Remember the early 21st century? Those first two decades were one of those golden ages of history, not just for the USA, which basically led the world without consciously doing anything, but for the rest of the world that followed in her wake? Don’t believe me? Just go read the history from the mid-20th century after the great upheaval/crash/whatever the latest historians are calling it. ….
Okay, gentle reader, I know, what sort of weird time travel am I doing in the first paragraph? But think hard, while we see ourselves in a time of crisis and travail, if you compare our days with that of most of history, we have more, with less effort, and more of the world has more, with less effort, than at any other time.
And our wars? Yes, these challenges with the Islamic world’s rising consciousness are causing consternation with our political leaders — they just won’t follow the rules of engagement — but there have been larger and more severe conflicts in past centuries. Our wars aren’t unreasonable in size, scope, or political/religious motivation.
Golden ages are mixed in their recognition. Sometimes the people living through them feel they are in a golden age, sometimes they don’t. I think America in the Roaring 20s or the 50s realized its golden age. Other ages didn’t, such as ours.
I’m going to spin out a lot of ideas now without backing them up with research or facts. These are general gestalt impressions:
Golden ages are ones of productivity, growth and plenty. They can come off war, or off peace. Golden ages turn people’s focus from the more mundane production and struggle for existence to issues of art, culture and politics.
A common theme in these ages is a greater call for government to do more. No one expected government to do anything in the lean days, but now that there is plenty suddenly things aren’t fair and government needs to ensure people get the things that they are due, get their rights. Similarly revolutions happen when things start to get better, and people are no longer willing to be satisfied, but insist on more.
Progressives are a common theme of golden ages. They have to fix things that they think are broken. The roaring 20s was sort of an exception to that — thanks in part to Calvin Coolidge — but he only put it off to his successors Hoover and Roosevelt. Those two managed to turn a golden age into a mini dark ages, and get the golden age blamed for it instead of the true root cause — the progressives progress that sidelined the truly productive.
(I should caveat that the roaring 20s did have its government intervention — prohibition — a good example of government failure we should apply elsewhere.)
The same thing happened to Rome’s golden age — it died in the cry for bread and circuses. Appeasement of the masses by government, and the making people dependent on government, is always a good way to end a golden age.
And so today we have that same burst of productivity of the individual and markets, working its way around and managing to stay ahead of the government. It is giving more and more people around the world better and better lives. Yet others, with their complaints about inequalities enact rules whose result is to reduce productivity and guarantee oligopoly to people who already have more than their fair share. Corporate cronyism is the result of all the equality reforms, that and a lessening of the general welfare.
This combination of government and corporations where the government props corporations up — whether they need it or not — is cronyism and doomed to failure.
We need to allow the inequalities to exist, without support. If they are legitimate, their productive capacity will maintain them, and when they aren’t they will fall apart.
Ultimately, when governments intervene, bot the governments and the systems fall apart. That is what (happened/will happen) at the end of the first quarter of the 21st century. Whether we moved our way out of it, or had another mini dark ages, will probably be for later historians to decide. That isn’t something that is easily determined from the inside.