driving force for building up the British Empire (1600-2000) exporting its culture and its people.

    Britain’s greatness lies in the rise of the British Empire where its industrial goods and services had enjoyed preferential advantages. For four hundred years from the Golden Elizabethan Era (circa 1590) to this date, that country’s crowning achievements in democracy, government institutions, science and literature reverberated as a model around the world.

    Arguably, however, the visible “class-structure” of the British Society, while inducing authority, loyalty, discipline, hard work, may act as a barrier to upward mobility of its citizens.   At this point, my mind leads me to the 1951 black and white movie "The Man in the White Suit" where Sir Alec Guinness plays Sidney Stratton, a brilliant and obsessed young researcher working in a textile mill.  He invents an incredibly strong fiber which repels dirt and never wears out.

    Stratton was unhappy.  One night working late in his laboratory, he ran into the lady janitor who sensing his unhappiness, jokingly said to him "...You haven't got that tie, eh?"  What she meant was that even Stratton graduated with First Class Honors from Oxbridge (supposedly then can walk on water), he did not attend one of those feeder schools of the power elites, and therefore, although he had the talents, he did not have the connections to move up fast in the corporate ladder.

    America, on the other hand, is firmly based on an Ideal that “All Men Were Created Equal”.  As Billy Graham once said it in one of his best-selling books, the American experiment is one of the crown jewels of human history. Washington et al. founded this nation when monarchs and royalty were still in vogue.

    We dreamed of such characters as Batman, Superman, Mickey Mouse, and Wonder Woman, among so many. People from around the world of all races and cultures could come to enjoy such great upward mobility.

    Whatever your ancestors’ reason for coming, be it religious persecution, political turmoil, economic devastation, genocide, we call this place our home and strive to build it and preserve it as exemplary for the rest of the world.  People are willing to wait for 10, 20, or even 30 years in line for the quota to come up to take their turn.

    An American Inflection Point

    Yet, in the past two decades or so, never have I seen a country so blessed with its democratic traditions, so rich with natural resources, so envied for its law and order, so endowed with such innovative and entrepreneur talents, so technological advanced, and so militarily strong, and yet, so determined to blow it.

    So how could this seemingly have happened?

    One possibility is that historians attribute this potential inflection point to our immaturity as a new nation which is probably ingrained as part of the American culture.  Just as we, Americans, when we view the Chinese with bewilderment of their glorifying mathematicians as national heroes just to proving an obscure theorem, the same would hold true when they look upon us with such awe and scorn at our comedians, sport figures, Hollywood celebrities, talk show hosts and hostesses making hundreds of millions a year.

    Another possibility is akin to the following fable.  There is a story that I was told when I was in kindergarten, and that was the race between the rabbit and the turtle. The rabbit runs fast, but the turtle is tenacious and perseveres. Normally, the rabbit would be ahead; but unfortunately he falls asleep.

    Yet another possibility is too much politics.   From the outset back in circa 1800 this nation had thrived in politics - Ben Franklin couldn't get a decent pension from the then congress, and John Paul Jones had to seek a commission in the Russian Navy.

    An Old Empire Rising from the East

    Goldman Sachs’ prediction that China will ascend to world GDP preeminence in or around the 2027-2050 time frame bolds well with my own principally eclectic, macro, heuristic and subjective assessment as follows.

    China has no tradition of democracy since the Xia Dynasty ~circa 1500 BC.   Western democracy originates from the Greeks, punctuated by the signing of the Magna Carter ~ circa 1215 AD, and the subsequent development of the British Parliament as its model.

    Not only democracy is foreign to the Chinese, human rights for individuals start from zero and work their way up.  China will in my view continue its present course as a Dynastic entity – a Republic-in-Name-Only.

    Let us go back in their history to discover hints for the future. The most recent Dynasty of the Han majority was the Ming.  Emperor Hongwu, a.k.a Ming Taizu was able to root out the Mongols of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 after an onslaught of combined disastrous civil war, famine, and Black Plague that reduced the then population by some 60%. Subsequent reign of Hongwu from 1368-1398, an exceptional long reign, and the ablest rule of the Yongle Emperor a.k.a Ming Cheng Zu (famous for his envoy expedition to as far as Madagascar) lasted from 1402-1424 AD.

    In retrospect, the Nationalist government under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shak was in actuality but a transitional period, from 1911-1949 in Chinese history.

    Thus, it took about some 80 years from China to rise from the ruins to a world power, from 1368 to 1424 AD. Adding 80 to 1949 would roughly give us the Goldman Sachs 2027-2050 target.  This to me seems to be a tide of their history.

    Viewing the Three Empires in Tandem

    So, in summary, comparatively speaking, Britain’s strength lies in its merit-based well-organized institutions.   America’s strength lies in its inclination for innovation, entrepreneurship, and enterprising momentum.   China’s strength lies in its capacity for low-cost mass production.

    Bell-Northern Research (BNR), the once fledging research arm of Nortel in the 1970's and 80's was touted as one of the world's most innovative hotbeds. BNR was noted for its free-roaming arms-length management style to fostering innovation. However, BNR had gone into sunset after reaching its zenith.  NT is now bankrupt.

    While innovation is the necessary ingredient for success, it is hardly the sufficient. It takes know-how, yes, but acumen in management, and luck to aggressively productized to marketing and sustaining that lead.   Production has now become an emerging key factor, and for some situations, I dare say, is even more crucial than innovation per se.

    Some say that the Japanese and the Chinese are not as innovative minded (perhaps culturally?). How would one observe in this regard about the Japanese auto sector these days?

    Right from the beginning, as Toyota started in circa 1949 the Japanese had meticulously embarked on a journey to setting their far-sighted goals on a long-term basis - a 40-year plus horizon.

    Bit by bit they overcame those numerous hurdles - use better steel to correct their horrible body rust problems, leveraging on American Deming's quality principles which we woefully discarded to raising reliability levels, emphasizing fuel efficiency, hiring American stylist to design exterior bodies, hiring American publicists to advertise, building network of dealers first in urban then rural areas by offering domestic dealerships joint brands on the same location, purchasing licensing rights from such firms as Borg-Warner to acquiring automatic transmission technologies, making more leg rooms in front seats to fit 6-foot plus Americans, and finally, use Southern labor to do the assembly - except one thing - the engineering is Japanese.

    Chinese scientific achievements long exhibited in their ancient history, in astronomy, gun power, printing, paper currency, mathematics, to name a few.   True, their weakness lies in that it is all within the government's control and purview and the government had been the sole employer.

    The Chinese have cultural issues inherited from the traditional hold of the family   perceived as lack of freedom. On the other hand, freedom could be abused; an extreme case in point would be our greedy CEO's who made off several hundred million dollars a year and left us with this mess. The Chinese politicians are authoritarian akin to be a new dynasty with an emperor in charge.   However, our two political parties have now shown signs of deterioration of late.

    The point I am trying to get across is that it is the rate of change that counts. China in 1800 at the death of the Emperor Quinlong was the largest and most wealthy nation on earth. For those who visited the Williamsburg, VA Governor House, one would have noticed that the decor was distinctively Chinese to reflect the glory and prestige of the greatest empire at the time. Unfortunately, it was a waterfall juncture when that nation soon began its long descent ever since till modern time, mainly because of the onslaught of corruption. It took only a little less than a 100 years for them to spiral down to be carved out by powerful invaders.

    In retrospect, historians using scientific economic estimations generally believe that America had peaked in its power, wealth, and prestige in 1974 coinciding with the Fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). If indeed history and time will prove that this postulation is correct, then the rise of the American (Empire) will be short by history’s standard, very short indeed.

    American Can become Anything

    I used to take walks after lunch in the wooded trails along the Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) with some of my colleagues when I was working at a government laboratory several decades ago.   It was a cool but damp afternoon in October.   The sun was hazy and the river seemed to be covered by a sheet of white veil.    We were chatting and chatting, then Dr. Ted remarked to us: “…You know, when I first arrived in England and met my professor, he said to me one would have to careful with these American boys (although he was Canadian).  In England here you take a look at him and hear him speak for a few minutes you could size up his social strata.  With these American boys you wouldn't’t know if he is the son of a Billionaire or a garbage collector…”   I later found out that Ted was a Governor-General Gold Medalist, the valedictorian who scored the highest grades in his graduating class of the entire university.

    This nation had seen even graver crises before but by the grace of serendipity every time we were able to ride it out even stronger. I have faith in counting on the tenacity and resiliency of the American people.   As that English professor said to Dr. Ted, PhD (Imperial), DIC, we can become anything.  

    Disclosure: No positions
Back To Teutonic Knight's Instablog HomePage »

Instablogs are blogs which are instantly set up and networked within the Seeking Alpha community. Instablog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors, in contrast to contributors' articles.

Comments (128)
Track new comments
  • America is richer and more powerful than China today because George Washington was a better leader than the Qian Long Emperor.


    But if Hu JIn Tiao turns out to be a better leader than his American contemporaries, China's grandchildren will be better off than ours.
    14 Dec 2009, 12:03 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Graham


    Thank you for taking the time to look over my article. Let us hope that our leaders will carry that torch given to them by George Washington in moving forward.


    3 Jan 2010, 11:37 AM Reply Like
  • Just how are we "richer?"


    Wealth (or owner's equity if you prefer) is stated as the following formula:


    Assets less Liabilities equals Wealth.


    Seems to me our balance sheet is upside to equate this country to Wealthy.
    10 Jan 2010, 12:25 PM Reply Like
  • TK thanks for the heads up on the article which I thoroughly relished.


    Britain followed classical colonial mercantilistic polices, extending its reach through its military to secure access to resources and wealth essential to the empire; China is pursuing neo colonial mercantilism but is taking full advantage of the moment of its ascendancy by acquiring needed resources through business relationships; and the US of course has prospered taking advantage of its rich bounty of resources and welcoming all that want to take advantage of liberty, private property rights the freedom to succeed and other constitutional guarantees.


    Our undoing is a poisonous liberal ideology that has challenged the constitution and displaced the tenets of conservative values and democratic capitalism. This warped ideology, based upon progressive collectivism, has has allowed political parties to weaken our economy, indulge in fiscal irresponsibility, expand entitlements, install sweeping social agendas and reduce our military strength. We simply cannot afford what has been committed to.


    Once a country spends 20% of its fiscal revenues on debt service it is poised for decline. Quoting Niall Ferguson: "Habsburg Spain defaulted on all or part of its debt 14 times between 1557 and 1696 and also succumbed to inflation due to a surfeit of New World silver. Pre-revolutionary France was spending 62 percent of royal revenue on debt service by 1788. The Ottoman Empire went the same way: interest payments and amortization rose from 15 percent of the budget in 1860 to 50 percent in 1875. And don't forget the last great English-speaking empire. By the interwar years, interest payments were consuming 44 percent of the British budget, making it intensely difficult to rearm in the face of a new German threat."


    Currently we are spending around 7% of fiscal revenues on debt service but this will, even under optimistic assumptions, increase to 19% to 20% by 2020. Significant increases in real interest rates will magnify the burden of our debt service and force additional cuts in military spending. And like it or not, a military is needed to create an empire or protect a democracy.
    10 Jan 2010, 04:03 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Cautiousinvestor


    Your seminal remarks helped me gain deeper insights into the underlying issues at hand discussed in my article. Thank you.


    That said, plotting one's investment strategy in the coming decade will no doubt greatly correlate with the rise and fall of the US and Chinese economies (a.k.a. Empires).


    10 Jan 2010, 09:16 PM Reply Like
  • The American Empire is not ending. We are in our democratic stage (read 'republic' is you want to draw parallels). Our empire has been largely, in an historic sense, naive and generous so far -- and if the American Empire died today it would go down as the most congenial empire in history. But there is a strong force in America that values empire over democracy -- and they will have their day. And, if so, the world will see a different side of America.


    The key to America's success to date is the relative balance between the male and female components, for this is what defines a democracy. The party of the rich and the party of the poor must agree to SHARE power. It is like a marriage. A good marriage is a balanced relationship, a shared power in which both parties work for the good of the nation AS THEY SEE IT. If we lose that balance, then we are no different than any other country with an arrogant tyranny trying to control the world.
    3 Jan 2010, 02:50 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Prof. Clark


    Thank you for your alternate view that I find both reassuring and refreshing as an American.


    3 Jan 2010, 11:35 AM Reply Like
  • I would go so far as to state it isn't the "balance" of wealth to poverty.


    It is the BUFFER of the middle classes that enabled our wealth and power.


    Everything is being done to shrink that buffer.


    Which will be our downfall.
    10 Jan 2010, 12:27 PM Reply Like
  • You're right. The balance between the Male and Female parts, rich and poor, is what creates the Middle Class. The Middle Class drives evolution -- and is the basis of a 'living' society, one that can change and grow. The Middle Class also keeps the Rich and the Poor from abusing each other. The Middle Class is the soul, that is, part male and part female -- is, in fact, the balance between the two (there is NO democracy when there is no middle class).


    The middle class allies itself with the Rich during the Growth periods -- expansion, Day Cycles -- because it chooses 'life', change, growth -- and because it believes the stories of the Rich Class that anyone and everyone can also become rich. The middle class allies itself with the Poor during the Rest periods, contraction, Night Cycles -- because growth stops and wealth begins to disappear -- and the soul emerges as the female element seeking to 'mother' the society during times of crisis and decline.


    The Father rules the Day Cycles; the Mother rules the Night Cycles. Round and round the circle we go.


    As the Old Testament says: "Honor the Father and honor the Mother."
    15 Jan 2010, 02:48 AM Reply Like
  • TK,


    A well crafted and thought out article. One point that comes to mind in your comparison between Britain and the US, is that the term "empire" has arguably changed. Although the US never had "real" colonies, in the sense that Britain, France, Spain, etc. did, I suspect that "commercial colonization" could be considered an equivalent (the prevalence of fast-food franchises, business practices, etc.).
    3 Jan 2010, 09:34 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Thank you for your kind words and your feedback.


