A Short-Lived Luxury
Decadent societies are terminally ill and do not last. They are overtaken by lean and hasty nations that see their opportunity—like Goths contemplating the Roman settlements on the far side of the Danube, or Latin American crime lords eyeing American metropolises, or Chinese leaders developing space-based "defense" networks while America congratulates itself on its invincible ground and air forces. The chief decadence of decadent societies is their virtuosity in ignoring history and lying to themselves about their prospects.
S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.
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