There's a certain inevitability in the cycle of life of all living things, and since man is a living thing, everything he creates is affected by a Medusa kind of curse, one which condemns its fate, and seals it with a predetermined life span; it is us humans, who have the power to prolong or shorten the life span of our creations, whether these creation are materially tangible, like buildings or railways, or intangible in essence but existent in reality, like companies, banks, or nations.
I've come across an interesting article by an Indian Doctor named Gaurang Bhatt titled "Idiot Leaders Cause Demise of Nations" a straight forward title that needs no introduction or interpretation; The article tackles the political history of India from the rise of the moguls to the partition of 1949, but since human nature is one and the same, it can be used to draw lessons and/or find similarities across the globe. He argues that there are clear tell-tales of any given nation's ominous fall, and these include The lust for power, delusions of grandeur, lack of foresight and indifference to national cohesion, among other factors.
Some nations are to an extent immune from the follies of their leaders, and those are old world nations which have existed for millennia, and passed through the hands of dozens of leaders, decent and decedent, and yet rose from under the proverbial ashes, because their anthropological and geopolitical circumstances have willed them to be constant nations, rather than temporary states, but the game of ethnic or religious tension is always a tool of creating a schism through any society; it happened in Europe throughout the 19th century, and in the Middle East in the early 20th century, and today it's happening in Iraq, and is taking shape in Egypt as we speak, and I'm afraid of it spreading further.
Debt, corruption and collective lack of respect and/or fear of national authority and its symbols are certainly signs of national dementia; economic security is the glue that keeps any society together, it is the single most important component in social cohesion, and any tremors that hit the base of economic security of the average street man, would cause even greater social tremors, crime rates would rise, and collective disenchantment with any symbols of authority would increase, resulting in a chronic state of lawlessness, one which would appear and disappear more often, and become more malignant as they grow. The recent events in Tunisia are the freshest, most striking example of this; a young man who's been jobless and trying to make a living through selling vegetables on a cart was denied from even that, and he became the trigger to a national uprising that overthrew a dictator in 3 weeks.
Nations are constant if their social cohesion is stabilized through a long history of the existence of a civil society; and the existence of a civil society void from the interference of national authority is almost exclusive to "old world" cosmopolitans like Damascus, Baghdad or Cairo in the Mashreq; and Casablanca and Qairawan in the Maghreb. The Tunisian historical precedence of popular regime change is actually an example of the supremacy of society over the political system, it is a clear indication of the social hierarchy -despite the former existence of parallel hierarchies made by the overthrown regime- which puts The People on top of the pyramid of identity, followed by any temporary characterization like political affiliation or regional background, which caused the -also temporary- economic and social supremacy of the selected few, in the example of the ex-president's wife's family and co.
The Arab world is riddled with similar examples of the rise -and not yet fall- of the corrupt few political and economic hierarchies over the rest of society, Egypt is probably the closest and the one with the most similarities to the Tunisian example in terms of the social structure of both the nation and the regime, but that doesn't mean that other examples do not exist, the difference is the composition of the societies; some are more homogeneous than others, and some are more prone to the ancient wisdom of "divide and conquer" especially if the components of division are right there waiting to be used or misused to the favour of the junta be it in the form of a government, or a whole political system. Ibn Khaldun -a Tunisian born- comes to his greatest relevance in the increasingly multicultural societies of today: What is social solidarity, and how does a society achieve it and maintain it? He argues that no society can achieve anything—conquer an empire or even survive—unless there is internal consensus about its aims.
Speaking of Ibn Khaldun; an interesting footnote to all the above would be the reminder of his theory of the Rise and Fall of nations, which ends with the collapse of the nation, and is only preceded by a stage of inflated bureaucracy, increasing taxation, and exaggerated expenditure on the ruler and his entourage, rather than the people.
How many contemporary example of the above can you think of?