    3 Jan 2010, 10:09 PM Reply Like
  • TK - - -


    Thoroughly enjoyed your thorough discussion of empire. One thread that I would have expanded is the factor of corruption and concentration of wealth through means that are not considered "honorable" as contributing factors to the decline of empires, whether they be territorial or commercial. The other commenters have added value to your fine article, as well.
    3 Jan 2010, 11:14 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Dr. Lunnsbury -


    Thank you for your encouraging words and your astute comment. It is always my pleasure to read your many articles that in my view are most substantive and perceptive.


    3 Jan 2010, 11:59 PM Reply Like
  • TK:
    Thank you for inviting me to review your Instablog. Very much a thought provoking article.


    As someone, who when younger, was never interested in history of any kind, yet then as I got older found it fascinating and insightful, this article certainly made me think about numerous issues. I see various parallels in our current US environment to the Roman Empire, and they worry me a great deal. I am a believer in "history tends to repeat itself". The biggest parallels I see are:


    1)The massive decline of our cultural standards and the acceptance of mediocracy as the new norm.
    2)The debasement of our currency.
    3)The outright denial of our government to truly address the underlying structural problems of our economy.
    4)A military, fighting never ending wars on foreign soil. (To be honest are we winning wars? Losing them? I do not think anyone really knows)
    5)The holding of all wealth by a select few, and yet the public seems to have resigned themselves to their fate of just being slaves to the consuls, or being allowed to exist as long as they have their few pleasures (I-Phones, Facebook, etc)


    There are many more I am sure, and others can probably fill in the gaps. As someone who was born in the early 60's, lived thru the 70's and 80's, then as the 90's got started I "sensed" a change in this country. The dawning of the 21st century confirmed what I had been feeling and silently witnessing since 1990: we seem to be on a path of slow decay, where by the time anyone wakes up and realizes it is to late, nothing can be done.


    In the US, there seems to be this notion of "invincibility". It is absurd and the average American would do well to research the previous empires who went by the wayside. The former Egyptian empire, Alexander's, Rome's, Greek's, Persian's, etc, were in fact 10 times as large as our so called Empire and 10 times more powerful, yet in the end, they fell apart just the same, never to be seen again. People forget that the US is very, very young in terms of the time it has been around.
    Will history repeat itself?
    We all hope not. But it always does.
    4 Jan 2010, 05:09 PM Reply Like
  • I agree with this change in America. The neocons are the party of empire. From Bill Kristol, to Dick Cheney, to Jeb Bush, to Elliot Abrams, to Richard Perle, to Paul Wolfowitz, these men are dangerous and reckless with the security of the United States. No men who came before even considered provoking the Russian Bear. These men, and you can add Sarah Palin who is just dumb enough to fall for their game, are trying to dominate both parties. They control the Republican Party and the continuity of the Afghan pipeline interest was transfered to the Democrats with the appointment of Robert Gates. Perhaps he is just mopping up for the neocons, I don't know.


    But I do know that regardless of how bad Obama is with regard to selling out to the big banks, the neocons are worse and are a threat to kindle WW3. Some even say that Cheney has become stark raving mad. That is what an evil web inside the soul will do to a man.
    21 Jan 2010, 02:56 AM Reply Like
  • Yes. I think Cheney (I am a Wyomingite also, born and raised in southern Wyoming and having lived there for 27 years, so I have some sympathy for Dick Cheney) is a madman right out of a Shakespeare play.


    The crusade for empire is God-driven. God (or the Devil, whichever is your point of view) takes possession of the soul and drives the soul into the world as a manifestation of itself.


    Empire is a religious quest, a crusade. No amount of logic can phase it. It is spirit personified (read 'Will'). Of course, when empire ends, the Soul is almost always ashamed of what it did in its spirit-drunken state.


    We must keep in mind that the Empire-mind is threatened by Death, played in the religious mind by Islam. A crusade against (radical) Islam is shaping its future and driving it into manifestation.
    21 Jan 2010, 03:36 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Gary A


    Thank you for this insightful comment and I did visit your other popular site.


    The impending demise and decline of America is IMO a Double Tragedy - in that the Bald Eagle, that "Last hope and deliverance of all Mankind", is now solidly in Captivity.


    May the Force be with you.


    21 Jan 2010, 11:50 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Dear Archman Investor -


    Thank you for your open candor. Your remarks match well your reputation as a "Straight-Talk", "No-Nonsense" SA commenter.


    4 Jan 2010, 05:46 PM Reply Like
  • Very interesting thought-piece, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.


    Regarding America, I think it resembles pre-empire Rome to no small degree. Europe would be akin to the Greeks and Hellenic Egypt, Latin America to Spain, Russia, that arch-nemesis, to Carthage (Putin to Hannibal?), and the great gorging in Gaul, the Middle East. The military is still key, and outside of Russia, we are deep into every other region I've listed above.


    The Senate? Wall Street. The real 'senate' is a throwback to our traditions and institutions, but Wall Street is an evolution of it, with lead shareholders like Warren Buffett as lead senators and even advocates of foreign policy (Buffett's investments in Korea and Israel - of all places, the two hotbeds in NE Asia and the Middle East - are key to my argument here, along with him advocating balanced trade). With our search for profit, we fuel our military machine and conquer what we can devour - in our world, the conquering of a nation involves opening its markets to 'free trade', or more precisely, trade with the 'free world'. Dick Cheney? Was he a politician or a capitalist? Is there a difference in our day and age? Obama to Cicero? Eloquent, but in the end impotent to bring about change (he is not a capitalist). Romney for 2012!


    China is missing in this discussion because I compare it to ancient Germany - it has the size, stature, and (up to this point, and excluding the chaos of pre-CCP China) impenetrability, along with the reputation of being the one to usurp Rome (oops, America), and like Germany, is most adept at incorporating our culture into its own. Right now, as in pre-empire Rome, it is far from being anywhere close to challenging Rome in any significant degree, but we have shown how decadent we can become, how self-destruction runs through our veins as it did Alexander (Kennedy? - who inspired us and the world to be what we can become and yet dragged us down the road to Vietnam) and Caligula (W. - need I say more?) before us.


    These are most interesting times, and we (well, most SA posters) are fortunate to live in the premier power in the world. I know some of this is not entirely accurate (Caligula in pre-empire Rome??), but it was fun to write anyway. Thanks for the invite.
    8 Jan 2010, 05:26 PM Reply Like
  • I'm not sure about Russia = Carthage. Rome fought Carthage 3 times. Rome could not help fighting Carthage. Rome could not breathe without Carthage appearing in her face.


    We may never fight Russia. We have fought Germany twice; Russia not at all.


    I hope this doesn't mean we will fight the Germans again. I admire much about the inner life of the German culture, art, music, philosophy, precision, quality of products, quality of thought. They have a big shadow. But they also have a big light.


    I can see that Russia is Germany's Carthage.
    15 Jan 2010, 03:33 AM Reply Like
  • I would have thought that Germany was Russia's Carthage rather than the other way around.
    17 Jan 2010, 06:17 PM Reply Like
  • China = ancient Germany? Not so sure. I would think Ancient Germany most closely resembles Arabia, with the religious culture of Germany being raw and fundamental much as Arabia (in Islam) is today.


    Rome was modern. The German tribes were anti-modern. I don't see much anti-modernism in China at the moment, all cell phones, cars and houses, houses, houses.


    Fundamentalist Arabia (think Iran, for instance, with the rise of Khomeini) is more akin to the force of the Dark Gothic Culture (Night) that appeared to turn out Rome's light.


    Rome represented the Day Cycle. The force that defeats America will represent the Night Cycle, will be tribal in structure, and will be religious fundamentalists, as the Goths did for Rome.
    21 Jan 2010, 03:42 AM Reply Like
  • You have a point there.
    21 Jan 2010, 03:44 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Thank you for your kind remarks and detailed read..


    I am pleased to find your comments equally thought-provoking, interesting, original and rather unorthodox (which is meant to be complimentary!).


    Again, thanks for your time. I learned something from your perspectives.


    8 Jan 2010, 06:14 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks for the article. I agree that Americans still have the resilience to come out of this. We'll emerge from this recession earlier than most think. We'll recover, our trade will be a bit more balanced. Then... We'll stagnate.


    Why stagnate? One of the biggest reasons is because we have grown too comfortable, too confident. We've lost the ability to critique ourselves and point out our shortcomings. We've developed a culture of entitlement, of consumption without looking at whole picture. We look at the immediate benefits, but we refuse to acknowledge the long-term costs.


    The best illustration is our trade with China. The trade imbalance has been at the thorn of US-Chinese relations for at least the past decade. We point to the massive deficit, and demand that the Chinese stop 'cheating' and revalue their currency. The public (and the US government) willfully ignores the fact that we, not the Chinese, are ultimately responsible for how much we consume. The Chinese didn't force us to spend beyond our means. Complaining about the Chinese is akin to complaining that the local market is selling groceries too cheaply, and that's why we loaded up billions more in groceries than we needed, and that's why we're in debt.


    That... is the US argument. Instead of saying we should stop the spending binge and stay within our means, we blame the supplier for selling us things too cheaply. This is how dysfunctional the argument has become. We fail to spot the source of the problem (non-productive overconsumption financed through debt) and instead blame the problem on cheap financing. It's a classic case of shirking responsibility.


    What's the solution? Be more responsible. Fix the fiscal deficit and improve our competitiveness, obviously. But I don't think it's a realistic option. The US government is a cruise ship with too much inertia. It will not change directions until we run into an iceberg and the whole ship sinks.


    When we do.... I am afraid for my life because the US possesses the biggest military in the world. Who knows who we might blame in order to shift attention away from our own irresponsibility? Will China be the scapegoat? Can we afford to flex our militaristic muscles in a world dominated by nuclear weapons? Will the attempt to shift focus away from our own responsibilities result in World War 3 and the first global nuclear war? I certainly hope not, and I don't think it's very probable yet. However, with public opinion being constantly swayed by the conflict headline-loving media, the possibility inches closer with each passing day. I don't want the American Empire to go down in a mutually assured destruction with the Chinese Empire. In the end, all I want is a good life for me and my family. That's why I prefer engagement and cooperation over conflict. I hope the rest of America is with me. If not, God help us all.
    8 Jan 2010, 07:47 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » mna


    Thank you for your perceptive comments.


    Yes, I am hopeful that we will come out stronger out of this crisis which is now into its 16-month stretch (Sept. '08 - Jan.'10).


    On the other hand, I am pessimistic because the evidence so far as I see it does not support the notion that we the US of A had really learned anything from this financial debacle, as yet.


    A personal observation is that the mainline paid Media (newspaper, magazine, TV, Radio, etc.) are still fixated on promoting mediocrity and consumerism.


    America will remain in my prayers.


    8 Jan 2010, 08:26 PM Reply Like
  • A thoughtful essay, and a good read.


    My own theory on "empires" is different (and simpler?). Basically, my starting point is a simple observation: it is MUCH easier to BUILD an empire than to MAINTAIN one.


    Thus, much of our evolution over the last two thousand years (at least with respect to "great powers") has been a struggle to REFINE the empire "model".


    Early empires were invariably built upon brute, military force - and an iron grip on political power. What ALWAYS happened was that the costs and energy of attempting to MAINTAIN power always increased to a level where the time, effort (and most importantly) MONEY needed to retain the empire EXCEEDED the economic benefits.


    Ultimately, most failed empires are case studies in FAILED, ECONOMIC MODELS. The Romans were the first semi-successful experiment in empires. Later imitators saw that delegating some authority to local leaders AND sharing SOME degree of prosperity with conquered tribes made the empire more stable.


    Thus later empires were ALL attempts to copy Rome, but fix the mistakes. And ALL these imitators eventually fell into the SAME trap: the moment that the empire showed some 'cracks' they immediately shifted to the FAILED model of empire-through-militar... This is what is killing the American Empire (and in very rapid fashion).


    China's attempt at empire seems to be following in U.S. footsteps (before the U.S. lost its way): a PURELY economic, trade-based empire. To this point, China has shown no appetite for direct conquest.


    This will be the key to the rise of China: avoiding the mistake and failure of others. The American Empire cannot possibly be salvaged. It is broken, and the U.S. will never be the "sole superpower" again.


    Nothing personal, but history shows us that NO nation ever gets to be #1 TWICE.
    9 Jan 2010, 12:02 PM Reply Like
  • I must go along with Jeff.


    America is not doomed, just like Britain was not doomed early in the 20th century - but it will give up its #1 position. you must hunger to be number one. China is hungry. America is full and only trying to protect its position.


    I don't know if i would say America cannot be #1 again. there is always a chance. but without major structural changes and a burning hunger it is very unlikely.
    10 Jan 2010, 10:15 PM Reply Like
  • Yes, that chimes with me.


    Ironically, empires rarely make the citizens of conquering power richer for any length of time.


    Any excess wealth created in Britain or the US was primarily driven by innovation rather than Empire.
    17 Jan 2010, 06:21 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Dave Wrixon


    Thank you for taking the time chipping in. May the Force be with you.


    18 Jan 2010, 01:57 PM Reply Like
  • I'm not sure that the rise of an empire is the result of careful thought as much as it is the organic rise of an irresistible will. More like the way a plant or a tree grows, forcing out those adversarial plants that are in its way, than like an architect drawing up plans at his drafting table.
    21 Jan 2010, 03:48 AM Reply Like
  • The costs of empire are also rather staggering. A war of empire is becoming so expensive now that it is really almost not worth the effort and the destruction.
    21 Jan 2010, 03:51 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Jeff


    Thank you for your equally thoughtful comments. I consider your viewpoints would augment the other comments well.


    In a sense, after the end of the Vietnam War in 1974, the "American Empire" had taken up an increasing role as a "Policeman of the World" vice an occupying force. The Gulf War of 1990, the Balkan/Yoguslav War of the 1990's attest to this view.


