Business moguls at the top of their game eventually age and retire. All experience diminution of influence and importance that results from biological aging. Jack Welch, a couple of decades ago, was the brightest of stars among the corporate elite. He was described by many as the best corporate manager America produced. The passage of time has diminished him. Mr. Welch is retired, still influential, but only a fraction of his influence remains.
Nations undergo similar cycles. Their life-cycle does not result from biological factors. History is replete with examples of nations ascending as well as descending. At the beginning of the 20th Century Great Britain stood above all other nations. Her empire was so large that “the sun never set on the British Empire.” By the end of last century, Britain had declined to a secondary force in the world. The famed “stiff upper lip” was all that was left of past glories.
For most of my lifetime, the US was king of the hill, although this role is in decline. For many, this outcome is unthinkable. A nation that so dominated the world for the better part of a century surely cannot be superceded. Yet that is the natural order of history, despite the incredulity of people living through the process. The citizens of Britain, Rome and hosts of other empires did not realize they were in decline. Nor do most people in the US. Long after the fact, many will still cling to former glories.