David Roche, formerly an investment strategist at Morgan Stanley and now president of an independent consulting firm in London, authored an interesting piece in the October 2008 Far East Economic Review titled "Another Empire Bites the Dust." Roche's premise is that over the long term all empires and civilizations undergo a pattern of corruption: first the ideology loses sway, next the economic model falters, then the currency loses favor, and finally military power wanes. Roche's explanation is perhaps the most important aspect of the article: "Unsustainable living standards at the empire's core, which are enjoyed but not earned, depend upon flows of wealth from the periphery." In the current market environment, the "empires" are those countries in which, like the U.S., consumers spent briskly, regardless of the consequences, and the "peripheries" were those economies in which consumers saved more than they spent and leverage/personal debt was considered sinful.
-- from the Oakmark Equity and Income first quarter report