The unbearable pain of seeing too far into the future.
This was a great read.
However I think the premise is not apt.
The current rules based international order is not an empire, it is therefore unlike any previous 'empire' and it is not apt to compare it to an empire. We've never enjoyed anything like what we currently have before. We went from zero to one and should analyse it accordingly.
Thank you, Frederik. This is a near-impossible subject to make a cogent point on in any number of words. Despite that, you hit a home run in a short article.
The irony is that the founders of the United States intended to create a Republic of states, not an empire, but the system they devised was so successful that we indeed did become an empire, not by conquest but by example (at first) and through military might only later. I do think that our civilization is in decline, perhaps irreversibly, but the genius of the founders may provide the seed for rebirth in the future.
If you enjoyed the essay, you might like reading Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History, and particularly his challenge-response framework of thinking about civilizations. Happy to share some annotations if you are interested
When comparing our current epoch to Roman history , I've thought of us being after the Republic and at the beginning of the Empire. We've "won" and things are starting to get a little silly but bringing down such a technological / financial / military advantage will take centuries …and there has to be a strong nearby opponent willing to bring us down which may be the case for Europe but seems less likely for the USA.
FWIW, when people over the past 40 years said to me "US is done for xyz reason", I would always say "I agree but I can't tell you to the nearest decade when that will be".
Now, however, I feel a little differently. It feels like it is accelerating. You say "the timeframe is set to fit our lifetime" and that fits with my point above... however, the time frame can also be shorter than we think... and I have to say things are happening that I thought would happen in say 20 or 30 years are happening now... it feels like the timeframe is shortening up pretty quickly
A thought-provoking piece - thank you Frederik.
GRreat stuff, Frederik! 💚 🥃
Yes, there is plenty of worrying signals that the US is close to the peak as the dominant power.
It is important to recognize and understand those symptoms. To find their root causes...
My questions are: What are the problems that, if not fixed, will cause the US decline? How do we fix them?
For me two of the biggest problems are:
Inequality - we have passed the point where inequality breeds social conflict. There is no strong country without a healthy and numerous middle-class.
Education - the only thing that levels the playing field, and provides equality of opportunities. We need to fix, improve, evolve the education system.