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The Lesson of Empires: Once Privilege Limits Social Mobility, Collapse Is Inevitable

The Lesson of Empires: Once Privilege Limits Social Mobility, Collapse Is Inevitable

The next few years will strip away the illusions of “growth” and reveal which dominates our society and economy: privilege or social mobility.

Among the many lessons of empires is one shared by virtually every empire:once the privileged few limit the rise of those from humble origins (i.e. social mobility), the empire is doomed to rising instability and collapse.

Just as a reminder of how wealth and income are increasingly concentrated in the top of the wealth/power pyramid:

The greater the concentration of wealth and power, the lower the social mobility; the lower the social mobility, the greater the odds that the system will collapse when faced with a crisis that it would have easily handled in more egalitarian times.

When the economy is expanding faster than the population and the tide is lifting all ships large and small, the majority of people feel their chances of getting ahead are positive (even if the actual chances remain low).

But when the economy is stagnating, and they see those at the apex of the pyramid still amassing monumental gains, the majority realizes their chances of securing a better life are declining.

The natural result is frustration, anger and a disavowal of the corrupt status quo: in other words, precisely what the U.S. is experiencing in this election cycle.

People are waking up the reality that the status quo exists to protect the privileged, period. When the serfs do all the right things–get a university degree, work hard, serve their masters well, etc.–they find that “getting ahead” has been redefined as “running in place to keep from falling behind” (i.e. the Red Queen’s Race).

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