Monday, July 4, 2011

Making a super power

The secret of becoming a superpower is simple, be big, big in population, big in land area. In this respect the United States has done well. In population we are one of the biggest, only China and India are in our class. Every other country is smaller. In land area we are also in the top, only Russia is decisively larger. Canada, China, Brazil and Australia are in our class, followed by India.
The secret of reaching large size, also simple, it takes a political cultural and economic system that makes the population want to become and stay citizens. The United States had two historical turning points that set us on the road to superpower status.
One was right after the Revolution. The 13 colonies came out of the Revolutionary War as mini-nations, with governments, court systems, colony employees, armies and navies, and populations loyal to, and enthusiastic about, their home colony. The 13 colonies might never have come together to form the Union. An alternate history would have North America divided into 50 independent sovereign nations, much like Europe is today. Fortunately, the American establishment of the time, the Founding Fathers, were able to create the Constitution and get it ratified. This was a near run thing, it might have failed.
The second was the Civil War in 1860. The south could have won, or the bitterness could have split the nation. Neither happened, the north put forth incredible military effort, and accepted the terrible costs of a four year war. After Appomattox, the Union offered reasonable peace terms which the south accepted.
Had either of these historical turning points gone the other way, there would be no American superpower today.
In short, the road to super power lies in a political system that can unite and keep united vast territories. The United States appears to have mastered this trick.
Other countries are not on board yet. The Soviet Union broke up, and the surviving Russia is a third smaller than the old USSR was. Czechoslovakia broke in two. Yugoslavia broke into half a dozen pieces. Canada came close to having Quebec secede.
So on this, the fourth Independence Day into Great Depression 2.0, let us hope that we Americans have not lost the the ability to pull together, cut the necessary deals, and keep things moving forward.

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