To a nation hitherto self-contained and confident, the new responsibilities do not come easily. We have never bothered to understand alien ideas (‘isms’ were something to fear or deride), and ‘selling America’ had simply meant dispensing American largesse. We now see the extent of our involvement and the vulnerability of our talismans: natural resources and ‘know-how.’ We see that world problems are not merely American problems writ large, that it will take more than a little common sense and a few ‘man to man’ talks with the Russians to solve them. Finally, we can appreciate the degree to which our strengths and weaknesses as a people have been conditioned by the American past, how we have been blessed and victimized by our history. Because of our wealth and isolation and our vast inland empire, because of the advantages we have enjoyed as a result of European rivalries, we did not develop some of the qualities and abilities we now so desperately need.
Written in 1952.
It’s just one salient bit from the latest edition of David Warsh’s Economic Principals — definitely worth a read. The last two grafs in particular are pretty tremendous.