At the height of the British Empire, Cecil Rhodes stated, "Ask any man what nationality he would prefer to be, and ninety nine out of a hundred will tell you that they would prefer to be Englishmen." One hundred years does make a difference - in 2009 mighty Britain is probably in the lower single digits on the English preference scale. Britain, whose currency in recent months has taken a beating even worse than the dollar has, is expected to generate a deficit of 13% of GDP this year, with its government debt forecast to reach 100% of GDP by 2014, according to the International Monetary Fund. The United States is a bit behind the British on the Debt-Empire Curve. Behind - but quickly closing. By comparison, the debt burden in the United States is forecast to increase to 66%, from about 40%, over the same period according to the Congressional Budget Office. The British Empire has collapsed to the point where just this week, the European Commission termed Britain's debt "unsustainable" in a devastating report that compared public finances there to those of countries like Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania. Oscar Wilde might have been correct in this observation that, "The English have a miraculous power of turning wine into water."
Last week, George Osborne, the finance minister-in-waiting for the British Conservative Party, delivered a speech at the Tory conference warning of Britain's mushrooming debt burden. The language of the speech was remarkably honest and refreshing for public political discourse. Osborne observed that, "You have to be honest with people. There is so much distrust in the system that I believe there is a premium on straight talking. The government borrowed too much, the banks borrowed too much. Let's tell the truth: We all borrowed too much. We are sinking in a sea of debt." Osborne continued with, "We have to show that we are fair to all parts of society. It would be impossible to cut taxes now while we are asking others to sacrifice so much."
Empires throughout history have had collective qualities, ideas, and attitudes that have helped them to develop their most defining characteristic - longevity. Over the many centuries - the British Empire and citizenry were defined by courage, endurance, and discipline. In the case of Britain, it is interesting to note that with the decline of fiscal discipline, the speed with which endurance and longevity were quickly cracked and fractured (the Roman Empire is even more remarkable - - courage, endurance, and discipline all collapsed together as a result of the dreaded empire virus - imperial overreach). Courage and will power have limitations on the empire longevity timeline - especially when fighting public debt at 120% of GDP.
The full text of the Osborne speech can be found at -