Throughout history, political, financial, and military leaders have sought to create empires. Great Britain owned the 19th century but lost its empire due largely to costly wars. The US took over in the 20th century and, like Rome, rose as a republic, with minimal central control, but is now crumbling under its own governmental weight. Invariably, the last people to understand the collapse of an empire are those who live within it. Americans remain hopeful that the dramatic decline is a temporary setback from which they will rebound...Not likely.