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Global Wars, Public Debts, and the Long Cycle

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2011

Karen A. Rasler
Affiliation:
Political Science at Arizona State University
William R. Thompson
Affiliation:
International Relations at Claremont Graduate School

Abstract

The explanation of the rise and fall of the world system's leading powers in terms of uneven economic development tends to overlook the role of the creation and management of public credit and national debts. Prior to 1815, the Netherlands and Great Britain owed a significant proportion of their respective victories over the larger and wealthier states of Spain and France to the development of competitive financial capabilities. Winning, however, leads to higher absolute debt burdens which, prior to 1945, encouraged postwar reductions in governmental expenditures. In this fashion, world leaders have contributed to the erosion of their preponderant capability positions before the emergence of international rivals. These ideas are elaborated within the context of George Modelski's long cycle of world leadership theory and through a brief review of war-related financial problems between 1500 and 1815 and the consequent development of national debts. The longitudinal analysis of British and American public debt data provides collaborating empirical support.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 1983

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