by Morris Berman

dark_ages_america.jpg Would you believe it if I were to tell you that the U.S. infant mortality rate is among the highest for developed democracies and that the World Health Organization rates our health care system as 37th best in the world, well behind that of Saudi Arabia (which came in as 26th)? That the American legal system, at one time the world standard, is now regarded by many other nations as outmoded and provincial, or even barbaric, given our use of the death penalty? That we have lost our edge in science to Europe, that our annual trade deficit (half a trillion dollars) reveals a nation that is industrially weak, and that the U.S. economy is being kept afloat by huge foreign loans ($4 billion a day during 2003)? What do you think will happen when America’s creditors decide to pull the plug, or when OPEC members begin selling oil in euros instead of dollars? The Boston Globe actually compared our habit of borrowing against the future to that of ancient Rome, and an International Monetary Fund report of 2004 concluded that the United States was “careening toward insolvency.” Meanwhile, while America is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on phony wars, the money is piling up in Europe and Asia, and in 2003 China finally supplanted the United States as the number one destination for worldwide foreign investment, with France weighing in as number two. Almost any of our domestic economic problems, writes the Washington Post, “is a greater threat to the economy than virtually any imaginable form of terrorism.” And in response, we do nothing about it.

Rome in the late-empire period is the obvious point of comparison here, and it is important to remember that it did not so much fall as fall away. As it became socially and economically nonviable, as its military was finally strained to the breaking point by what has been called “imperial overstretch,” Rome simply became irrelevant on the world stage. Power eventually flowed to the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire, and the revival of Europe, when it began in the eleventh century, occurred elsewhere, to the north. As for the United States, all that awaits it on the domestic front is bankruptcy and popular disaffection; internationally speaking, we’ll be looking at second- or third-rate status by 2040, if not before. History is no longer on our side; time is passing us by, and the star of other nations is rising as ours is sinking into semidarkness.

Reprinted from pages 8-9. From: Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire by Morris Berman (WW Norton, 2006)
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