Sunday, November 4, 2007

Walter Russell Mead

Walter Russell Mead is the author, most recently, of God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

In God and Gold you say that the conventional view of modern history is all wrong — that it is like a production of Hamlet with no Prince of Denmark. What does this mean?

The conventional wisdom says that the big story in world politics for the last 300 years has been the rise and fall of Europe. I think that’s wrong. The real story of world history has been something else: the birth, development and continuing rise of an international system of finance, politics, power and trade resting first on the power of Britain and now on the power of the United States. Despite America’s troubles under the Bush administration, that global system is more powerful today than ever.

God and Gold says that “the history of the modern world can be summed up in ten letters.” What letters?

This global system, which I call the ‘maritime system’ because it is based on global trade and sea power, was actually invented by the Dutch almost 400 years ago. Think of this system as the software that runs the global economy. The Dutch introduced version 1.0 in about 1600. The British introduced version 2.0 in 1700 and the United States introduced version 3.0 during World War II. Ever since 1600 the country that sets up the operating system has been the world’s most important power, and that is how I get to the ten letters. The official name for the Netherlands is actually the United Provinces of the Netherlands and Britain is formally known as the United Kingdom.

Using these initials gets you a summary of world leadership for 400 years: U.P. to U.K. to U.S.
Read the entire Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue