Robert Anton Wilson was perhaps the first to popularize the observation that during the history of human civilization, power and money has always moved west. From the beginnings of civility in Sumer to modern day China, there has always been a westward flow of technology, money, power and manufacturing capacity. In the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, we witnessed the flow of influence from the Vatican to Britain, an empire on which it was said that the sun never set. As Britain’s power waned in the early 20th century, so the flow moved westwards to America. Now in the 21st century we have witnessed a further flow westwards towards East Asia. While America still holds most of the cards as the world’s richest economy, the focal point of industry and manufacture has long left its shores.
It is an absolute mystery as to why this trend has continued without exception for nearly four millenia. Yet this trend isn’t so powerful as to rend all countries utterly powerless before it. America is still the richest country in the world. It still possesses a near monopoly on the flow of culture, entertainment and ideas. It has the most powerful military industrial machine in all of human history, and the biggest financial and global corporate institutions are based there. So where is the decline? The answer to that lies not in GDP figures or Wall Street or the towering heights of financial markets, but in other social and economic factors. A fair measure on which to base America is by its own declaration as the ‘land of the free’. Taking that freedom in both a political and economic context, we have a basis on which to judge America’s decline.
One might argue that power stems from military might alone, yet this is somewhat of an oversimplification. That would be to say that a country like Japan, who wrote pacifism into its constitution, has no power whatsoever. Power is not so tightly defined. It is rather systematic and symbolic, a mix of influences both internal and external. It isn’t just military might or financial clout, but a mixture of factors. After all, Rome didn’t become so powerful simply because it conquered by force, its magnetism was such that Romanisation occurred throughout nearly the whole of Europe. Once touched by Rome, countries strove to become it, to mold into its image. America too once held that magnetism, but no longer…
[continues at Helium]