Nothing is as permanent as we imagine–especially super-complex, super-costly, super-asymmetric and super-debt-dependent systems.
Check which signs of Imperial decline you see around you: The hubris of an increasingly incestuous and out-of-touch leadership; dismaying extremes of wealth inequality; self-serving, avaricious Elites; rising dependency of the lower classes on free Bread and Circuses provided by a government careening toward insolvency due to stagnating tax revenues and vast over-reach–let’s stop there to catch our breath. Check, check, check and check.
Sir John Glubb listed a few others in his seminal essay on the end of empiresThe Fate of Empires, what might be called the dynamics of decadence:
(a) A growing love of money as an end in itself: Check.
(b) A lengthy period of wealth and ease, which makes people complacent. They lose their edge; they forget the traits (confidence, energy, hard work) that built their civilization: Check.
(c) Selfishness and self-absorption: Check.
(d) Loss of any sense of duty to the common good: Check.
Glubb included the following in his list of the characteristics of decadence:
— an increase in frivolity, hedonism, materialism and the worship of unproductive celebrity (paging any Kardashians in the venue…)
— a loss of social cohesion
— willingness of an increasing number to live at the expense of a bloated bureaucratic state
Historian Peter Turchin, whom I have often excerpted here, listed three disintegrative forces that gnaw away the fibers of an Imperial economy and social order:
1. Stagnating real wages due to oversupply of labor
2. overproduction of parasitic Elites
3. Deterioration of central state finances
To these lists I would add a few more that are especially visible in the current Global Empire of Debt that encircles the globe and encompasses nations of all sizes and political/cultural persuasions:
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