Political History

America in the Shadow of Empires by David Coates (auth.)

By David Coates (auth.)

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They can fall because their dominance of subordinate regions, if not benign, necessarily generates resistance and blowback, the costs of which (either costs of repression or costs of retreat) tends to grow exponentially as the empire expands. ”73 And empires can fall because they are challenged from without as well as from within: challenged by other empires eager to supplant them or challenged by external (now global) developments that undermine their original capacity for dominance. Empires can rot from the top (with hubris) and from the bottom (with resistance).

Ultimately, empires are only possible because of the weakness of others; and as that balance of power shifts over time, empires that once looked impregnable find that their only way forward from the peak of their power is actually down. Empires can fall because of overreach: passing a point at which they can expand successfully without overstretching the internal resources that initially gave them dominance and without finding qualitatively new problems of scale in the governance of their territories.

S. 99 American firms are, however, freer than others to move production abroad without penalty, and there are many labor forces in the developing world willing to work for less than workers in the industrialized world. It is the impact of their presence in global labor markets that has pulled (and is pulling) US manufacturing wages down. General Motors is a good example of how outsourcing, global labor markets, and weakening trade unions in the United States currently interact to undermine the capacity of American workers to match their rising productivity to any rising pay.

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