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When Empires Fail: 3 Books That Predict The Crash

by Tim Wu
Feb 23, 2012 (All Things Considered)

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It begins with a political leader or a businessman who hits on a powerful new idea, one that puts him miles ahead of everyone else. It could be a new innovation, like the financial derivative, or a new way of doing business, like Microsoft selling software. It could be something destructive, like Hitler's blitzkrieg, which ran over France in two months. No matter the specifics, it leaves everyone else flat-footed and looking foolish.

Our man (it's usually a man) is now indestructible and untouchable. With nothing in his way, he is, for a while, an irresistible force.

Until he takes one step too far. You can usually see it coming. And then things start to collapse, often with profound or humiliating consequences. It's like a good disaster movie — the crash is the best part.

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