In April of 2017, as Donald Trump and Xi Jinping were preparing to meet, a group of academics, policy wonks and former diplomats took out a full-page ad in the New York Times. The wonks warned the US against falling into the “Thucydides Trap.”
It’s been a long time since I berated my friends at the Fed, and my typing fingers are getting itchy. So I’m interrupting my Cold War II series for a little pleasant Fed-bashing.
In the 1980s, almost four decades into Cold War I, President Reagan dramatically ratcheted up the pressure on the Soviet Union by expanding and modernizing the US military and launching his famous “Star Wars” (Strategic Defense) Initiative.
Virtually every American policymaker believed that the collapse of the USSR marked “the end of history.” Ever since the dawn of human civilization, hostile societies had vied for supremacy, resulting in war after war.
Within a period of four months in 1945 both Germany (in May) and Japan (in September) surrendered. At that time the Allies controlled most of the world, including Western Europe, while the Soviets controlled Eastern Europe.
Roughly five years ago my book, The Stewardship of Wealth, was published in the US. Almost immediately, it was translated into Chinese and was being readied for publication by Tsinghua University Press in Beijing. But then one day – actually, it was nearly midnight – I received a frantic call.
We’ve talked a lot about De Rarum Natura, but we haven’t actually experienced the poem in these pages. There’s a reason for that – poor Lucretius has been unlucky in his translators.
Lucretius lived and wrote a long time ago.
Indeed, if we wanted to we could calculate how much time has passed since DRN was completed in @ 50 BCE: how many centuries, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds. (But don’t bother, it was 20 centuries, 2,079 years, 24,948 months, 759,355 days,18,224,520 hours, 1,093,471,200 minutes, and 65,608,272,000 seconds – i.e., a helluva long time ago.)
The greatest poem by the greatest poet. Dryden on DRN and Lucretius
One happy day in the year 1417, with the mind of Europe still firmly in the grip of the Dark Ages, a fellow named Poggio Bracciolini was mucking around in the Benedictine library at Fulda in present-day Germany. He reached out his hand and pulled off the musty shelves a volume which, to his astonishment, contained a remarkable poem written almost 1,500 years earlier.