The twentieth century brought a global struggle among
capitalism, fascism and communism. The many traditional
nations were shoved here and there in the tide of battle.
Capitalism won, with America as its champion.
What Americans glimpsed abroad induced complacency.
Other societies seemed inferior, with demeaning governments.
Britain still had a monarchy, the continental
nations had too many parties, the Italians changed
governments too often, they were all too
centralized and socialistic.
Yet conversely and in contradiction, Americans were
ready, willing, and able frequently to cheer and whip on
new democracies - for the same reason - to parade their own
superiority. When all communist systems went sliding and crashing
in the last decade of the twentieth century, most Americans
were more than ever convinced of the greatness of their own system
and its role as a model for others. Such confidence had not
been so strong since the imperialist period a century before,
and, earlier, in the constitutional period..
It was hardly a world that was safe for democracy.
As of 1995 there were only 38
operative democratic systems in the world,
of which only half were as old as World War II.
Out of all countries that had established free
political systems South of the United States, only
Costa Rica persistently tolerated a democratic
regime throughout the twentieth century
(though it endured some years of dictatorship).
Six of the seven democracies established in Europe after
World War I failed, leaving only the Czechoslovakian to be
destroyed by the Germans. Of 40 non-European
democracies formed from disintegrated European
empires following World War II, only
six survived to the end of the century and of these
three had terminal problems.
The United States was the oldest republic extant,
taking a republic to mean an elective regime
with a numerous constituency.
The Roman and Venetian republics had longer life-spans;
three cantons of the Swiss confederation enjoyed a
dubious myth of medieval origins (1291),
but the present nation dates to 1815.
Worldwide and much to the credit of American
example and impetus, many countries of the world
became republics, and every extant
constitution was a lineal descendent of the American.
That was a great achievement for what was believed
in the beginning to be an awkward enterprise.
If a comet were unhappily to strike America
amidst the chimes of the third millennium and
produce an extinction scenario,
how would the nation's epitaph be composed by
a surviving team of South African
archaeologists and historians?
"In this vast area devastated by ice and flood,
there was set up, high over the present basaltic surface,
the most technically advanced nation of the age,
dated around 2000 A.D. Christian dating,
55 A.H. Hiroshima dating, -65 C.D., comet dating.
A typical plutocratic republic, it seems to have been in decline
at the time of its destruction by natural forces,
despite its apparent military capability.
The culture did, however, like Atlantis, contribute
creatively to the world in ways that permit it to be lodged
among the directive civilizations of human history.
* It provided an effective melting pot for numerous
ethnic groups (including the Blacks, most American
of Americans, whose genes were less rapidly
added to the pot or pool.)
* It afforded universal religious freedom, spawning
also a number of new sects and
a variety of utopias of short life and size.
* It shortened the time from invention to mass distribution generally.
* It produced the musical idioms of jazz and spirituals.
* It built skyscrapers taller than the pyramids.
* It organized itself as a large-scale federal republic.
* It pursued a form of law and order known as constitutionalism, with
written documents as basic directives, followed with fair reliability.
* It introduced pragmatism into philosophy and conduct.
* It contributed to many inventive processes:
airplanes, automobiles, telegraphy, motion pictures,
radios, television, computers, music synthesizers,
chemical compounds, food packaging, surgical and
genetic techniques, and much more.
* It made substantial contributions to many cultural
movements: dance, painting, sculpture, movies,
comic strips, musical comedy, and more.
* It did many things bigger and better,
partly because it was so large, and outstripped the largest,
the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [Russia],
and the most populous, China, with:
industrial plants, short-order diners,
voluntary associations of all kinds,
war mobilization techniques, weaponry,
colleges and universities as complete communities,
promotion and advertising, medical facilities,
libraries and information retrieval systems,
banking, communications, free media,
* It proclaimed a credo that guided thought and action everywhere:
that a majority of all citizens should elect governments,
and a person should be free to criticize the government
down to its fundamentals,
and that everyone should have an equal chance of
achieving the basic values of life.
Nowhere had this simple formula so possessed a people's mind.
The many failures to achieve the ideal were pathetic,
even tragic, and unnecessary, and would
probably have brought down the civilization,
even if the comet had not done the job.
The next and last chapters increasingly engage the future,
with proposals, some practical, others impossible,
to be considered in shaping the future.
The book culminates in extensive "configurational analysis,"
as Harold D. Lasswell termed a type of thought that
he considered eminently suited to political science and history.
The chronology of the historical materials spirals
into the future like electrons whirling around the
nucleus of the atom, at many different angles,
still all rotating upwards and clockwise,
so as to make future time more intelligible.
The basic formula offered to future history is simple:
Swing America's reliquary cultures into its cosmopolitan culture.
Use the cosmopolitan culture to rationalize world governance.