“As it’s happening, incremental decline is extremely seductive. Great powers aren’t Chad or Rwanda, where you’re sliding from the Dump category to the Even Crummier Dump category. Take a city like Vienna. Once upon a time it was an imperial capital. The empire busted up, but the capital still had magnificent architecture, handsome palaces, treasure houses of great art, a world-class orchestra, fabulous restaurants . . . who wouldn’t enjoy such “decline”? You benefit from all the accumulated capital of the past without being troubled by any of the tedious responsibilities. Have another coffee and a piece of strudel and watch the world go by. To be sure, everything new — or, at any rate, everything new that works — is invented and made elsewhere. But genteel decline from the heights can be eminently civilized, especially to those of a leftish bent. Francophile Americans passing through bucolic villages with their charmingly state-regulated charcuteries and farmland wholly subsidized by the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy can be forgiven for wondering whether global hegemony is all it’s cracked up to be.
“Whether decline will seem quite so bucolic viewed from a Jersey strip mall rather than the Dordogne remains to be seen.”
Brian Brown loves building the environments, habits, and networks that make people thrive. He is the founder of Humane Pursuits, where he writes a featured column and edits the Give channel. He started his consulting company, Narrator, to help great mission-driven organizations modernize and grow. He lives with his wife Christina and son Edmund in Colorado Springs, where they mix cocktails, hunt for historic architecture, and see how many people they can squeeze into their house for happy hour.