Most historians agree that America became the wold’s superpower in the early 1900s, either after the building the Panama Canal or certainly for their help in winning World War I.
Author Bill Bryson, however, convincingly argues that the county truly congealed that status in the summer of 1927, when Charles Lindberg became a global superstar after becoming the first person to fly across the Atlantic; “talking pictures” began exporting American thoughts, attitudes, and culture en masse; installment plans made modern consumerism possible; television was invented, and Babe Ruth became the first athletic superstar. Amazingly, a lot more happened that summer, too, which you’ll need to read to find out for yourself.
With one or two exceptions later in the book—where Bryson sorta goes off on a tangent about seemingly unconnected things that happened that summer (such as what book publishers did that summer)—I found the history to be fascinating and often gripping. Either way, “It was one hell of a summer,” Bryson writes.
Here’s my favorite passage: “It is a little hard to imagine now, but Americans in the 1920s had grown up in a world in which most of the most important things happened in Europe. Now suddenly America was dominant in nearly every field—in popular culture, finance and banking, military might, invention and technology. The center of gravity for the planet was moving to the other side of the world, and Charles Lindbergh’s flight somehow became the culminating expression of that.”
The United States of America is the mightiest nation the world has ever seen. (Murica!)
Its economy is bigger than the next four national economies combined. Its military spends more than the next 20 nations combined. Its human rights and democracy record are admired throughout the world. And in terms of pop culture, it’s arguably the “coolest” nation on the planet.
So how did the United States achieve all this?
History buff Balaji Viswanathan makes a pretty convincing argument on Quora. Here are his reasons: Continue reading…
Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters
I really, really like this moving photo compilation. It’s further proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. Thank you for compiling it, Mr. Uttpal.
As a newly wed, this used to drive my wife crazy. And since her good habits have rubbed off on me, now it would drive me crazy.
Getting an exact date, even for something as recently as 25 years ago, is hard to do, reports Frank Cifaldi. Not only do the victors get to write history, they often do it with faulty memories.
That said, I gotta think that remembering history is a lot more exact depending on the significance of the event — say remembering when a first shot was fired compared to the unassuming release of an iconic video game.
Still, humanity is lousy about keeping records. I’m no different.
I often use vark.com to impatiently satisfy the many questions in my head. At least the ones I’m too lazy to Google myself. Yesterday’s question was as follows:
Are there historical examples of modern democracies successfully reducing the size of their governments, either on a federal, state, or local level?
One guy named New Zealand and “a few Scandinavian countries” without further explanation. Brendan from New York replied:
There are examples of US states that have done it (I think Connecticut trimmed down successfully during the 90s). Also, and this is crucial, there are examples of countries that successfully ensured that the size of government did not grow once all necessary services were in order. Canada is a prime example. It has a sizable government, but it has been excellent at maintaining its size while the Canada population has grown. Its government isn’t bleeding like a lot of European countries are. The key for any government’s solvency is to maintain high revenues. Consider Greece, where $18 Billion in tax revenue went uncollected due to tax evasion. That means that Greece spent $145 Billion, collected $108, and could have collected a crucial $18 B more. If a country can’t effectively collect taxes owed, it’s finished.
So you’re telling me there’s a chance?
Dateline: July 2004. By the color you would think I was selling hamburgers. By the home page copy you would have wondered, “what the crap does this guy do?” And by the cryptic stock photography, you would have thought I was either a motivation speaker or Chinese rice farmer—not a web designer, like I was at the time. Plus it had about eight too many pages. Funny how the look represents everything I currently despise about design (broad ambiguity). Incredible it was only five years ago. At least I had the insight to bet big on open source!