The Decline and Rise of Nations

I was asked recently if I thought that American dominance of the world was over, if America would decline like other great powers before it, and what nation would take its place.

I replied that the old idea of a nation becoming ‘great’ and ‘wealthy’ by hugely increasing its consumption and getting control of other nations to keep its own consumption growing, had always been part of human history, but would be quite inappropriate for the future.

In coming decades the United States of America may decline in strength and importance and China may take its place as the dominant world power. But this would only be temporary.

We are entering a new phase in human history. I do not say we have a chance to enter a new phase – we will enter it, there is no choice about this. The choice is whether we do so in a tragic mess or in a more orderly way.

Instead of ruthless competition and predatory behaviour between nations, the world of the future must be one of co-operation and trust between nations, in the process of staying within the limits of the world’s resources. The idea of a nation-state will diminish in relative importance compared to the global idea. Yes, I know this sounds like starry-eyed idealism, but seriously, it’s the way things will have to be.

Perhaps the human species is incapable of it. Perhaps we are what we are – grabbing whatever we can get at any time and trampling each other in the process – and cannot evolve further to become a higher form of life that can live in perpetual harmony with its limited planet. There is some evidence to suggest that human evolution has stopped, because the conditions for it no longer exist and will not return. Could we go in the other direction – degenerate to a lower form of life?

My view is that the history of humanity shows that adaptability is essential to survival. The road to a sustainable future will be long and rough but humans who survive will do so because they are most adaptable to the realities of their environment.

4 Responses to The Decline and Rise of Nations

  1. Lesley Fahey

    Charles, can you please direct me to some references regarding evidence to suggest that humans are degenerating to a lower form of life? I find this idea fascinating, and I wonder if this would be a good thing – whether we’d actually all get on better if we were ‘degenerating’. Scientists are forever trying to prove that some ability or other is uniquely human, only to discover that certain other animals also have that ability. It seems to me that the ability that humans have in far greater degree than other animals is the ability to deceive others. Also, I sometimes wonder whether language evolved as much for the purpose of deception as for communication. Thanks.

  2. Hariharan PV

    Hi Charles Pierce

    Thanks for your comments on my blog: http://pvhramani.wordpress.com/

    The entire world (whether it be that of humans, animals, insects or “inanimate” systems) follows the principle of Second Law of Thermodynamics: “matter-energy system is dynamic and continually move toward a new state, from the previous state, never reaching the earlier state” This “uncompromising” natural law slowly, but steadily, would any way take us toward the “Heat Death” of the Universe. However, if we, as humans, use our better brains and creatively mitigate the resultant “Time-Entropy” phenomena, such a “dead end” could be delayed … or else…! In all these, we also need to recognize that the so-called Global Warming is but only a corollary of Poverty and vice-versa … a human living condition, defined as the corollary of Global warming, resulting due to deprivation of livelihood needs of the majority. We may state that it is inflicted on them by a minority of consumers, by their propensity to consume and ability to corner more of the resources of the world. If we go a step further in our analysis, we might state that poverty is a corollary of present day Economic development—the said poverty being inversely proportional to the economist’s yardsticks of GDP, and GNP (or any other terms defined by them to specify a ‘one-sided’ concept of development)—arriving at the end-result: the greater the “development”, the greater is the effect of poverty (see: http://pvhramani.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/business-poverty-increases.gif)

    Best wishes
    Hariharan PV

  3. BR

    Dear Charles,
    Saw your link at JustOneMinute. Will bookmark your site and read with interest.
    Best wishes.

  4. Charles

    Thank you BR. I would welcome any feedback and comments as you read. My document is a work in progress, not a final statement.

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