Britain resigns as a world power

A woman attaches a sign directing voters to the polling station in the village of Sutton, near Doncaster, in northern England on May 7, 2015, as Britain holds a general election.

(CNN)On almost all global issues, Britain has a voice that is intelligent, engaged and forward-looking. It wants to strengthen and uphold today's international system — one based on the free flow of ideas, goods and services around the world, one that promotes individual rights and the rule of law.

This is not an accident. Britain essentially created the world we live in. In his excellent book "God and Gold," Walter Russell Mead points out that in the 16th century many countries were poised to advance economically and politically — Northern Italy's city-states, the Hanseatic League, the Low Countries, France, Spain. But Britain managed to edge out the others, becoming the first great industrial economy and the modern world's first superpower. It colonized and shaped countries and cultures from Australia to India to Africa to the Western Hemisphere, including of course, its settlements in North America. Had Spain or Germany become the world's leading power, things would look very different today.