    I do have a somewhat slightly opposing view to your point that "...China has shown no appetite for direct conquest..." True, It would seem that they do not, as evidenced by the fact that there is "probably" no Chinese troops stationed overseas. But does this mean that they do not want to, or because they are not able to for now?


    Just a thought!


    9 Jan 2010, 02:29 PM Reply Like
  • I differ with the concept that China has no appetite for direct conquest. Two areas immediately come to mind: Mongolia and Tibet. It makes me wonder where Hong Kong will be. The Chinese took over in 1997 and Hong Kong's autonomy is guaranteed for 50 years.
    I think this is actually a very exciting time to be a US citizen. I am hopeful that we can reverse the direction we have been taking these last 40 years.
    I think that the Chinese, while they are in line to take over the mantle as #1 world power, will probably fall on their faces many times as they build their own bubbles and manipulate their currency western style. They are making the same mistakes rampant in the West.
    9 Jan 2010, 11:23 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » optionsgirl


    Thank you for your response. I concur with that you these are indeed exciting times for US citizens.


    Let us borrow the Chinese idiom: "Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself". What percentage of Americans speak, read and write fluent Chinese, and have had a first-hand contact and knowledge of China? I don't have an official estimate at hand, but I would venture that number would most likely be around 1% or less.


    Thank you again.
    9 Jan 2010, 11:46 PM Reply Like
  • Dear OG:


    You may or may not know that the Chinese reference to a country called Vietnam (which the Vietnamese have adopted) is Yue nam, or extreme south. Imagine how the Mexicans or Argentines would feel if we started referring to their countries as the extreme south.


    China has always been very heavy-handed to countries and peoples that it has regarded as inside their sphere of influence. The reason they aren't regarded as aggressive is because they have historically defined that sphere out influence narrowly (east to Japan, north to Mongolia, south to Vietnam, west to the Indian border, but not India itself). Unlike the so-called "big Germany" construct, China has used "little China."


    China has recently expanded its "sphere of influence" to Africa/Middle East, Australia, and even Latin America. Expect it to be "aggressive," at least in those areas.


    P.S. My parents came from China.
    10 Jan 2010, 03:42 PM Reply Like
  • G_D: The Vietnamese are VERY AWARE of the presence of China (living in China's underbelly, so to speak) and Chinese patterns of hegemony. They know that China wants Taiwan back also; and that when China entered Vietnam en masse the last time they did not leave for 1,000 years, Until Vietnam's two sisters (Hai Ba Trung) riding elephants and leading Vietnamese warriors into battle drove the Chinese out of the country, finally.


    The next decade is going to be interesting all over the earth.


    New years wishes for your health and safety.
    15 Jan 2010, 02:55 AM Reply Like
  • 1. Great Britain : a deliberate strategy of conquest based on a contradictory combination of sheer romance and cold commerce led by some of the most impressive expressions of the best and worst of humanity. An empire of ,for and by the aristocrats and the merchants. World War 1 destroyed the best Britain had and World War 2 the second best. The Empire collapsed because the best Britons perished and the third rate and worst inherited the kingdom. It could not stand because the human foundations were no more.


    2. China: is not,was never and never will be more than a superregional power. No nation ever ascended to global dominance with a demographic profile as bad as China , with such little capacity for innovation and so little to offer other people and nations morally or intellectually. China will reach its peak in less than a decade and then stall and decline, relatively, as an aging, feeble and fragile population leads to both an absolute decline in population and a collapsing worker to dependent ratio.


    3. America: conceived to be a shining city on a hill for all people. The only global hyperpower in history. Propelled by a desire to liberate and enlighten rather than conquer and suppress. From birth thru the 1960s, America was unique in the history of the world. In the 1960s America became decoupled from its heritage, its Constitution, its great middle class values and traditions and its sense of manifest destiny.
    This decoupling has now become a chasm and the America of history and the USA of the past 50 years have less and less in common: a shared geography but morally, intellectually, culturally two alien and incompatible nations. America has now been occupied by the US Regime. It has fallen from within. It may rise again if the remnant of the still believing and still valiant middle class can conceive and fight the Second War of Independence and free the people from the Regime.
    10 Jan 2010, 09:01 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » User 353732


    Thank you for your superb comments. I have the following observations:


    1. Great Britain: The 1997 hand-over of Hong Kong marked the de facto end of the last chapter of the British Empire. David Cameron, an illegitimate descendent of King William IV is now poised to become the next Prime MInister. Would he usurp the Throne?


    2. China: A 10% GDP growth per year for the next 7 years would double. Clearly this trend is unsustainable. The country's legal and justice system is still fragile. Don't underestimate China though, from 1989 (Tiannaman Square Incident) to 1999 they managed to stabilize and resurges. From 2000-2010 they embarked on an exponential rise - all in a short 20-year span. However, if what you predicted comes to past, China investors, beware!


    3. America: Still in sound slumber. George Washington built this great nation (Greatest?) through his SELFLESS leadership and vision.


    Sadly, in my opinion, these two are now in short supply.


    Take Care.
    10 Jan 2010, 11:27 AM Reply Like
  • I will focus on your comments on China here.


    1) China was the leader in nearly every aspect imaginable (innovation, economics, culture, population, territory, trade) all the way until and even centuries after the Mongols invaded (think Marco Polo). It is easy to see the sudden stop in progress, and the vulnerability the Mongols introduced to the equation, with the Manchus taking over a couple short centuries later. In Europe, what they call the Black Plague that killed millions and cemented the era as their Dark Ages was only one of several semi-apocalyptic influences that the Mongols introduced to Eurasia. China fought this influence longer than any other Eurasian power in the Middle Ages, a full 60 years, before falling. How long did it take for the Mongols to conquer Arabia? Scandanavia? India?


    The Chinese (and by extension all of Eurasia except modern day Western Europe) fought against an enemy that had no concept of humanity, that routinely threatened (and in many cases carried out their threat) to kill every man, woman and child in every city they sieged and turn it into pastures for their herds, whose concept of marriage was abducting women from neighboring tribes and forcing them into 'obedience'.


    2) I do agree with your first sentence, with the added caveat that the new 'super-region' is the entire world. As Germany would have led Europe (without American intervention), so China has a demographic profile that, once scaled for the world, resembles Germany's dominant position in Europe. In such a scaling, America's role will resemble England's, with Europe as a whole resembling France - sizable, but ultimately incapable of neutralizing the German state. Like Germany's at the turn of the 20th century, China's international influence is currently also far behind other 'developed' nations, and is catching up at a similar pace as post-Bismarck Germany.
    10 Jan 2010, 07:59 PM Reply Like
  • Excellent piece; very forward-looking. I like you.
    10 Jan 2010, 11:13 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Thanks for your compliment. As a humble and ordinary citizen, in my spare time, I do try to do my part.
    10 Jan 2010, 11:39 AM Reply Like
  • TK, first thanks for the invite. And, thanks for a thought provoking article.


    I would love to believe that I'm not seeing the end, but as an accountant at heart, I try and audit everything I see, read and am told. A thorough audit of our current position does not leave me with the warm fuzzies.


    The number of non-producers/workers is at an all time high - especially if you audit the numbers and see that when we compare today to 1982, or 1930, the comparison are worthless primarily due to women in the workplace and our population.


    NO country, or company, can survive when we pay more people to not show up, than show up. Look to state budgets, and the Big 3, to see this reality first hand.


    Our collective intelligence level (as in the ability to figure things out - not pass a test) is at all time lows. While we like to pretend that education equates to intelligence, in the real world it doesn't. Else a PhD would not have to ask his son to change the time on a digital clock. Or a doctor would BELIEVE that nutrition is more important than additives - and most refuse to even consider that. Or, a college graduate would not have trouble understanding compound interest.


    The powers that be are too fat, too wealthy, too entrenched and too powerful.


    The masses are too apathetic, undereducated (by choice), overfed and distracted.


    I hope and pray that this is not the end. I have a son who has reached the age of marriage and children, and a daughter who goes into kindergarten this year. I personally have everything riding on the future.


    But, I am having trouble seeing how anything but collapse, could save us and bring back our shining status. And collapse, as we all know, would not be orderly, nor would it bring a return to our work ethics and morality. Millions of case studies on human nature at crisis point give a glimpse to the truth.


    As for comparing us to the fall of other empires, it recently has been brought to my attention, that instead of looking to Rome & Britain, we should be studying Argentina as our paths have much more in common. Again, I hope that somehow the US finds a different outcome than Argentina has. For now though, we appear to be following their path play by play.
    10 Jan 2010, 12:54 PM Reply Like
  • Dear TheresaE:


    America today reminds me of Rome in the third century AD (think of George Washington as parallel to Julius Caesar). That is clearly on the decline, handwriting on the wall, etc., but with one more kick left in it. (Rome didn't fall until the FIFTH century A.D.)
    10 Jan 2010, 01:46 PM Reply Like
  • Hasn't it been two centuries since Washington?


    So wouldn't that put us at the same point as the 5th century Rome?


    Apparently, I am misinterpreting your presentation.
    10 Jan 2010, 03:32 PM Reply Like
  • The Caesars (Julius and Augustus) were the minus one and first centuries A.D. Two centuries later is the third century A.D., which is where we are now, more or less. Two centuries after that is the fall.


    But it might be one century, if things have speeded up since then.
    10 Jan 2010, 03:45 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks for the clarification, my math/history brain isn't working correctly
    10 Jan 2010, 09:45 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » TeresaE


    Thank you for your many equally forceful thought-provoking comments as well.


    You've brought up the many social and economic issues that belie this great country of ours. Case in point: On education, there are the most elite high-end feeder prep schools to the Ivies at a cost of $70K per year with thousands of aspiring applicants on wait list. Whereas, in our inner cities, some kids from families at the poverty level (now stands at 17% of our national household per government figures) are struggling to overcome challenging learning environments. It is that old saying: "The rich gets richer, and the poor gets poorer". Is socialism the answer? Is Affirmative Action the answer? I don't know.


    As the crisis stretches into its 17th month (Sept. '08 - present), I too have a seedy feeling that things are "going to turn worse before it gets better". It is scary.


    I am an immigrant myself from Canada. This country had been good to me. I am still employed as I write and have never been unemployed since I landed on US soil over 3 decades ago. My son was a Harvard Fellow.


    Again, thanks for your response.
    10 Jan 2010, 10:33 PM Reply Like
  • Thanks TK.


    I worked all the way through the early 80s, and I was underage, a high school dropout with a child. I needed to work, and always found it.


    There are jobs available, the problem is they don't pay enough to meet a working family's needs. BUT, when I walk into places like Home Depot and Costco, I see that there are still some Americans that feel working for low wages is better than depending on the dole. (there is a little hope there).


    But, for good paying, buy the house, pay the credit card debt, jobs, there are few and it seems to get sparser by the day.


    As for education, instead of relying on the government, parents should be doing what I did for myself, then for my son and now for my daughter, self-educate. There are no laws against cracking open textbooks that the school hasn't sent home. As for college. I charged my classes on 25% credit cards, worked two jobs and paid them off before the end of every semester, just to turn it around and do it again. Hard? You bet. Possible? Absolutely, IF you want it.


    Our government (all governments?) bring mediocrity. It is a choice to not be mediocre.


    And those in the inner city have the same exact choice. They just choose to do nothing, or worse, sabotage the cruddy system we have.
    11 Jan 2010, 08:31 AM Reply Like
  • Join the military. A commissioned officer after 4 years will earn about six figures, calculating benefits and etc. You can go to no-name accredited college, and as long as you meet minimum standards on the qualification test (like a GRE), you're in.
    12 Jan 2010, 01:06 AM Reply Like
  • I don't see George Washington as Julius Caesar. America still is in the republic phase, is it not? The Roman Republic began with the overthrow of the Roman Monarchy -- i.e., British Monarchy, in the American picture. That suggests George Washington was more the Lucius Junius Brutus of America, than the Julius Caesar. Remember, Caesar is the leader and hero of 'foreign' wars, and the expander of the empire -- George Washington was not that in America. Caesar was the hero of the masses, who wanted dictatorship, and he was killed by the old money aristocracy who were defending traditionalism and the republic (their own power, that is, through the institution of the senate). I think we still have a way to go before our republicanism phase crumbles -- although we are closer now that we were in the 1700's.


    I definitely see the parallel: America is today's Rome. Just not certain about the time allignment. American democracy will have to disappear and be replaced by a tyranny of emperors, tyrant presidents for life.


    Also, where does Jesus Christ fit in to this scenario? We need to have another Jesus Christ appear -- for it was the Christian movement, as much as the German hordes, that brought the Roman Empire to its knees.
    15 Jan 2010, 03:05 AM Reply Like
  • Afterthought: it is also interesting that Lucius Junius Brutus was an ancestor of the Brutus who helped kill Julius Caesar.
    15 Jan 2010, 03:09 AM Reply Like
  • TK,


    Of course America has become an empire, corrupt as any other. This was inevitable: power corrupts. And now in the final stages of collapse, the power vested in this government is being turned inwards, as history has demonstrated is always the case. We were warned long ago. Patrick Henry, correctly opposing Virginia's ratification of the US Constitution:


    'I rose yesterday to ask a question which arose in my own mind. When I asked that question, I thought the meaning of my interrogation was obvious. The fate of this question and of America may depend on this. Have they said, We, the states? Have they made a proposal of a compact between states? If they had, this would be a confederation. It is otherwise most clearly a consolidated government. The question turns, sir, on that poor little thing — the expression, We, the people, instead of the states, of America. I need not take much pains to show that the principles of this system are extremely pernicious, impolitic, and dangerous. Is this a monarchy, like England — a compact between prince and people, with checks on the former to secure the liberty of the latter? Is this a confederacy, like Holland — an association of a number of independent states, each of which retains its individual sovereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely. Had these principles been adhered to, we should not have been brought to this alarming transition, from a confederacy to a consolidated government. We have no detail of these great consideration, which, in my opinion, ought to have abounded before we should recur to a government of this kind. Here is a resolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain.'


