The Coming Break-Up of the Nation-State
by Gary North
Every era ends at some point. The world of classical Greece ended with the rise of Macedon. The empire of Alexander ended the Greek city-state forever. Rome replaced Alexander’s empire three centuries later. Rome broke apart over the next four centuries. The medieval world lasted for at least 800 years in the West – a decentralized social order. In the eastern Roman empire, Byzantium was a separate civilization. We can date its end: 1453. It fell to Islam.
In the West, the Renaissance grew out of the ashes of the Black Death. “Ashes, ashes, all fall down” surely applied to Western Christendom. The Renaissance was a self-conscious break with the medieval world. We call it medieval because the Renaissance named it: the world in between Rome and modernity. The Renaissance was a self-conscious attempt to resurrect the classical world.
In 1492, Columbus opened up a new world geographically. This opening westward marked the transition to the modern world. This world has belonged to Western science, technology, philosophy, and culture. It has eclipsed Islam. The fall of the Ottoman Empire after 1875 clearly seemed to end the Islamic alternative. This had not been clear in 1800, when Barbary pirates looted Western ships in the Mediterranean.
The remarkable and unexplained advent of 2% per annum per capita economic growth in 1800 changed the old world forever. A new civilization appeared, one which was clearly radically different in 1875. As I have said before, all this has happened in just three generations: John Tyler (b. 1790), his son Lyon (b. 1853), and his grandsons Lyon, Jr. (b. 1924) and Harrison (b. 1928), both of whom are still alive.