Recent European history suggests empires last only a hundred years or so, and thus the US will soon lose its primacy. But the its size, wealth and rapid population growth put it in the league of the Roman Empire – with a lifespan of a thousand years.
The European empires were based on small populations – the English were just 5 million when they took over from the 20 million French in the 18th Century, and even when Queen Victoria ruled one third of the world’s population there were only 40 million Brits on our tiny island .
The US is quite different – it’s physically larger then the whole of Europe, rich in natural resources, and its population is large and growing fast (WSJ, $):
Today, the U.S. stands out as the only leading industrial power — over time India could prove the other — with a surging population. Due to immigration and higher birth rates, the U.S. population is now growing two to three times faster than South Korea’s and Britain’s, and also far faster than China’s. Our other major competitors, such as Russia, Japan and Germany, are either demographically stagnant or are already about to start losing population.
These demographic changes are remarkable. At the height of the Cold War, the former Soviet Union was more populous than the U.S. In 2050 the remnant of that empire, the Russian Republic, will have barely one-third to one-fourth the population of the U.S. Taken together, our greatest rivals of the 20th century — Germany, Japan and Russia — are projected to eventually have 130 million fewer people than we do.
This is noticeable at a personal level: most young Europeans I know aren’t married and don’t have kids, whereas my young American friends and acquaintances are mostly married and have swarms of kids.
Absolute numbers aren’t enough – you need quality too. The Romans had a tough and vigorous population to build and sustain their empire and the US gets the same from what James Taranto has dubbed the Roe Effect:
It seems self-evident that pro-choice women are more likely to have abortions than pro-life ones, and common sense suggests that children tend to gravitate toward their parents’ values. This would seem to ensure that Americans born after Roe v. Wade have a greater propensity to vote for the pro-life party–that is, Republican–than they otherwise would have.
So there you have it. A thousand year US empire. Run by Republicans.