    'It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished: and cannot we plainly see that this is actually the case? The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change, so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans? It is said eight states have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve states and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it.'


    'You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.'


    'We are cautioned by the honorable gentleman, who presides, against faction and turbulence. I acknowledge that licentiousness is dangerous, and that it ought to be provided against: I acknowledge, also, the new form of government may effectually prevent it: yet there is another thing it will as effectually do — it will oppress and ruin the people.'


    'There are sufficient guards placed against sedition and licentiousness; for, when power is given to this government to suppress these, or for any other purpose, the language it assumes is clear, express, and unequivocal; but when this Constitution speaks of privileges, there is an ambiguity, sir, a fatal ambiguity — an ambiguity which is very astonishing.'


    'But we are told that we need not fear; because those in power, being our representatives, will not abuse the powers we put in their hands. I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers. I imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny. Happy will you be if you miss the fate of those nations, who, omitting to resist their oppressors, or negligently suffering their liberty to be wrested from them, have groaned under intolerable despotism!'


    'Most of the human race are now in this deplorable condition; and those nations who have gone in search of grandeur, power, and splendor, have also fallen a sacrifice, and been the victims of their own folly. While they acquired those visionary blessings, they lost their freedom.'


    The genius of America has always been the unleashing of the human spirit. But the forces of class and privilege, thrown out by the populist American Revolution, are resurgent. The only thing standing between America and the European class system is an armed populace.


    The only question is will we allow ourselves to be returned to the status of landless labor / serfs by continuing to tolerate these extreme levels of overt corruption and loss of civil rights.
    11 Jan 2010, 08:06 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Dear SW Richmond


    Oh, my gosh! You wrote like the real Patrick Henry and look like him too in your posted image of yourself.


    In general I concur with you views which complement most, if not all, of mine and those of the other commentators. However, I think that Jeff and Steven's views would most likely prevail, unfortunately. And that is, the economy of the US will go something like an inverted W as ...WWW.WWW.WWW for at least another decade. This scenario is a torturous grind, vice a sharp V, and in my view is as Tragic as Shakespeare's "King Lear".


    Don't forget, it is the "Easy Way Out" that is the course of choice for most humans, and our politicians are no exception.


    Thank you for taking time out to provide a thoughtful response.


    11 Jan 2010, 02:24 PM Reply Like
  • People are people, and human nature is what it is. Remove the unique trappings of any given period in history, and humans behave the same way. We've done this before, and because we don't study history we are doomed to do it over and over, again and again.


    We already know what happens next.
    11 Jan 2010, 08:12 AM Reply Like
  • A very interesting and fascinating subject, with attendant thought stream.
    TK - Thank you for your considered invitation.


    Human nature has not changed to any great extent across the centuries, and for that matter across cultural boundaries. A food supply, clothing and shelter from the elements with an effective means of securing the same.


    Once these prerequisites have been satisfied, the higher ideals, of the nature of the beast, follow an historical path, well trodden down through time. Those who have not learned from history are condemned to repeat it. Truer words have not been spoken, when observing what has transpired down through the ages to the human condition. Only now the repetition is happening at much more rapid pace.


    Just the fact of transferring information from one local to the next under goes a rapid change of pace with each passing generation. Each building upon the previous and increasing this rate of change in speed. From the Roman epoch of six hundred years to the American age of two hundred and fifty years. Each having their turn in the sun. Will this be America's sunset? Or do the people have the collective will to repair their society and achieve even greater heights?


    The obstacles are daunting, but are not insurmountable. At the core is the rot that has infested the nations moral and righteous fibre. This societal cancer must be dealt with before any meaningful change may take place. This change must come from the grass roots by installing leaders who lead by example and through a sense of servitude to the common good of all. Without this basic change, I see a dark future ahead for us all. Could this be the start of a new dark ages? Feudalism with a modern world twist?


    May we live in interesting times indeed!
    11 Jan 2010, 03:50 PM Reply Like
  • Ok, since you bring up the provocative terms 'sunset' and 'rise of''s some open speculation for ridicule and discussion.


    Do empires travel around the earth the same direction that the Sun travels around the earth, moving from east to west? This might explain the movement of empires from China to Europe to America...back to Asia? This mimics the Sun's daily movement east-to-west.


    One might also suspect that there is a movement that mimics the Sun's annual movement, North and South. This would suggest empire moving from south (Africa) to the Middle East north to Europe.


    This movement appears in diagram like a four-petaled flower, with the center of the flower being Jerusalem of Mecca or somewhere in the Middle East perhaps. Remember the old idea of the 'womb' or the 'navel' of the world being in the Middle East?


    Now, I admit, this is 'medieval thinking'...i.e., moving from universals to particulars. (In my thinking there are two middle-ages in the life of a human culture: the Dawn (Spring) when the culture rises out of the darkness of the Gothic Night -- the Renaissance Age -- which is a balance between Religion and Science, non-adversarial, with the culture leaving behind the (Night) rule of Religion and moving toward the rule of Science.


    And the Dusk (Autumn), when the culture sinks out of the light of Empiricism Daylight -- the Romantic Age -- which is a balance between Religion and Science, the culture leaving behind the (Day) rule of Science and moving toward the rule, again, of Religion.


    The two poles Noon (Summer) and Midnight (Winter) is an imbalance, first, of Science, Reason, Empiricism, the second an imbalance of Religion, Superstition, Primitivism. The Night Pole is fundamentalist, tribal and close to the earth: 'fundamental' comes from the root 'fundament' meaning basis, foundation, buttocks, and also manure. In a very real (metaphorical) sense, the Night Pole is the rural seed-bed of cultural development. The civilization (empire) rises out of the Night Pole, the soil, and is/becomes a tree growing to fulfillment at the Day Pole, the Light, culminating in the Noon (the light casts no shadow), then giving off its fruit (the intelligent creations of individuals living in the cities, the bodies of civilization), then falling into chaos and decay.


    The Night (Midnight) Pole is rural, as I have said. The Dawn's body is the City-State. The Noon-Pole's body is the megalopolis (the Heavenly City). The Dusk's body is, again, the small city...remember the Autumn is romantic, anti-urban...'a return to Nature' (remember the 'Back to Nature Movement' in the 1960's -- this is a 'replica' of the abandonment of the urban reality and the idealization of Nature which exemplifies the Romantic Autumn -- a culture moving away from Science back toward Religion.


    The empire than falls (Noon-Pole) will be replace by a nascent empire rising up out of the Water, the Night-Cycle (Midnight-Pole).
    21 Jan 2010, 04:22 AM Reply Like
  • America Never had an Empire, unless you count the Unification of the current United States of America.


    It never had a "cultural" history. Multiple cultures occupying a single continent are not conducive to the kind of cohesiveness the development of a Culture requires.


    But because of the diversity, Innovation became a byproduct. And we once Lured the brightest minds in the world.


    When one thought of coming to America, one thought of "Coming to the Land of Opportunity". No longer.


    We still provide "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", But opportunities will lie elsewhere as long as the current political bent leads to a society where no one is allowed Individual Opportunity.
    11 Jan 2010, 10:36 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » This is an interesting comment. I wrote this tell-tale piece in accordance with what I think. But the whole purpose of it is I long to listen to what other folks think about what I think. Now I am a richer person and a better writer after this process. Thanks.
    11 Jan 2010, 11:17 PM Reply Like
  • Interesting comment. I disagree.


    America is much like Rome, with settlers originally hailing from surrounding lands, and borrowing heavily from Greek culture (very little is unique about Roman culture - it merely expanded upon a solid Greek foundation) - today, replace Greece with England, who had its own short-lived world-dominating empire before America. As America spread, it incorporated many cultures (you can almost consider each Roman city-state as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Massachusetts, etc), until it 'unified'. Etruscans were in the Roman military, eventually Gauls, Asians, all served.


    Roman life was vibrant and full of freedom for its citizens (read: capitalists in today's world). There were many, many slaves of all stripes, with the educated Greeks holding esteemed positions (think: middle class).


    I think what you are observing is the transition from such openness to 'empire'. I really think we are in a pre-empire Rome-like state, waiting for the corruption to reach a level as to create a power vacuum for a modern-day Caesar. Think of someone like Dick Cheney as President, and not just the Vice. Nixon came dangerously close, but the laws and traditions of the Republic held - that, and Nixon was not entirely a capitalist (read: citizen) - he did not have the background and tradition to fill that role, although he tried his best and respected the capitalist class.


    Good comment nonetheless - I agree with TK that this is stimulating an interesting discussion.
    12 Jan 2010, 12:18 AM Reply Like
  • Dear TK:


    A tour de force for you. One of your better pieces.


    And a thumbs up.
    12 Jan 2010, 09:30 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Ricard


    To me the football players in steel helmets resemble the Roman Gladiators fighting in the Coliseum. (Don't we have actual football stadiums so named?). And that the illegal immigrants look to be the modern time slaves.


    Wait a minute, NFL players command 7 or 8-figure annual salaries, they can't be the Gladiators. Ah..Chinese PhD and Post-Doctoral students look more like the modern day Gladiators in search of their Green Cards.


    Hail to our Senate. Let us give each of our Senators in Congress a White Glossy Robe with a distinctive Diagonal Red Stripe across the chest.


    Ricard, I am somewhat ambivalent about your comparing us twice with Pre-Augustus Rome. I think we have just passed the reign of Aurelian (reign: 270-275), and waiting and waiting for Diocletian (reign: 284-305) to deliver that Salvation for sustaining the next two hundred years or so. On this conjecture, I believe Graham and I are on the same page.


    12 Jan 2010, 12:42 PM Reply Like
  • Hmm...interesting.


    I will offer a counter point.


    When Washington 'ruled', there was no empire, nothing even resembling one. It was truly the founding of a new nation, much like the Romulus and Remus myth of ancient times. We merely consolidated the lands around the settlements, until the process was complete (Spanish American War). Now, Italy is one.


    Soon after, we ventured off into distant lands. Latin America, Europe (that old country, enslaved by us through the two World Wars - the modern equivalent being open markets - much like the annexation of Greece by Rome 200 years after Alexander's great empire), Asia, Africa, Russia (Carthage). We are fighting Punic wars right now with a determined foe, one whom we did not decisively beat in the early 90s, one who was poised to take all of Eurasia - most importantly, it is one who is once again resurgent.


    I recently watched Nixon, starring Anthony Hopkins. A wonderful film for its theatricality, and having done a paper on Watergate, I can vouch that it is largely faithful to its source material. My point? Nixon, and Lincoln before him, never wielded the powers of a Caesar (Lincoln perhaps - that would make for an interesting line of thinking with the assassination and everything, although I would compare that to a period of martial law not unlike Cincinnatus [Lincoln even had a similarly humble background], without the happy ending of course - but certainly not Nixon).


    Pre-Empire Rome was quite large as it was - Greece, Spain, Carthage, a foothold in Asia, Gaul right before Caesar. It was held for a significant period of time, and encompassed much of the known world. If you think Washington heralded the founding of an empire, I'd question whether or not you think the 13 colonies before him truly represented much of the world as they knew it.


    I know the match is not perfect - history rhymes but does not repeat. But, I do think I make for a very strong case that we've yet to see a Caesar in our time.


    I do appreciate the lively discussion. Although I am not a student of history by degree, I do have a deep appreciation for remembering lessons already learned in the past.
    12 Jan 2010, 01:42 PM Reply Like
  • Actually, the American Empire is a commercial empire. And I think the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, South American countries, Japan and European countries (Germany, for instance), Saudi Arabia and Iraq would disagree that America 'never had an empire'. (We've put a much more genial face on our empire than some throughout history, I'll admit. We're trying to multiply Disneylands across the world. Not much of that by the Romans.)


    We have military bases all over the world, as the Romans did -- to grease the wheels of commerce, as the Romans did.


    The Pax Americana is the global economy supported by gunboats and the marines. Not much different than the Pax Romana. Peace for the sake of business to expand. Military as the police force of capitalism.


    The corruption of the last decade (government, business and society) rivals the corruption of Rome -- we just don't have the lions eating the Christians yet. That's still coming.
    15 Jan 2010, 03:15 AM Reply Like
  • Actually, Thomas Jefferson wanted America to follow the Greek model. Washington and Hamilton wanted America to follow the Roman model (Rome through England).


    Jefferson imagined America as decentralized Greek states of gentlemen farmers and philosophers who graced the world with literature, art, science, and philosophy. Jefferson imagined a world in his own image.


    Hamilton was a banker. Hamilton won.
    15 Jan 2010, 03:19 AM Reply Like
  • I'm with Richard. Washington was clearly pre-empire. We are now knee-deep in empire and approaching a social apocalypse of empiricists vs. democrats. The next incarnation of the American empire will begin in 2019, and run from 2019 to 2038. Watch out world. If you thought 1983-2001 was fun, the next Day-Cycle is going to be a knock-out!
    15 Jan 2010, 03:22 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Freya


    Thank you for such a bright and observant comment.


    Your last two paragraphs about the declining prospect of opportunities in once-buoyant American resonate well and lead my mind to the 1970 epic movie "Cromwell" where Richard Harris plays Cromwell.


    Cromwell, an landed squire in the County of Cambridgeshire, England was disillusioned with the then Charles I "Regime". Himself a student at Sydney College, Cambridge albeit did not take a degree, did consider immigrating to American at the time. At one point in conversation with his fellow Roundhead before the Uprising, he lamented vehemently: "..England (then) is no longer a country for a young man..."


    Thank you again for your insights.


    15 Jan 2010, 11:04 AM Reply Like
  • Remember that Rome conquered Greece, a culture that it admired and considered more sophisticated than itself. It hesitated to destroy and enslave Greece, because Rome admired Greece -- lived in Greece's shadow culturally, much as America lives in the shadow of Europe's culture.


