As part of a continuing series on making sense of today's economic news, NewsHour correspondent Paul Solman talks to Yale historian Paul Kennedy about the rise and fall of great economic powers like the U.S.
Kennedy's 1987 book, "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers," postulated that America's time of economic prosperity was waning and would soon be eclipsed by the Japanese. Japan's economy then fell into a 10-year recession called the Lost Decade, but other countries have risen up to challenge America's position. Now, with the U.S. in the midst of an economic crisis, Kennedy's book is experiencing a modern revival.
According to Kennedy, the current fiscal crisis and the large amount of money being pumped into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan signal that the U.S. "might have reached its cusp."
"Over time," he says, "there's a general correlation between the rise and fall of a nation-state relative to its economic and technological power and others."
Kennedy can also imagine a world of the future in which the U.S. is not the only world's superpower, but can compete alongside Brazil, China or the European Union.
"To sustain yourself as a great power, you need three things: money, money, and money." - Paul Kennedy, Yale historian
"Over time, there's a general correlation between the rise and fall of a nation-state relative to its economic and technological power and others, and its -- its military strength and its capacity to influence world events." - Paul Kennedy, Yale historian
"I think most people would assume that because, even if you're a proud American, you have to assume you only got to be a proud American because the balance of economic power and technological power shifted to us in the second half of the 19th century" - Paul Kennedy, Yale historian
“The trick for American policy-makers is how to find clever ways of managing relative decline, so that you preserve your position as long as possible, you preserve your -- your prosperity as long as possible, you preserve the things in the world you want as long as possible." - Paul Kennedy, Yale historian
1. What makes Americans proud of being American?
2. What is a world power?
3. Name as many world powers of the present and past as you can.
4. What has happened to the American and global economy over the past year or two?
1. What did you think of the historian's prediction of American's fall as an economic power? Did he surprise you?
2. Do you agree that the country's position as a world power is declining? Why or why not?
3. What qualities make a country a world power? What helped American become a superpower?
4. Paul Kennedy repeats a quote which says that to sustain yourself as a world power, "you need three things: money, money, and money." Do you agree? Why or why not?
5. Can you think of any great nations or empires that have historically experienced a great rise and then fall? What happened to those nations? Did they believe that they were invincible?