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Why America Is Not a New Rome

by Vaclav Smil The MIT Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 240 pages
AU$49.99 NZ$52.17
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America's post-Cold War strategic dominance and its pre-recession affluence inspired pundits to make celebratory comparisons to ancient Rome at its most powerful. Now, with America no longer perceived as invulnerable, engaged in protracted fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, comparisons are to the bloated, decadent, ineffectual later Empire. In Why America Is Not a New Rome, Vaclav Smillooks at these comparisons in detail, going deeper than the facile analogy-making of talk shows and glossy magazine articles. He finds profound differences. Smil, a scientist a a lifelong student of Roman history, focuses on several fundamental concerns: the very meaning ofempire; the actual extent and nature of Roman and American power; the role of knowledge andinnovation; and demographic and economic basics--population dynamics, illness, death, wealth, andmisery. America is not a latter-day Rome, Smil finds, and we need to understand this in order to look ahead without the burden of counterproductive analogies. Superficial similarities do not impl ylong-term political, demographic, or economic outcomes identical to Rome's.

Smil (Univ. of Manitoba, Canada) has written an entertaining response to authors who have compared the US to the Roman Empire...

'S. Prisco III, CHOICE
Vaclav Smil is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is theauthor of more than thirty books, including most recently Made in the USA: The Rise andRetreat of American Manufacturing (MIT Press). In 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy asone of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2013 Bill Gates wrote on his website that 'there is noauthor whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.'