    In defeating Greece, Rome enslaved the Greek citizens and brought many back to Rome. In Rome, the educated Greeks (slaves) became the instructors of the Romans. The Greek slaves in Rome had a great deal of power since the Romans respected their learning and artistic culture.


    We have defeated European powers in many wars. We have embraced European culture (American intellectuals tend to worship European culture and dismiss American culture as barbaric or gauche, as the Roman intellectuals viewed Greece vs their own culture)...but I'm not sure we have brought such 'slaves' home to instruct us.


    IF the Muslims ARE the Goths of this era, then they will overrun Europe before they will overrun America. As the Muslim Goths bring war to Europe, many Europeans will escape to America -- perhaps even the Catholic Church in Rome will re-locate to America, if it survives the attack of the Goths....


    Grist for the mill.
    21 Jan 2010, 04:39 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Don


    You gave me fresh air. I love your second last paragraph so much so that I printed a copy of it and had it pinned up on the board next to my PC in my office.


    In my profession called engineering, it could be defined as "The application of scientific principles and techniques to create a product that satisfies the customer based on cost, performance, schedule, and risk factors.". Things often but not always do work according to design. Politics and economics however frustrates me.


    Again, thank you for giving me hope.


    11 Jan 2010, 10:44 PM Reply Like
  • TK,


    Good article and a thought provoking stream of comments you have spawned.


    SWRichmond is correct, as are several other commenters.


    Our Founding Fathers and their contemporaries sacrificed and battled to put the genie of human oppression (aka. "government") into the best bottle they could construct as a group of like-minded and educated gentlemen who had seen and learned by the example of history.


    They called that bottle the Constitution. Anyone who has taken the time to read and study the public debates of the colonial period (both the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers) can see that great effort and debate went into the precise wording of the document in an effort to seal off every possible unwanted exit. For many years the bottle held and our country flourished, growing from an agrarian backwater to a world-wide economic giant in a short 120 years.


    (Federalist/Anti-Feder... paper timeline here:


    teachingamericanhistor... )


    Little by little though the bottle sprang leaks and government power seeped into the nation's fabric. Each expansion weakened the vibrant efforts of the population via taxation, or regulation, or war. Each weakening led to increased odds that the bottle would spring yet another leak, which it inevitably would do.


    Small leak after small leak, they compounded until today our government exercises powers that would leave our Founding Fathers speechless, shocked, and incredibly irate.


    Today our Constitution is more honorary than binding:


    Free Speech? Sure, just make sure you don't insult an African American or someone who is Jewish, Catholic, Hispanic, poor, homosexual, or works for the government (think TSA, or any officer of the law/politician) lest you be charged with a 'hate crime' for thinking improperly.


    Right to assemble? Sure, just don't protest the Republican/Democratic convention anywhere other than the official fenced-in pen located half a mile from the convention center.


    Right to bear arms? Well, sorta. In some places. If you get a license.


    Don't make "anything but gold and silver coin legal tender"? Ummm, that's too old fashioned. Barbarous, in fact. Better to print endless numbers of coupons like Zimbabwe did while going so deeply into debt that we can't afford to pay off the interest, much less the principal.


    Can't deploy armed forces without Congressional declaration of War? Well, unless it's really important, like Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Grenada, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen.


    No ex post facto Law shall be passed? Well, unless recess hits or things just take a while and we think it's important, like passing retroactive taxes or regulations.


    These many incursions into our individual liberty only serve as a dead weight to the growth of our country. Productive citizens must work that much harder to carry the extra burden imposed by the politicians, until they simply give up trying ala Atlas Shrugged.


    To cite Kipling:


    "And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!"


    There are countless other examples of unconstitutional meddling by our government that we endure today, and we all know it. So long as we sit idly by and watch it continue, our country will continue to decay and eventually turn into an oppressive regime.


    "Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else." - Frederic Bastiat, 1848


    Our main problem is that so many now believe that the Bastiat's "government" is the fount of all wealth that those whose wealth the government takes cannot afford to carry them all.


    May the good Lord help us all in the future.
    11 Jan 2010, 11:16 PM Reply Like
  • "A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take away everything you have." Abraham Lincoln.
    12 Jan 2010, 09:27 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Smarty, thanks for this great post. Your scholarly viewpoint is appreciated.


    The essence lies in the good and evil use of power. When power is corrupted, anything goes. Recently because of the snow storm, I have had a chance to review the entire Star Wars episodes on TV. There is a Darth Vader inside every human too.
    12 Jan 2010, 01:06 PM Reply Like
  • In my opinion, there are more than 2 outcomes for each "empire" other than just "decay" or "greatness". France, for example, has been in decadence for a few of centuries but the French are still very well-off by global standards.


    The challenge for the USA will be to restore the credibility of our institutions after this cycle is over. We need some moral outrage in defense of the free-market and against the corporatism now in vogue. Unfortunately, I think it will take some time. As the article implies, these cycles are measured in decades and/or centuries.


    As for China, at best, their continued improvement will be tested by the relative poverty of their clients. Although they have come a long way, I believe it will be harder from here.


    Goldman Sachs is in the business of selling excitement. I do not think they have any ability to predict what the world will be like in 2025.


    Other things being equal, I think the American system has the advantage of being flexible which is why it has always recovered.
    12 Jan 2010, 10:14 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Harry


    You brought up many good points.


    From the onset of my article I hinted that the sheer comparison of "decay and greatness" of the three based on an "Empire Model" has shortcomings but I proceeded anyway for lack of a better methodology.


    China has always been imperial for over three thousand years. The name China in Chinese would more fittingly be translated into "The Central Kingdom" vice "The Middle Kingdom" in my opinion (the meaning for being Central as the CIA to the Intelligence Community). The Chinese had always viewed themselves superior to its neighbors, and as its servitude, they the neighbors ought to submit annual tributes of large sums in silver and gold to the Emperor.


    Britain did not begin becoming an Imperial power until the early 1600 with possessions predominantly overseas. In terms of achievements in science, literature, and technology, Britain was definitely first rate among its European counterparts, but I would not rate it as #1. In art as painting and music Britain was particularly weak. The English are pragmatists and not as good philosophers. I would say Germany was the #1 in philosophy, science, technology, and music.


    And so the American (Empire) remains a mystery to me.


    Thank you for your response.


    12 Jan 2010, 08:25 PM Reply Like
  • The barbarians in Rome, I understand, were actually illegal immigrants who wanted to be effectively Romans but didn't suffer the incredible servitude demanded of citizens during Rome's long descent. They had a huge advantage, as do anyone who can buy off or circumvent the massive intrusions our government now represents against any common sense, productivity and progress. That means, large political contributors and illegals.


    We have descended to a banana republic status in our domestic lives where your prospects depend on who you are and who you know rather than on impartial justice. While that is part of the human condition and there has been appalling injustice, mostly racial, in the past, our overreaching government is now more important than free association and rational economic actions as an influence as the spectre of Wall St. drives home with such threatening portentiousness.


    We have settled for small compromises along the way that have added up to everything the founders warned about. So, we avert our eyes as a society and allow only politically correct pieties for "solutions" delivered by a paid-for MSM to an audience hopelessly(?) dumbed down by government mis-education. Which is one of government's crowning criminal achievements along the path to it's uplift which constitutes our people's and freedom's downfall.


    Our failures to compete outside of force and coercion involve extending the fraudulence abroad as an empire. The fiat, unconstitutional dollar is backed by it's monopoly status for oil in the premier powder keg of the world, the Middle East. Which means our military reach is needed for preservation of our dysfunctional, wealth-destroying fascist state, specifically, for the privileged few who run it for their immense unmerited personal gain by any means necessary. While no worthwhile, effective or sane reforms are undertaken to reduce US oil dependence.


    All empires emphasize power and privilege over merit and become ever-more virulently projected against all others until their contradictions, inside and out, bring them down. The US was endowed with the best, most principled founders of all, and the Constitution but we have found endless ways to subvert this unique gift. We will either learn from our mistakes and regenerate the moral foundation we must rest upon or go the sordid way of all past empires through endless struggles and inevitable decline.
    12 Jan 2010, 11:47 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Leftfield


    Wonderful piece truly worthy of your reputed pen. Things look to be pretty glum, aren't they? Well, the key to any reversal of fortune is Vision and Leadership. I hope America will continue to surprise me.


    Thank you for your response.
    13 Jan 2010, 10:57 AM Reply Like
  • TK thanks for the invite. I do not believe we are an empire. Empires seek to continuously enlarge themselves. We have not been on that endeavour for quite some time.


    China will not in my opinion be able to survive as an empire without the benevolence of the rest of the world to support it. We are seeing issues now with the yuan rate, trade issues etc... and at some point they may become outcasts to the democratic world. Unless they change.


    America is in a down trend and I suspect we need to address some issues with our govt and the corruption presently destroying our society. This corruption will severely hinder us but I believe (hope) we can address this without another civil war although I suggest everyone consider this as a very remote possibility. Starving hungry masses in a collapse will get very ugly.


    I have been working with a group called GOOOH that I believe will restore our republic and get the corruption under control in a very civil manner simply by voting and participating in our government as citizens again.


    Our founding fathers gave us the finest document the governed world has ever seen. The Constitution. They gave us a republic for our government and they set it up to avoid the concentration of power in any one area or in any ones hands.


    Initially the Federal senators were appointed by the states to represent the states interests in Washington. They were not elected.


    The house of representatives were elected by we the people to represent we the people in Washington. That is why it is only a two year term. To allow we the people to serve.


    The executive branch was created to represent the federal governments interests in Washington and we the people elect the president to run it every 4 years.


    The states had power, the people had power and the federal government had power. All interests were represented, fairly. There were proper checks and balances.


    This kept balance in our government and no single part could become to powerful.


    The most powerful portion in our government (this republic handed to us by our founding fathers) was we the people since we controlled the house of representative and we elected the president to lead the Federal government. Finally we also elected our state representatives and state senators who then appointed our senators to the federal government.


    The people had control!!!!


    When Ben Franklin was asked what government did you give us? He replied: “A Republic if you can keep it.”


    What has happened to this perfect republic? WE DIDN'T KEEP IT!!!


    Somewhere along the way the progressives initiated a plan to move the power to Washington. It happened gradually over a long period of time.


    First they convinced we the people and the states that voting for our senators was in everybody’s best interests and we the people along with the states fell for it. That is where we got the 17th amendment to our constitution. WE now elect our senators and the states lost their voice and their power in Washington and we the people lost 50 powerful ally’s.


    Look how corruption has taken over in the senate too!!!


    The next thing that happened was we the people quit going to Washington. These special interests made it too costly to run for office and we turned the responsibility to represent US over to the professional politicians. To Washington. Our representatives now serve decades and they serve their party (read that Washington) not the people. The people lost their power and their voice in Washington.


    The house of representatives no longer represents 300 million Americans. It now represents only two, YES TWO. The republican and democratic party. NOT YOU!!!


    The power in Washington now rests entirely in Washington. And now Washington is out of control and entirely corrupt.


    Washington corruption needs to be stopped. If we don’t fix the problem AT THE SOURCE, which is IN Washington all the flag waving, marching, letter campaigns and phone calls will get us no where. Yes we feel better but it will eventually end in just an act of futility. They are ignoring us!!!!


    They can continue to ignore us and eventually people get tired and simply go away. NOT ALL, not me, but many.


    The corrupt are now stomping on our constitution. The republic is gone and our most sacred document will be the next to go.


    I think we can all plainly see that is already beginning to happen.


    With a lot of complaining the corrupt might tone it down some, but …..they will come sneaking back as soon as we quit complaining, the crowds disperse and the dust settles.


    We have to regain control over Washington. We have to restore our Republic. We have to uphold the constitution.


    Remember what Ben Franklin said. “If we can keep it.”


    We didn’t keep it and now we need to get it back.


    So where do we start?


    First we take the house back and put a boot in the backside of Washington.


    Control of the house gives us some control over Washington again. We must start there.


    Support GOOOH and lets take our country back.
    13 Jan 2010, 12:17 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » doubleguns


    Thank you so much for this hearty response. I just have had a chance researching GOOOH. It seems to be a wonderful idea and a promising start-up. I need to follow up more and lend my support.


    Again, thank you!


    16 Jan 2010, 09:12 PM Reply Like
  • TK: Great article, followed by great comments!


    I wish I had the time to write a treatise on this subject that would be titled "The History Of Religion, Geopolitics, And The Walls Of Humankind."


    A subject nobody above brought into this discussion is religion. More people have perished on this planet because of religion than any other single reason.


    Religion can be defined in many ways. Let us use Webster's Unabridge Dictionary as one definition: "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered the creation of a superhuman agency, or agencies, usually involving devotion and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."


    There is nothing mentioned in the above definition where religious landscape has boundaries or borders. Religion today is becoming borderless.


    History shows us that in most every case, religious expansionism--under the guise of religious proselytization--was as much about creating greater religious wealth and power for the attacking society, as it was gaining a greater wealth of natural and human resources, ergo, religious expansionism was indeed also geopolitical expansionism. From culture to culture, throughout human history, religion and politics have been hand in hand.


    Up until about 240 years ago, when the forefathers of the United States separated religion from state, or at least tried to.


    But today times have changed. If one were to put on a video visor and think back into time several thousand years about where countries borders were, versus the religious borders, one would find that they were much the same. Now "push" the clock forward and watch how those borders have changed, morphed and moved, we would see that there are now many more borders than ever in human history (at least 75 new countries within my lifetime, only). But what of the religious borders?


    If we were to look at how religions, which used to be concentrated in certain areas of the world, we find that they are now worldwide. Nowadays, it may be as difficult finding a Catholic in Mongolia as finding a Mongolian in Ecuador. Yet, the point is that as time evolves, history shows us that there are more geopolitical boundaries now than ever. And yet, the religious boundaries of way past have pushed themselves into most every corner of the world.


