How Empires Die
When the state / empire loses the ability to recognize and solve core problems of security and fairness, it will be replaced by another arrangement that is more adaptable and adept at solving problems.
From a systems perspective, nation-states and empires arise when they are superior solutions to security compared to whatever arrangement they replace: feudalism, warlords, tribal confederations, etc.
States and empires fail when they are no longer the solution, they are the problem. As the book The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization explains, when the dissolution of the state / empire becomes the pain-reducing solution, the inhabitants withdraw their support and the empire loses its grip and expires.
As I explain in my new book, Global Crisis, National Renewal, states and markets are problem-solving structures. These structures solve problems by optimizing adaptability and beneficial synergies that reinforce one another as evolutionary advances.
The rise of the middle class is an example of beneficial synergies: as this new class gains access to credit, expertise, trade, enterprise and pricing power for their labor, they have the means to transform their labor into capital by saving earnings and investing the capital in assets, new enterprises, etc. which then generate income from capital which fuels synergistic increases in credit, expertise, assets and income from investments.
States / empires fail and expire when they elevate the fatal synergies created by self-serving elites. Rather than encourage the dynamics of adaptation–competition, transparency, accountability, experimentation and dissent– the elites suppresses these forces as threats to their monopolies, cartels and wealth.
Stripped of adaptability and beneficial synergies, the state / empire is no longer able to solve problems. It becomes the problem which cannot be resolved.
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