The West Line and Americas Fading Glory
By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost
The west line is a theory that the commercial shipping center of the world has slowly moved westward over the course of centuries. This line, by chance or some hidden economic force, has slowly moved for 5,000 years. It started in Lebanon about 3,000 BC, moving in small steps to Rhodes, Crete, the Greek mainland, Rome and Northern Italy. About 1,000 years ago a large step brought NW Europe to the forefront making Antwerp/Amsterdam, London and the Eastern Coast of North America the leading centers of trade. In the 20th century a giant step moved the center of trade into the Pacific and Japan, South Korea and China became the new centers of growth and commercial shipping.
Each step along the west line became a struggle as the old centers declined and the new centers emerged. This long term perspective on the world of maritime trade demonstrates the dynamics of the ever changing environment that we live in. It is a continuing process that civilizations must adapt to in order to accept their new place in international commerce.
It is never easy for a person or a country to suddenly realize they are no longer the best at what they do or the leader of an industry. The U.S. set new standards in industry and commerce and attained goals never before thought possible. Just as an aged person soon realizes they have reached their moment of retirement, so to must a nation realize they have moved into their fall and winter seasons.
The U.S. moved into its’ fall season in the later 20th century and now we are approaching our winter season. It is not necessarily the end but it will require Americans to accept their new reality and adapt to their changing world. If the west line is any indicator then we must accept the fact that we will not regain our previous world status again for many centuries. We must adapt as others before us have adapted and learn how to make the best of our situation.
In the coming decades India seems to be the next stop for the west line. It appears to be a natural function that we are helpless to stop. It is progress. As countries in the Mediterranean and Europe have adapted to their smaller, slower economies and loss of trade, so must the U.S. adapt. We need to discover a new balance that will work for us that we can live with. The west line is perhaps a lesson from nature to teach nations humility. We have had our day in the sun, now it is our time to learn to live in the shade of others. That may not set well with many but that is how the west line works.