    There are many arguments about the fall of Rome. One argument I hear that is gaining ground is it was not the over expansion, not that there were too many city-states and all the egos involved spread from England to throughout the Middle East, it was rather that the Rome pushed its boundaries right up against the Christian, Muslim, Asian and Islam religions.


    You can take my land, my wife, my children, my freedom, but you can't take my God.


    The old expressions, that one can learn from history, or that history always repeats itself, is quite different today.


    It is much harder to discern unequivical similarities in the unfolding of history today as when compared to ages past. Except when it comes to religion and the needs for natural resources. Those two will forever lead toward conflict.




    My sincerest wish is sometime in the not too distant future, maybe in three or four generations, or even ten, the world will be leaning more toward a "true" global democracy.


    In my mind, that would be proselytization at its finest.


    TK: Thanks for inviting me in here!
    13 Jan 2010, 03:22 PM Reply Like
  • Another quote by a Founding Father which in hindsight seems quite prescient:


    "Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."


    -- George Washington


    Does anyone doubt that our Federal government has already begun a transition from servant to master?
    13 Jan 2010, 07:52 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » George Washington was not corrupted by power. After victory in the Revolutionary War, he retired to Mount Vernon and only accepted to serve as First President as requested..


    Viewed in this regard, he is always held in the highest esteem by all historians.
    13 Jan 2010, 09:34 PM Reply Like
  • Mayascribe - Interesting take on the subject matter. Some corrections are required;
    The traditional end of the Roman Empire is generally agreed as September 4, 476 AD, after the death of Orestes at Pavia, by the hand of Odovacar, who deposed the last emperor of the west, Romulus Augustulus, at Ravenna. The advent of Islam did not occur until July 15, 622 AD, when Mohammed fled to Medina with his small group of adherents.


    So Rome would not have bumped up against Islam.


    Asian religion? In the early middle ages there were a multitude of religions being practiced in Asia.


    The international and far reaching influences of religion were apparent from ancient times to present. I believe that religion does have an effect upon the rise and fall of empires, however this effect is viewed more as tool by the empire builders, rather than an obstruction. Interesting thought.
    13 Jan 2010, 09:38 PM Reply Like
  • Very interesting post. Let's not remember Rome's split into East and West, the Greek (Byzantine, Orthodox) and the Roman (Catholic). I expect a similar split in America, but not for many years to come. But the seed is there.


    It is interesting that the original Greek-Roman split which allowed for the full development of Rome as a Western Kingndom led, eventually, to an attempted re-marriage to the Greek progenitor -- re-fusion of East and West. But this attempt was doomed, and actually made Rome weaker.


    In my mind Constantine was the culmination and end of Rome. The Christian religion was a turning inward, away from the world.


    The Germanic barbarians just took over the fruit that was already lying on the ground.
    15 Jan 2010, 05:53 AM Reply Like
  • George Washington's opinion on political parties.


    It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.


    Need I say more.


    Vote GOOOH
    13 Jan 2010, 09:53 PM Reply Like
  • Don: Thanks for the corrections. You are quite correct about how the timeline prevented Islam from participating. My mistake (especially odd in that right now I'm wearing a Mecca t-shirt!).


    As for Asian religion(s), I experienced difficulty using that expression, even as to how one would define Asian religion back then. I do know there were varying types of religions dispersed far and wide. None the less, the Romans did bump up against the Asians in Asia Minor.


    The two-fold point I was trying to make is that in history, the importance of religion should not be ignored when it comes to why dynasties failed, or, so to speak, went out of business. The second point being geopolitical expansionism has almost always been entwined with religion in some form during that expansion.


    I'm afraid that if I go even a bit further on this matter, I might be stepping on a lot more toes than I wish to do so. Especially when it comes to Catholicism and the Americas, a subject I studied far more than Roman history.
    13 Jan 2010, 10:05 PM Reply Like
  • Yes. I wholeheartedly agree. Especially considering the Spanish Empire and it's actions in the New World. Best to let sleeping dogs lay!
    13 Jan 2010, 10:20 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Mayascribe, you brought up an extremely stimulating point about the relationship between religion and empire, and the ensuing effects on the rise and fall of empires.


    Don, you are true-blue virtuoso in history and economics.


    It just occurred to me that the Chinese are a Godless people. Other than Pagan and ancestor worship, their two mainstream so-called "Religion" are Buddhism and Confucianism.


    I said "Godless" because I contend that both Buddhism and Confucianism are Philosophies vice Religion. My personal narrow and amateurish definition of a Religion is that it must stipulate worshiping of a God. Buddha is not a God because he died. Confucius also died. Once asked by a disciple as to what after-life would be like, Confucius replied: "How would I know after life if I do not even know what tomorrow will bring me?".


    Just one more thought for China Empire Building watchers!


    13 Jan 2010, 11:34 PM Reply Like
  • Chinese, godless? No way. China is a profound religious culture, one that brought the world one of its most profound religious systems. China is NOT a Judeo-Christian culture, obviously -- its God/gods are of a different order, not monotheistic, not patriarchal in the same sense as Islam/Judaism/Christia... Racism, empire, karmic debt all are borne out of the patriarchal world view which puts Man (light) above Woman (darkness) and treats the Night as a demonic force. This is an illusion, of course -- but one that is built into nature and history.


    Metaphorically speaking, during the Night the forces of Darkness try to kill the Sun Hero Child (Christ is, in fact, a Sun Hero, as were all the pagan heroes of old -- Christ's birth at the Winter Solstice is a continuation of the Solar Hero story that existed in all ancient cultures) -- the Sun Hero rises, kills the Tyrant Night (the Storm Gods of the Old System) and carries the crusade of light into heaven, building a bubble of empire. At Noon/Summer, the Empire triumphs, defeating the Darkness, wiping it from the face of the Earth -- at Noon there is no shadow -- at the Summer Solstice days are longest/strongest, nights are shortest/weakest -- for just a second however. Darkness beings to grow again, almost immediately. And the Sun begins its descent, and begins to lose its control over the earth....and begins to reap the shadow-land karmic punishment for the debt it has taken on. (One of the prime lessons of Asian religions is DON'T BUY WHAT YOU CAN'T AFFORD. DON'T GO INTO DEBT. DON'T LET YOUR EGO OVERWHELM YOUR SOUL -- OR THERE WILL BE TROUBLE. Sound familiar to what we are going through in the West today?)


    Asians are profoundly inward people; and their religion honors humility, grace, silence; Asian culture does not reward ego, noise, pride, bragging, and extroversion the way Western Culture does. Actually, it is more like Christ's actual philosophy: Christ appeared to try to reform Judaism from its 'earthly power' degeneration. Throwing the money-changers out of the temple was a symbol of this transition from the Empire Religion to the inner religion. Of course, the businessmen were threatened by this reform (businessmen, orthodox religious leaders, and politicians) and had Jesus assassinated.


    Buddhism is one of the few religions of the world that has not had an empire because Buddhism leads one inward toward his center. Western religions do not stop at the journey inward to find God, but continue into the outward conversion philosophy, wherein they spread 'the truth' far and wide, usually at the end of a gun or a sword.


    Buddhism and Hinduism and the Japanese version of Buddhism are very profound religions, even if they warn against the rise of the Ego (empire) and the karmic debt associated with it.
    15 Jan 2010, 05:14 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Michael


    Great post!


    One of the John Lounsbury comments I respect most is that he encourages SA commentators to accept opposing views.


    I must admit that my knowledge and experience with Asian religions particularly with the concepts of Gods or Deities within the various realms of Buddhism is next to nil - - - the reason being that my German head had found them to be even more nebulous, long and involved to be comprehended and grasped as some of my favorite Richard Wagner Icelandic Folklore Operas.


    Case in point: As a technical guy let us "shop talk" for a moment. I often came across multitudes of so-called "Open" software products produced by the industrial and academic community. The problem I often ran into is that some of them are so fragile, complex, and brittle to be of any practical use. In other words, if a product takes a team of PhD's in computer science just to understand, install, and maintain, my advice to my management is not to touch it with a 10-foot pole.


    Thank you for the stimulating viewpoint!
    15 Jan 2010, 03:01 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Michael


    I would apologize if my earlier response would come across insinuating anything derogatory with Asian Religion. The shortcoming is with my own inability. Your post gave me great impetus. Cross culture is sometimes challenging because of language barriers, among others. Cross Religion would IMO being even more challenging. You surely started a great discussion. I accept your view.


    15 Jan 2010, 08:58 PM Reply Like
  • You started a great thread, TK. Very stimulating discussion here. Many good minds working on this thread.
    16 Jan 2010, 05:01 AM Reply Like
  • TK - Thank you for the invite. I thoroughly enjoyed your thought-provoking article and the breadth of opinion and insight derived from the comments.


    The one thing, historically speaking, that I might add to the discussion is that, IMHO, possibly the most important cultural export of the British Empire was the English Rule of Law. The order that was conceived within the colonies was the result of English justice. However, I believe that in the US we have mutated even that by becoming overly litigious and imbalanced with regard to rights of the victim opposed to the perpetrator. There doesn't appear to be much credence paid to equating the crime to the punishment. If you kill someone (without proof of premeditation) you're likely to be back out of the streets in 8 years. If you get burned by some coffee you may end up with a scar but you may also suddenly be a multi-millionaire. If you run a company into the ground and pay yourself hundreds of millions in bonuses while the company loses billions, you are a candidate for an even better job elsewhere. Does anything make sense anymore? Where is the justice? This is just one more piece of evidence of the decay and deterioration of our system of government.


    However, having said that, I do believe that the founding fathers gave us a road map to find our way out of this mess. We just need to eliminate the corruption in our government perpetrated by the career politicians and elect honest men and women to public office. We need to bring sacrifice and service back into the public arena. We need people who are willing to make the difficult decisions that don't ensure political security, but rather repair the problems in the fabric of our nation and our government. I don't expect to see those representative coming from either of our two major parties. But the map is there.


    If we can get back on the right path this nation will have another resurgence. But it won't be easy. I agree with doubleguns as to what may be the only means to return our country to greatness.
    14 Jan 2010, 01:35 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Mark Bern


    Thank you for such a thoughtful response that I sincerely appreciate.


    Taking a cue from your stream of thoughts, I would like to quote Professor Simon Johnson's recent remarks in the May 2009 issue of The Atlantic Online:


    "..The US. Economic recovery will fail unless the "financial oligarchy", responsible for the crisis in the first place, now using its influence to block necessary reform, is broken.


    The government, captured by the finance industry, seemingly 'helpless, or unwilling, to act against them', is running out of time needed to prevent a true depression."


    I once read that George Washington started the American Revolution because he believed that the "Rights of an Englishman" was duly violated. The ensuing struggle intensified because the American Colonists felt that King George III had failed to address their grievances.


    These are Truly thought-provoking words from a American citizen born in the United Kingdom. We live in an exciting time of our history.


    14 Jan 2010, 12:43 PM Reply Like
  • Mark, as always, you are the voice of calm wisdom. America was an odd child of England (through Rome) and Israel (Judeo-Christianity). We cannot forget that the first Americans considered America the New Jerusalem, the New Israel -- and the founding of (European) America to be a covenant between God and the first (white) Americans.


    Our roots are a tangled network of religious and political covenants. Good old Jonathan Edwards, the Mather family, the witches of Eastwick and Salem...a nation's history (and spiritual contracts) always reappear during the Night Cycle, as a guide back into the light and the future.


    The English Rule of Law is an extension of the Mosaic Rule of Law. The English rule provides us with a social contract (governance of the Earth); the Mosaic rule provides us with a spiritual contract (a passage back into Heaven).
    15 Jan 2010, 03:43 AM Reply Like
  • Michael - We seen to have forgotten the wisdom of King Solomon and his decision about the baby. In other words, we have forgotten that finding the truth should be the focus of the judicial system. Instead lawyers use the law to distort the truth to their bidding or the bidding of their clients. It has become a win/lose contest with the truth becoming inconsequential.


    BTW - Am I interpreting your darkness/light theory correctly in assuming that we are currently deep into darkness? If so, when can we expect to see the light at the end of the tunnel per your theory?
    15 Jan 2010, 11:29 AM Reply Like
  • No question, Mark. The law is now about type A personalities in the arena, challenging one another in the game of who is smartest, trickiest, who can bend reality more efficiently. Justice is not even part of the quotient any longer. It's the same mentality as on Wall Street, where winning is dissociated from the rules of engagement. Not the way Abraham Lincoln practiced law.


    I working on my book, "Turn Out the Lights', I came to recognize an 18 year pattern in American history from economic expansion zenith to economic contraction nadir, from top to bottom. Going back through history, I saw this repeating pattern back into the 1700's. This put economic tops at 1929, 1965 and 2001 this past century. And it put economic bottoms at 1947, 1983, and 2019.


    This theory says that the darkest period we will go through will be 2010 to 2019 -- and then the light (that is, a light showing a more positive side of reality) will begin to grow, however weakly, and will gain strength until the next top in 2038. So, I'm looking at the economy to weaken and bottom around 2017-2019.


