Beginning Balance

Welcome to, a blog that Tim Kane and I are launching to share ideas about America, world history, and the concept of economic power. The blog is meant to help us brainstorm as we write a book together that is tentatively titled Balance: Why Great Powers Lose It and How America Can Regain It that will be published by Simon & Schuster in early 2013. Tim and I realized that if we are sharing ideas with one another then we might as well as share them with you. It must be said that what is written here is on our own behalf – individually – and does not represent the ideas of our employers, other associations, or even one another.

We were inspired (book and blog) in no small part by Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of the Great Powers which coincidentally is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Our core theory is the economics is at the heart of great power growth and decline, and secondly that political stagnation leads to economic imbalance. Imbalance happened to Rome. Imbalance happened to Ming China. It is happening to Europe, to Argentina, to Japan, to California, and may be coming to a superpower near you. We’ll explore topics such as power accounting, the role of political institutions, and the lessons history has for the current American institutional model. We will update the blog regularly leading up to and beyond the release of Balance, and hopefully will have shed some light on America’s economic paradox (and learned a thing or two from readers).

10 responses to “Beginning Balance

  1. Glenn, congratulations on the blog and book project! A an outstanding approach to a deeper discussion of what ails us (and has ailed others)–as an historian, I’m greatly excited by what you’ll be tackling. Very much look forward to your posts, and to linking them to a broader analysis of political failure.

  2. Everything you need to know is in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a lot of which is being repeated in the US today.

  3. Welcome Dean Hubbard! Only question is why is Argentina mentioned? Argentina devalued its currency, and the country has grown (albiet slowly) almost non stop since 2002 with unemployment falling steadily from ~20% to ~7% over the last 10 years.

  4. Would you consider posting a short entry about what “imbalance” means? Is it stagnation, collapse, something more complex?

  5. Sydney – why is Argentina mentioned? Perhaps because it’s turned into a protectionist dystopia in the past few years?

  6. Stanley Krauter

    If you want to reform our government, you have to reform the voters. That could be done just by giving all government employees a paid vacation on the Monday closest to Tax Freedom Day. (Every holiday would have to be scheduled twenty years in advance to allow for changes in our tax rates or economy) This holiday would make nearly every taxpayer maddeer than an unregulated firecracker. Which would force every politician to cut some spending every year just to prevent another revolution. Does anyone still remember the bridge to nowhere. And every major newspaper will want to maximize their profits during the week of a Taxpayer’s Holiday by publishing a series of reports on government waste. Which will force every politician to line up in a circular firing squad so they can attack the special interest groups that supported one of their colleagues. But if anyone is worried about the cost of another paid vacation for government employees, their concerns could be resolved by rescheduling President’s Day as a Taxpayer’s Holiday. With only one holiday for promoting patriotism and lower taxes, some taxpayers will celebrate twice as hard and stimulate the economy. And I think George Washington would approve of No Taxation Without Justification. (more details available upon request)

  7. Anyone willing to carry on a rational discussion about how to avoid a sovereign debt crisis and stay the decline in this country is fine with me. I find it hopeful that there are at least two people willing to make tthe effort. Good luck, I look forward to your book.

  8. Looking forward to reading as you progress! I’d encourage you to consider some points from Mancur Olson’s similar book The Rise and Decline of Nations also (on it’s 30th anniversary this year) as you synthesize your thesis. Good luck!

  9. The problem I’ve had with Paul Kennedy’s book is his myopia. His central premise was that excessive military expenditures destroyed empires. But, if he looked at ancient Roman or modern Western Europe he would see that it was broader growth of government — taxes, regulation, spending and cronyism — that squeezes the economic life out of countries.

    BTW I life in California I don’t think there is polarization going on here. The Republicans have left the building. The public sector unions and their Democrat cronies have a complete lock on the state government. Unfortunately, sniffling regulation, high taxes and lavish spending always ends badly.

  10. To appeal to historical evidence as support for the premises that 1) economics is the cause of history, and 2) bad politics is the cause of bad economics is circular reasoning.

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