Saturday, August 23, 2008

Post 36b: Suggested Reading: "The Rise and Fall of Great Powers

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

We have a tendency to read the latest books on the New York Times Best Seller List, or the classics. We sometimes forget about important works from just a few years ago. In 1987, Paul Kennedy published The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 ( For years, it was mentioned by academicians, leaders of industry, and politicians alike in discussing America’s place in the world, and its prospects. However, it appears that it is not mentioned with much frequency these days. We feel that the message contained therein needs a re-examination. Additionally, a number of you have requested that we reference this work again so that you might acquire it.

The following is taken from an earlier post, No. 9, entitled, "Recognizing the Potential of the Innovative Thought Process (We are a Better Country than We Currently Think of Ourselves)" (

“In his significant work, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000… Yale professor Paul Kennedy discusses and analyzes patterns that exist during the ascent to power, and those associated with the power’s subsequent decline. Originally published in 1987, and after receiving rave reviews at the time, I am simply amazed that so little reference is made to it in the current discussion of where we are as a Nation. Anyone examining the book will immediately note that Kennedy did his homework, in that it is replete with economic data, which actually makes it somewhat difficult to digest. Be that as it may, he concludes that there are three main factors that appear to repeatedly contribute to the decline of a world power. Two of them are of relevance to the United States at this point in time.

Kennedy submits that one factor is that the power is overextended militarily throughout the world, which leads to a depletion of its coffers, and a drain on its economy and energy. The second involves technology. As a general proposition, the country which possesses the highest level of technology, which also translates to the most sophisticated and effective weapons, stays in power. It generally has spent a considerable period of time, and a significant component of its resources, on research and development associated with that technology. When such a power exports its technology and that technology is easily and quickly duplicated by others without the attendant investment in its development, other emerging economic powers can then adopt it and overtake the inventing country. Not only is the technology exported in such a transition, but the scientific knowledge base is also adversely affected, along with the technology workforce.”

Here’s hoping that the United States does not have to experience the decline during our lifetimes, or that of our children, or their children, or their….

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

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