    Time will tell is this is true.
    15 Jan 2010, 12:54 PM Reply Like
  • TK: Greetings. I hope you don't mind me crashing your party. Many of the comments here are thoughtful and thought provoking as well. Let me add my two cents at the risk of of sounding like a pundit. First let us examine the nature of political parties whom Thomas, Jefferson found extremely dangerous as they breed corruption. The founders were not fools and built durability and flexibility into the founding documents as protection against them (political parties). For the last fifty or so years since FDR began the process of destroying our constitutional government we have been fighting a loosing battle with the secular progressives both within and outside of our nation. This has culminated in the Obama, Pelosi and Reid led attempt at revision. Clearly they see this as their best chance to replace the current U.S. system with a more socialist form of government where they can maintain power for those of like mind indefinitely. However that agenda is in serious trouble as the normally easy going some might say apathetic electorate has been awakened to the threat. Should Brown defeat Coackley in next week's election in MA it will trigger a political tsunami and likely end any chance the progressives had of achieving their goals within the current frame work. At that point with limited options we will see an inflection point. Moderate Democrats will surely begin to abandon the progressive agenda to save their political careers if that is even possible which looks doubtful for many and indeed that is already happening. Should the progressives attempt to manufacture a crises, as we have seen them doing all this year, or try to take advantage of a real crises to suspend the constitution thereby avoiding an election it will likely trigger a brief, violent and bloody shooting war against them. Which of course is why we have the second amendment and the guaranteed right to abolish the government that has become oppressive to us. Believe me when I tell you that the middle class of this nation will not go quietly. Most of us in the middle class reject the progressive agenda and the progressives know it. My perception is that most of the good folks here at Seeking Alpha are in fact middle class folks. We banned together here in the pursuit of bettering our lot through investments and many of us are succeeding. Most of us probably trade stocks, bonds and commodities or are looking to start doing so. Most of us probably own physical property like a home or investment property. That is something that started here in America and is an American ideal that we have exported to the world. For the progressives America is a vile place where we exploit the down trodden and wantonly use the resources of the rest of the world for our selves. They discount the fact that our innovation and generosity has brought a higher standard of living and more wealth to more people around the world than any other single driver in history including all previous empires combined. Silentz posted an excellent link to an article named Chaosistan or something like that I don't have the link as I'm at work but it is worth looking up on Google (GOOG) I highly recommend it. I want to close by paraphrasing Winston Churchill who said something to the effect that the Americans will always do the right thing after they try everything else. I believe him, and I believe in us, the midterm elections will likely tell the tale.
    14 Jan 2010, 02:57 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Mr. Feguson


    You are not a crasher at all! This forum is open to all SA members.


    Great views: Interestingly as I write, the poll numbers for the MA senate race look like Brown is 4 points ahead of Coakley. Next Tuesday's outcome could a tsunami.


    Again, thank you for your comments.


    16 Jan 2010, 07:57 PM Reply Like
  • I had no idea that there was a flap with McChrystal with a similar name. The link is ( World Early Warning Report. Click on the What is Chaostan title at the top left. Enjoy.
    14 Jan 2010, 07:16 PM Reply Like
  • "The one thing, historically speaking, that I might add to the discussion is that, IMHO, possibly the most important cultural export of the British Empire was the English Rule of Law. The order that was conceived within the colonies was the result of English justice. However, I believe that in the US we have mutated even that by becoming overly litigious and imbalanced with regard to rights of the victim opposed to the perpetrator." - Mark Bern


    The other tremendous loss regarding the rule of law here in the US is that, more often than not, the government ignores the law when it suits them to do so.


    The primary benefit extended to the citizen by the adoption of the "rule of law" is that the government's actions are strictly limited to what the law allows AND the law is published publicly so the citizen can read it before acting. In essence, the rules of the game are public knowledge and strictly enforced.


    The examples where this is no longer the case today abound:


    Right to a speedy trial and access to a lawyer? Ask Jose Padilla, who was locked up in a federal cell for two years before any lawyer was allowed to speak to him, and an additional two years before charges were filed which were unrelated to the original reason claimed to lock him up.


    Geneva Convention treatment of all war prisoners? Sure, unless the President unilaterally decides they are "enemy combatants", contrary to what the Convention specifies.


    (GC Art 4. A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:
    (1) Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict, as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.
    . . .
    Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.)


    I don't believe the 'Decider in Chief' qualifies as a "competent tribunal", but that hasn't stopped our government from proceeding with what amounts to torture under the Convention, among other disallowed treatment. All in the attempt to stop 'terrorism' here in the States.


    Bottom line: the government has decided that it will make up the law as it goes along when necessary. Without question this is one of the most significant losses of liberty Americans have suffered since the country was founded.


    And again, to close with a well known quote from one of the Founding Fathers:


    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Ben Franklin
    14 Jan 2010, 10:16 PM Reply Like
  • A passage written one hundred years ago, has I feel, a direct bearing upon what we are discussing here - the rise and fall of Empires and is the United States a modern Empire.


    I quote:


    "This slow and awful self-hypnotism of error is a process that can occur not only with individuals, but also with whole societies. It is hard to pick out and prove; that is why it is hard to cure. But this mental degeneration may be brought to one test, which I truly believe to be a real test.


    A nation is not going mad when it does extravagant things, so long as it does them in an extravagant spirit. But whenever we see things done wildly, but taken tamely, then the state is growing insane...


    For madness is a passive as well as an active state: It is a paralysis, a refusal of the nerves to respond to normal stimuli, as well as an unnatural stimulation. There are commonwealths, plainly to be distinguished here and there in history, which pass from prosperity to squalor or from glory to insignificance, or from freedom to slavery, not only in silence, but with serenity."
    National Madness.
    - Gilbert Keith Chesterton 1910


    When used in the context of what is happening today in the country...
    it is very apropo is it not? Lessons from history. Who will learn?
    15 Jan 2010, 12:14 AM Reply Like
  • Don: Humorously, I assert, are you talking about ostentatious Dubai?


    15 Jan 2010, 01:58 AM Reply Like
  • lol. Obviously they did not learn their lessons!
    15 Jan 2010, 02:32 AM Reply Like
  • Actually, Rome is a wonderful model, if we join our friend Nietzsche and seek a vision beyond good and evil. All mythologies speak of the creative god, the demiurgos, as being androgyne, both masculine and feminine.


    Rome was the Father, the tyrant, the militarist, the policeman, the scientist, the technician, the orderer of the world...and Rome was also the Mother, for Rome, in decay, became the seed-bed of the Renaissance European states (after a long period of gothic rest and pregnancy during the Night Cycle, the Dark Age). Rome gave birth to itself, the Father through the Mother, to the Sons, the city-states of Italy, France, Spain...even as far as England and Germany.


    Greece gave birth to Rome; and Rome gave birth to Greece again (the city-states of Europe), who gave birth to Rome again (America), who will give birth again to Greece, the eventual city states of America. Thomas Jefferson will eventually have his day.


    But we still have a long way to go to get there.
    15 Jan 2010, 03:30 AM Reply Like
  • China's strength is much more than low-cost production. Her wisdom is spiritual, and that is what most Western observers miss. It's as old as the Dao, which makes both man and nature holy. It makes both the living and the non-living sacred. The being and non-being are one. The Dao prolongs life, as evidenced by China's survival thru the ages. She's still around now because her ancestors followed the way.


    The way doesn't eliminate, but tries to put into harmony everything that exists. So, there's no man vs nature, or terrorism vs counter-terrorism, or good vs evil, or censorship vs free speech. There is only one. China doesn't actively pursue an empire because the eternal end of expansion is destruction. She doesn't seek to appear strong because to be strong means you have peaked in your life cycle. The fact has been known for thousands of years. Returning is the way. Gentleness is the play.


    The way to kill a glutton is to feed it. The way to destroy the powerful is give it more power. It's the circle of life and the nature of reality. And it was written by Lao Zi a long time ago. So China extends credit to America for it to fight endless wars and sustain its addiction to power. China doesn't fight back against America when a new tariff is levied because there's a post-conflict world that the rest of the world keeps an eye on and the rest of the world wants to know who is centered. To win without fighting is the best victory. You can call it the Way or you can call it the Art of War. China is executing supremely. Where it can foul up is if it actually becomes too materialistic in its thinking and so the world is only in the here and now and what it can see and hear and touch.
    15 Jan 2010, 06:46 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Billy the Whale


    I am sorry if it came across that I was omitting or even undermining China's strength. It sure was a slip of my pen towards the end of an 1900-word article. You kindly filled my gap.


    Thank you for these great insights that add value to my article.


    15 Jan 2010, 09:08 PM Reply Like
  • Very good thread. Sorry I discovered it so late.
    15 Jan 2010, 07:08 AM Reply Like
  • TK, I am honored to be invited to comment on your excellent article. It is an outstanding piece of work. My knowledge is richer now because of your observations and the oriental versus occidental historical discussion which followed.


    Thank you.
    24 Jan 2010, 11:18 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Marvin


    Thanks. I wish you a good trip to the "Central Kingdom", and that you would return with enhanced wisdom in advising this great country of ours.


    24 Jan 2010, 11:36 PM Reply Like
  • We need to get back to being "politically accurate" instead of politically correct. Many were brought up with the ideals of competing in a meritocracy and not a system that rewards failure. (Or removes failure and says "everyone passes".)


    In the last 15-20+ years we have also been bent on "cost reduction" instead of expanding markets. CEOs want to cut everything except their bonuses.


    In fact, there are two philosophies that you can graduate from MBA school with - one is cost reduce, cost reduce and cost reduce some more. The other is - you have to spend money to make money. Innovate, expand and create new markets which is harder to do.


    An analyst/manager can cut costs because it is a tactical function -a CEO should not be rewarded for tactical functions, only strategic ones which would be more in line with expanding markets and focusing on innovation.


    I cut costs 10% so give me $50,000,000 in bonus. That is ludicrous. How many CEOs have expanded their businesses 25%?


    The vast majority of B-schools have taught "cost reduce" only and not everything can be distilled down into a formula.
    28 Jan 2010, 10:35 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » James


    Thanks for your revealing comments on the pay, cost, and profit equation. By now we would all acknowledge that it is the economic and commercial empire-building that matters.


    My view is that CEO's (good or bad) are often under pressure to meet quarterly scrutiny of the Wall Street analysts' pen so much so to sacrificing long-term goals and objectives.


    Again, thank you. You opened up a very interesting thread on the economic front of empire building!


    28 Jan 2010, 02:12 PM Reply Like
  • The concept of cost reduction through through personnel and process cuts is seriously flawed. Sooner or later the point of diminishing returns is reached as no further cuts can be made. At that point production is affected and your business is unable to compete unless an expansion plan is executed thus defeating the purpose of the cuts.
    28 Jan 2010, 01:01 PM Reply Like
  • Seriously flawed is an understatement, especially in context with reality.


    Best Buy gutted it's staff pay (20% plus) resulting in "profits" then turned around and gave the CEO a multimillion dollar bonus.


    How many Best Buy employees can no longer afford the products?


    GM, Ford & Chrysler spent the last decade gutting their American suppliers - now their sales are lower than they were in the 80s.


    Walmart gutted their American suppliers, then cleaned up when the former employees became poor and were forced into the stores. I guess it does work for a while.


    I have contended for a long time that if not for liar loans, free credit cards and the exorbitant profits (bought with the middle class's blood/jobs) that no one would be able to ignore reality.


    The time is quickly approaching where it cannot be denied, yet the citizenry still buys foreign made toys with the few dollars they have left.


    Reckoning is the word that comes to my mind.
    28 Jan 2010, 08:02 PM Reply Like
  • While USA was entering Afghanistan, here is what the Chinese were doing in Afghanistan:


    Experts say Afghanistan's mountains are rich in minerals, which could become a significant base for the revival of the country's shattered economy.


    Apart from copper, there is coal, iron, gas and oil. China is smart entering Afghanistan at the invitation of its government, setting in motion a source of much needed commodities for decades to come.
    28 Jan 2010, 02:04 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » OG


    They are certainly wasting no time in making inroads into many Asian and African countries, including the many former Soviet Union republics. They seem to be adept to exploiting that inherent advantage of not being a former colonial master. A formidable comer.


    28 Jan 2010, 02:18 PM Reply Like
  • They also have no compunction in regard to exploiting indigenous populations or observing environmental niceties. Social/economic justice is not in their lexicon and they have no problem destroying the environment in their home land. I'm sure their concerns about environmental protection in the developing world are even less prevalent.
    28 Jan 2010, 06:53 PM Reply Like
  • Robert- The problem you address regarding environmental policy is something every growing economic country has to address. 19th Century England had filthy cities, so did 20th Century USA, I remember a time when certain bodies of water were on fire, and I bet you do, too. We all learn with growth, but the innovating for a cleaner environment is by its very nature, something that happens concurrently with pollution and expansion. The Chinese are working on it. What is more worrisome to me is their tendency to poison children with tainted milk and toothpaste, cadmium in jewelry, and things of that nature. These are things that just don't have to be, because they are not inventing the wheel, and the contents of toothpaste, as an example, is easily controlled.
    28 Jan 2010, 08:20 PM Reply Like
  • Oy, Gee: Greetings. You are absolutely correct in all that you said. I was not attempting to be judgmental only pointing out that restrictions on activity are not created equal. We impose restrictions on business activity that are not accepted as global standards which directly impacts competitiveness in the global market place. Should we lead by example? IMHO we certainly should. That being said, should we hamstring our businesses trying to please every one? I don't think so. IMHO the strongest statement made by the POTUS in his State of Confusion Address was his refusal to accept second place in the world pecking order.
    29 Jan 2010, 12:23 AM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » robert


    As I hinted at the beginning of my article, Harvard Economics Professor Niall Ferguson's "An Empire at Risk” (Sept. ’09) would perhaps benefit from a follow-on seminal work entitled as "An Empire in Peril". (I suppose you two are not related! LOL).


    Nothing is more dangerous than underestimating the other side, and history taught us many times over and over: Napoleon, Charles Cornwallis, Peral Harbor, etc.).


    We are now IN PERIL.


    29 Jan 2010, 12:31 PM Reply Like
  • Everyone's comments are quite good. In all cases British, US, and China's rise were premised roughly on the same things and will most likely follow downwards for the same reasons (history repeats itself because humans refuse to learn from it).


    GB rose to power on commerce and production, specifically ships which led it into a powerhouse as they invented new things to improve their seafaring, communication systems between colonies, and innovated. On their way they created a political system for managing their empire which was colonization. They eventually fell as that system broke down and their debt burden grew and economic base shrank.


