Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Rise and Fall of the American Empire?

"All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. As soon, therefore, as they could find a method of consuming the whole value of their rents themselves, they had no disposition to share them with any other persons. For a pair of diamond buckles perhaps, or for something as frivolous and useless, they exchanged...the price of the maintenance of a thousand men for a year, and with it the whole weight and authority which it could give them. The buckles, however, were to be all their own, and no other human creature was to have any share of them; whereas in the more ancient method of expense they must have shared with at least a thousand people...and thus, for the gratification of the most childish, the meanest and the most sordid of all vanities , they gradually bartered their whole power and authority."

- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

The above quotation is Smith's account of how it is feudal lords came to lose their power and influence and the expense of the growing middle class. To me, this reads like a metaphor for the America's seemingly continual decline in stature worldwide, and I'm not sure how I feel about this. The tension of globalism and nationalism may be the largest political elephant in the room of our generation; maybe one day we'll realize that and come to grips with it - myself included.

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