It has been said many times in the past 20-30 years (and more recently that rhetoric has increased) that we are witnessing the death of the Republic of the United States of America.
What if I told you that in my firm belief that the Republic died over 150 years ago? What if I went further and told you that it is my firm belief that the cause of the Republic's death was not some over-reaching bureaucratic central government, but by the American people themselves and an extremely young economic theory that was becoming a reality, capitalism?
Would you response be along the lines of "There goes Comrade Mike again" or would it make you honestly stop and think about the possibility that I may be right?
It's a radical concept but a new one. Warren Susman brought up this idea in 2003 in his book "Culture of History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century". It's an idea that can be very hard to accept but the points he makes are pretty solid.
He points the ending of what was known of the Republic sometime during or after the Civil War. Up until the Civil War this country was mostly farmland and plantations. The Industrial Revolution had just occurred and only the northeastern portion of the United States had truly been affected by it. Most of the country however was operating in a so-called "hyper subsistence" mode. They grew plenty to support their family and anything left over was either sold or traded. Participation in elections was extremely high.
The Civil War changed a lot of this. Industry had now become the dominant force in American society. An interesting development was also starting that still carries on today. Voter participation plummeted and has stayed at relatively low levels since then.
During the years that followed the Civil War capitalism took over as the dominant economic system in the United States. During this time the "Captains of Industry" took over this capitalist system. They began forming monopolies and setting prices and pay scales at the point that would get them the most possible money.
During this time people were discovering more leisure and comfort time as they were leaving the farms for the industrial jobs. Advertisement took a huge step in helping to develop how people saw themselves, what they ate, where they lived or went on vacation.
The Republic that was formed in 1781 looks nothing like the country that we have today.
A word of caution. It is impossible in the economic system we have today to ever return to that time. We have progressed for better or worse. The thing about all of this is that with every new development and every pothole we have seen in the past we have as a nation adapted to those changes.
It happened in the 1780s and 1790s as our country saw huge changes that forces two generations to alter their way of thinking about the world around them. It is happening again today as our entertainment, news, and other information is now at our fingertips within seconds of an even happening. We will, or to put it in better terms our children will, adapt to these new changes as well.
That is the one common trait among all countries and empires throughout time. Those that adapted to the changes occurring around them survived and flourished. Those that did not faded into the history books.