    Similarly the US grew from a thriving agricultural base, then an industrial one which led to great inventions. As they grew in power they had the advantage of having weak neighbors in which they could build an empire. It was called manifest destiny and grew into what you see today. This created a great system of managing the empire known as the Constitution. Sadly, states right eroded over time as has civil liberties which was built in to reinforce the American ideal. The empire people now talk about is how the US has been able to extend its power across the borders without becoming embroiled with the maintenance costs colonialism took. However, the US now is experiencing those same massive costs since Bush Jr. chose to embark on full scale colonialism with respects to Iraq and Afghanistan. It will only take a few years to run this ship of state into the ground like GB mainly because being humane costs a lot more than not being humane.


    China is only now benefiting on growing their empire on the economic front thanks in part to the US. Even though Adam Smith correctly wrote about the roots of economic power in the US, the US has long forgotten that the tools of production is the foundation of economic power. It has laid waste to these in replacement of financial chicanery and legal artifices much like GB exported all their production to its colonies. The last vestige we carry is innovation which gives us to legal right to produce (patents and copyrights) and the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industry which we still dominate for now.


    China has become the sweatshop for US production thanks to their low wages and totalitarian state which keeps the masses from ever accruing enough wealth to gain the upper hand on workers and keeps their currency from appreciating since consumption is kept to a minimum due to the poor wage system. The foundation of their empire is maintaining this system indefinitely where other nations populace could never tolerate it for half as long as they have. As they grow their industrial might we will see if it translates into some empire system outside its borders similar to GB or the US.


    In the meantime, the fact that so much is produced there is sparking innovation and creativity which may undermine the US dominance on patents which maintains their economic stranglehold. Combined with India, S. Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, the US is quickly losing the mantle of innovation and invention to a more competitive and dynamic Asia. It is possible that China Empire may eventually be more like Asia empire.


    Even though Asia has long bitter divisiveness much as old Europe did, the pursuit of economic gain has been growing the relationship between these countries very tightly.


    The US best be warned. Shape up, reform your massive trade imbalances and control your debt. If not say goodbye to your era of empire as you fall victim to financial collapse just like GB. No empire is involate to the forces of economics no matter how powerful. Should China pursue an empire that is too taxing on itself as well, it too will feel the empire collapse, even if its within their own borders (that is called revolution).
    6 Feb 2010, 03:53 PM Reply Like
  • Author’s reply » Moon Kil Woong


    Your wise words attest to your stature as the chief stalwart of SA commenters, and rightfully conclude this episode of our discussion on empires.


    Let us hope that our national leaders would heed the advice of the many wise oracles of the good minds that have commented (myself an exception).


    May God bless us all.


    6 Feb 2010, 06:12 PM Reply Like
  • Teutonic Knight,


    I randomly caught this masterpiece that you wrote almost four years after the fact, and I have to say it is the reason why I read Seeking Alpha. I am sure that you and I could have quite a dialogue about the history of knowledge, technology, expansion, "empires", as well as cultural and military powers, but very well written.


    This is something that you probably think about much more than others on this site, and I am not a religious person, but the meaning of a culture's existence in it's time and place. As I am an American, this philosophical thinking would certainly trace back to our Greek Democratic roots. Individually, its a quest that someone has. Whether its power, knowledge, wealth, love, exploration, fame, fortune, servitude to a diety, change for a greater good, that is something that is similar to all civilizations (except anarchist anti-civilizations). The Chinese began to settle in the Yellow River Valley around 2000 BC, but a dynasty did not begin until the 200's BCE I believe. Alexander the Great, clearly born in to democratic Western Influence, can potentially be linked to the first Eastern Dynasty. You obviously know about the Greco-Roman links. I read something interesting the other day while researching the passage of culture from Mesopotamia to the Holy Roman Empire. The Roman Empire, at its peak and creation was essentially just a military force who's job it was to sustain expansion and trade routes. Until Constantine remember, the Roman's were not a monotheistic people who believed in an omnipresent higher power. The people of Israel who they conquered were. The Egyptians, who more peacefully succumbed to Roman Rule were not.


    I am jumping around here, but there are a few other Empires that must be mentioned if you are going to include the Chinese, British, Roman, and American periods. The first was and has always been a culture that was not expansionary. The Monguls were, but they are not the same people. "The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire," stems from the exact reason you cited. Through Late Roman Rule and Anglo Saxon Conquests, an educated, militarily powerful society developed that wanted to explore the world. The Romans did this as well, but more to grow their influence for succession, hence the Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) which survived well into the 1300's, afflicted by the plague too.


    Less the Chinese, religion and forcing rule a way of life on a culture (whether it be civilized and productive or barbaric) were the means of these imperial expansions. The United States, clearly an off-shoot of Britain, began its imperialistic ways for different virtues. Much more like the early Roman's, the early US imperialism was about land, resources, and wealth. At the same time, there was and is still so much land and resources in the Western Hemisphere that if current population rates remained stable on this half of the globe alone we would be fine for centuries until we are able to become a space faring civilization.


    I have so much respect for the Japanese people, the way they take pride in the manufacturing of their products, and the quality of technology the country produces. When financial journalists compare the United States of the past ten or so years to Japan in the late 1980's-1990's, I find them to be thoroughly misguided. It always was about three things until the atom was split-land, which was bordered by water, and the access to natural resources. Vikings and the Huns plundered for Gold, and were successful due to facing god-fearing societies. Again, I apologize for jumping around here, but the Japanese economic problems are a result of no room for growth except for the exportation of technology. I think the wealth disparity that may end up being the result of whatever you want to call it (1%, Rothchilds, BIS) if exists, could lead Americans, Europeans, Australians, and Canadians to empower the mass production of Chinese goods. Australia is another nation which has descended from the British High Standard of Life and although dependent on Chinese Growth currently for exports, rich with natural resources.


    Why I see continued American Economic Dominance:
    1) Nuclear Arsenal
    2) Land and coastline
    3) Educational elitism
    4) Natural Resources
    5) One day, we will re-realize the American dream. For me this is space exploration and educating the lower class. Even almost 20 trillion in debt, we just stumbled upon enough natural gas to have free electricity and cut the deficit by becoming an exporter. Solar technology is for real, as is all of the US's technology. We just need to use it for other methods besides arbitrage and intelligence to start pumping out new affordable products that are so superior that people will wait 10, 20, 30 years to get them.


    I could have thrown Atlantis and the Minoans in there, but if you want to continue the chat, I would be more than obliged.
    10 Jul 2013, 07:00 AM Reply Like
  • I just read the comments of everyone else on this blog. Excellent!
    10 Jul 2013, 07:09 AM Reply Like
  • Inflation Dog, thanks for commenting here and bringing me back nearly 4 years in time.


    I think that our country has gotten worse over this period of time and unfortunately we have had to shelve GOOOH (people do not care...yet) for the time being but it is setting on the shelf waiting to be resurrected like a phoenix if the poeple are interested in curing what ails us.


    Our leaders continue to be more concerned with their reelections or gaining more power over us, think NDAA, NSA scandal, CISPA, Patriot act continuance etc...Frankly there is now no longer a difference between the red pill (republicrats) or blue pill (demicans). There is only the purple pill (Washington).


    Our resources will not help us they will simply be taken away by Washington in the form of taxes to support Washington and those who support Washington. The populous will see very little of that benefit. JMHO


    Until we roust out the corruption in our govt we will not solve this problem but unfortunately our populous has become so morally corrupted and most have lost the values our country was founded upon, so, I doubt there is a turn around any time soon.


    An interesting book came out since this blog first posted that I think defines the problem with precise clarity. Consider reading it. It is called "The Harbinger".


    Thanks for stirring up this discussion again.
    10 Jul 2013, 10:51 AM Reply Like
  • Doubleguns,


    The Stock Market has certainly outperformed the economy, the government, and society...that is for sure. I appreciate the recommendation for The Harbinger, but my religious references were purely for historical context. Personally, anything involving faith loses my attention in under two seconds because I am too caught up in what is actually going on (no offense meant). I have been operating under the assumption that everything I do is followed and just not cared about since I saw a friend of mine on Google Maps Street View in 2009, but Bloomberg must have read this thread starting up because they threw some Chinese Nuclear Arsenal headlines at us earlier.


    I was an institutional bond trader in NYC in Jan. 2010, now I work in renewable energy in another Mid-Atlantic City. Institutionalizing the Government, politicizing corporations, and you will love this one...I live closer to where I went to undergrad now and recently did an alumni networking event for students-15-20% want to go into intelligence. If Paul Revere only knew what he started...


    I have learned so much more about what a dark place the world really is, but am actually much more optimistic about the US getting out of this than I was in 2010. I think it really comes down to what the virtues of your country and leaders me a pragmatist, but if the corruption stops up top I think it will have a trickle down effect. Speaking of Google Maps, if you have an hour around the world on it one day. Besides Israel and parts of Australia, nothing compares to the beauty that the US are. It is going to take some infrastructural growth to get us back from the dead, but as long as it is fixing the grid instead of building prisons I am ok with the visuals.
    10 Jul 2013, 03:11 PM Reply Like
  • I have traveled the world "in person" my entire life. Its much better than google maps with the sounds and smells included and sometimes its worse but its still real. Smells add a whole new dimension to the image.
    Now regarding the book, I believe you really should look at that book if you are" too caught up with what is actually going on" as you said.


    The what is actually going on is discussed in great detail in that book. Unfortunately if one does not have faith it becomes a moot point to argue. I am always curious however to discuss where did everything come from then, moon, stars, galaxys, black holes ect.... the whole nine yards. What created them or what created the big bang that created them. Could it not be the grand creator of the universe is actually, God? Could it have been magic? I go with God.
    10 Jul 2013, 04:56 PM Reply Like
  • I have not traveled the entire globe, but the smells, sounds, and local vibe certainly have had their advantages over Google Maps at the places I have been too.


    The singularity vs. creator debate...a very enjoyable topic. I can't claim to completely understand string theory, but know that without these extra eight invisible dimensions that multiverses are off the table. How does something come from nothing is what you are asking I believe? I don't think it can, therefore I do believe in a creator which also creates the possibility for the singularity that started cosmic inflation and the big bang. I personally don't feel that believing that someone or something started it all is the same thing as being religious, or believing in God for that fact. I am not an athiest, more agnostic in the sense that as far as I know their is no higher power that is watching over me or controlling this typing right now. I could certainly be wrong, but four fundamental forces, quantum physics, and dark energy (Michio Kaku goes overboard some times in my opinion by the way as smart as he is) seem more fact-based to me than the parting of any seas, resurrections, three angels, reincarnation etc that any religion I have studied does. (I went to nine years of Catholic School through my baseball career so have certainly had exposure in some sense). I was looking at the Bahai Faith actually one night because the date of the religion's final prophet coincides with the beginning of the largest, undiscussed, conspiracy theory that looms over the world like a God...seem like a very hard-working and giving faith but I completely disagree with one of it's scriptures major stances towards some minority group that I cannot recall.


    So if you want to call the creator of it all God, I can agree with you that God started it all. Religion to me is a way of life though focused around faith in some omnipresent force or judge to adhere to. God could have just been bored one day 13.8 Billion years ago, snapped his fingers, and skipped town though. I would have no idea either way. Again, my point is by no means to offend any faith or group....I am just a have to see it to believe it. Maybe if nothing changes people like me from our time will be known as Einsteineans? Always up for a debate though...
    10 Jul 2013, 07:10 PM Reply Like
  • I the same as you have many doubts, just remember doubting Thomas. I do understand that there are spirits left upon this earth (ghosts) that are lost souls so obviously there is something after this life. If I knew with certainty I would preach it but I do not so I question doubt instead of preaching certainty. Its my way of dealing with my own doubt. It is so much easier to eliminate things down to a God than to blindly believe in one. Call me a pathetic Christian but I have become one through the process of elimination. Pathetic I know, but now I build my faith upon that pathetic bottom of the heap rock. Its a starting point, a very low starting point and I am progressing in fits and starts.


    "The Harbinger" was a big step for me because it eliminated a lot of questions and gave me solutions. Korney I know but it touched a spot I can't describe. It answered questions I could not, and it gave me relief for my anger with what is happening today. I now have the reason and I now have the solution, at least in my mind. Plop plop fiz fiz oh what a relief it was. Now I am not driving myself crazy trying to figure out what to do. As we would say in the Marine Corps, I am in the preparatory phase.
    You said " I personally don't feel that believing that someone or something started it all is the same thing as being religious, or believing in God for that fact" Sorry I disagree, it is the level of agreement that differs at this point. More study, given you have the time, will meke you more religious. Trust me I have been there, and I mean precisely there. Now at 54 yrs old I am some where beyond that point but not ready to place judgement upon anyoone. Frankly I hope I am never ready to judge. Just point out that we need more, a lot more morals to turn our country around and I believe faith is a great place to start.
    Check the book out for curiosity sake at least, for checking up on singularitys. The history concerning George Washington and the founding of our country will blow your mind if your a history buff. There are many reasons to read this book. Message me your address and I will buy the book for you and send it to you. Hell, what else am I doing for man kind at the moment.
    10 Jul 2013, 10:19 PM Reply Like
Full index of posts »
Latest Followers


  • RDS-B now carries a premium over A. Why? Is this because of tax withholding for Dutch, UK and US citizens, or euro exchange to the $?
    May 22, 2011
  • CSC solidly breaks out of down channel at $45.88. Potential retracing to 200 DMA at ~ $49-$50 with an LBO possible. A buy candidate.
    Sep 29, 2010
  • CSC trading below book value of $42.25, PE ratio of 7 and capitalization of $6B+ with EPS $5.33. A private equity firm could take it over
    Aug 29, 2010
More »

Latest Comments

Most Commented
  1. A Tale of Three Empires (128 Comments)
Instablogs are Seeking Alpha's free blogging platform customized for finance, with instant set up and exposure to millions of readers interested in the financial markets. Publish your own instablog in minutes.