Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Quick Link: Learning from History

David Walker, U.S. Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008, wrote an interesting piece called What the Past Tells Us:
Perhaps because we are a young country, Americans tend not to pay much attention to the lessons of history. Well, we should start, because those lessons are brutal. Power, even great power, if not well tended, erodes over time.

How many people today could describe the fall of the great empires of the past, I wonder. Are we truly any different?
I love to read history books for the lessons they offer. After all, as the homily goes, if you don’t learn from history, you may be doomed to repeat it. Great powers rise and fall. None has a covenant to perpetuate itself without cost. The millennium of the Roman Empire – which included five hundred years as a republic – came to an end in the fifth century after scores of years of gradual decay. We Americans often study that Roman endgame with trepidation. We ask, as Cullen Murphy put it in the title of his provocative 2007 book, are we Rome?

Think we'll last 500 years? I don't. At least not in any form our founding fathers would recognize.

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