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josie's avatar

Has the US succumbed to Paul Kennedy's hypothesis?

Asked by josie (30934points) August 30th, 2011

In his dull but revealing book, *The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers!” , Kennedy says, in a nutshell, that since 1500, the Great Powers on earth all eventually spend more money than they can afford on military adventures, and experience decline as a result.

Does that sound familiar?

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9 Answers

woodcutter's avatar

It is a smart country that stays out of wars. Not much bravado in doing that but very smart non the less. I don’t think it is all the military adventures the US has involved itself in that will cause its decline, as much as the class warfare taking place within.

CWOTUS's avatar

Is that the full hypothesis of the book? Because at one time the Portuguese had an empire that consisted of half of “The New World”, and I’m not aware that they were particularly warlike. Likewise, the Dutch had a lot of holdings, especially considering the tiny size of the mother country.

The statement more or less applies to the Spanish, English, French, German and Russian ‘empires’, so far, and may well apply to the US – if Social Security and Medicare doesn’t do us in first.

ETpro's avatar

@josie It is rather a truism that great powers spend a lot on being great. That’s how they get to be great powers. THe As @CWOTUS notes, the Portugese and Dutch weren’t the world’s dominant military powers, but they did invest very heavily in the ships and men required to maintain a far-flung empire. Empire building is expensive whether you do it with military might or simply with explorers claiming territory as the go. Intercontenintal Ocean exploration then was rather like space exploration now. You may be able to stick a flag in some remote piece of real estate, but it isn’t cheap getting there and what you bring back may not cover the cost.

@CWOTUS Our social net is far less substantial in cost per capita than most of the developed nations. Germany is quite healthy financially with a far greater dedication to taking care of its people than the US has. Medicare and Social Security are in trouble today because politicans over the past 30 years deliberately designed them to be. THey wanted management by crisis to finally let them kill those hated programs so they could redirect all that spending to people who realy need help, like big oil, big agribusiness, and other recipients of corporate welfare.

flutherother's avatar

America spends as much on defence as the next 18 countries combined and those 18 are mostly made up of friendly nations such as the UK, Germany, Japan and Italy. I noticed also that Iran, that warmongering country that is surrounded by US forces spends just 1.8% of its GDP on the military. The USA spends 4.7%, a whopping $698 billion each year.

ETpro's avatar

@flutherother Actually, if you check, the US spends almost as much on defense than all the other nations of the Earth combined. We account for 40% of all global arms spending.

flutherother's avatar

When you look at the figures for US military expenditure the word ‘defence’ only makes sense if it means defence of America’s strategic interests, oil, minerals etc wherever in the world they may be.

incendiary_dan's avatar

It’s not exactly a historically new trend. All empires have fallen because they overextend themselves in some way. David Montgomery, in his book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations points out that one of those ways is by depleting the soil through monocrop agriculture, and I think it was him that drew the connection between that practice and militarism. But it’s been a while.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

“I’m going to start wrapping this up. I’m going to make an argument about how we interact or transact with the outside world.

The United States is a mere 5% of the world’s population. 95% over there. Somehow we manage to expel a quarter of the world’s pollution and garbage on the planet. Somehow we manage to burn a quarter of the world’s energy. 5% of the world’s population. I call that living large.

My friend’s [sic] on Wall Street say this is perfectly fair. We generate a quarter of the world’s wealth. Another way to look at it. Economic footprint. We are experts at exporting our sovereign debt. We do it better than anybody in the world. It allows us to live beyond our means. Of course, if you took $350 billion dollars out of the U.S. federal budget and stop paying for security around the planet, you’d have a different economy I would argue and a different world unfortunately. My friends on Wall Street say, why do you bring this up in public? Do you know what it costs to print those little pieces of paper we send around the world? Nothing. They are just promises. What we get in return computers, cars, it’s tremendous deal. I think the real transaction is that we export security and we import connectivity. Global stability is a COLLECTIVE good. Why do we pay more for it than anybody else? Because we enjoy it more than anybody else. So how I view those major flows as transactions. We’ve got to let their youth in. We’ve got to give them opportunity cause we are going to age. That is an essential transaction that we have to pursue. You put in the Patriot Act, you divert the flow of Latinos coming to the United States that are supposed to account for ⅔ of our population growth between now and 2050 and you’re changing human history because they are going to the Iberian peninsula now – in Europe because they feel more welcome there in far larger numbers than we anticipated since 9/11. Unanticipated consequence. We’re exchanging our security for their instability. So we are going to firewall ourselves from some of the worst things inside the gap. You can’t grow the core unless you protect the core. Their energy matters to us – even if it is in an extended fashion. The price of energy goes up in China, the price of goods goes up in Walmart. That’s how it works. With our money, we exchange for their development and we buy off the only long term threat that really matters – China.”

- Thomas Barnett

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