Young economist Noah Smith tells us the Ming dynasty collapsed because it "allow[ed] itself to become isolationist, stagnant, and backward-looking . . ." He thinks we're on the road to doing the same thing. Led by conservatives, we're becoming anti-science. And we manifest growing "anti-immigrant sentiment"--which side of the red/blue divide is responsible for that, I wonder?
But why did the Ming dynasty become stagnant? Here, Professor Smith cites two historians who argue that "when a country thinks it's in a golden age, it stops focusing on progress".
Sorry, but "a country" is too vague. Who, exactly, in Ming China thought it was in a "golden age"? I'm no specialist on Ming China, but I have read William Baumol's terrific article, "Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive and Destructive" (Journal of Political Economy, October 1990). Professor Baumol attributes the change in China's fortunes to a very tiny ruling class, supported by a tiny intelligensia, that put its narrow welfare above the economy of the larger nation.
Now that has an important possible lesson for "American decline"!