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Western Civilization has become a never-ending Jerry Springer episode

Early in the 2nd century AD, around the year 101, the Roman humorist Decimus Junius Juvenalis began publishing a collection of satirical poems poking fun at the Empire.

Rome was already in serious decline by the time Juvenalis wrote his first poem. In the first century AD alone, Romans suffered the tyrannical insanity of Caligula, the destructive extravagance of Nero, multiple civil wars, and the ‘Year of the Four Emperors’ in 96 AD.

Needless to say, Juvenalis had plenty of inspiration for his satires.

He was like the George Carlin of his day– making fun of everyone, even the most sacrosanct institutions. And he didn’t pull any punches.

Juvenalis made fun of the Senate for their endless hypocrisy. He made fun of wealthy noblemen for acquiring their wealth by sucking up to the Emperor.

He made fun of the merchant class and its constant obsession with status. He made fun of the military for acting as if they were above the law.

He made fun of how the Imperial government pretends to give a damn about the common folk. And he made fun the common folk, saying “the mob cares for nothing but bread and circuses. . .”

Most of all, Juvenalis made fun of the extreme decay in Roman morality.

By the 2nd century AD, the Roman virtues of ‘strength and honor’ had been replaced by deceit, idleness, apathy, and corruption.

Edward Gibbon echoed this sentiment in his work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in 1776.

Gibbon’s primary thesis is that Rome became a victim of its own success– its extraordinary wealth and prosperity made people lazy, complacent, and entitled.

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Falling From Grace

Falling From Grace

Years ago, Doug Casey mentioned in a correspondence to me, “Empires fall from grace with alarming speed.”

Every now and then, you receive a comment that, although it may have been stated casually, has a lasting effect, as it offers uncommon insight. For me, this was one of those and it’s one that I’ve kept handy at my desk since that time, as a reminder.

I’m from a British family, one that left the UK just as the British Empire was about to begin its decline. They expatriated to the “New World” to seek promise for the future.

As I’ve spent most of my life centred in a British colony – the Cayman Islands – I’ve had the opportunity to observe many British contract professionals who left the UK seeking advancement, which they almost invariably find in Cayman. Curiously, though, most returned to the UK after a contract or two, in the belief that the UK would bounce back from its decline, and they wanted to be on board when Britain “came back.”

This, of course, never happened. The US replaced the UK as the world’s foremost empire, and although the UK has had its ups and downs over the ensuing decades, it hasn’t returned to its former glory.

And it never will.

If we observe the empires of the world that have existed over the millennia, we see a consistent history of collapse without renewal. Whether we’re looking at the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Spanish Empire, or any other that’s existed at one time, history is remarkably consistent: The decline and fall of any empire never reverses itself; nor does the empire return, once it’s fallen.

But of what importance is this to us today?

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PATRICK LAWRENCE: Accelerating Imperial Decline

PATRICK LAWRENCE: Accelerating Imperial Decline

Washington’s foreign policy towards Iran is driven by desperation rather than a reasoned understanding of a world in historically significant flux. That can lead only to a continuing succession of failures.

The kinetic events of the past week in Washington, Tehran, and the Persian Gulf were nothing if not revealing. President Donald Trump proved the keeper of the peace, warmongers all around him, when he aborted an airborne attack on Iran Thursday evening. The Iranians continue to act with admirable restraint in the face of incessant provocations.

More such provocations are sure to come. Trump announced over the weekend that he will impose yet another layer of “major new sanctions” against Iran on Monday. After a minor cyber-attack against an Iranian intelligence agency last week, the Pentagon has developed a list of Iranian entities it is considering for a more extensive cyber-war campaign.

Trump: New sanctions and more provocations to come.  (The White House/Shealah Craighead)

But there are more fundamental truths to derive from the swift escalation of Washington’s hostilities toward Tehran. They come to four. Taken together, they offer a snapshot of an imperial power in accelerating decline.

Paralyzed Elites

First, Trump’s determination to avoid pointless new wars of adventure has divided Washington to an extent that is unprecedented at least as far back as the Vietnam debacle. In addition to hawkish factions within the administration and the national security apparatus, an apparent majority on Capitol Hill — liberals as well as Republicans — favors war as the principal instrument of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Self-Destructive Trajectory of Overly Successful Empires

The Self-Destructive Trajectory of Overly Successful Empires

It’s difficult not to see signs of this same trajectory in the U.S. since the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1990.A recent comment by my friend and colleague Davefairtex on the Roman Empire’s self-destructive civil wars that precipitated the Western Empire’s decline and fall made me rethink what I’ve learned about the Roman Empire in the past few years of reading.

Dave’s comment (my paraphrase) described the amazement of neighboring nations that Rome would squander its strength on needless, inconclusive, self-inflicted civil conflicts over which political faction would gain control of the Imperial central state.

It was a sea change in Roman history. Before the age of endless political in-fighting, it was incomprehensible that Roman armies would be mustered to fight other Roman armies over Imperial politics. The waste of Roman strength, purpose, unity and resources was monumental. Not even Rome could sustain the enormous drain of civil wars and maintain widespread prosperity and enough military power to suppress military incursions by neighbors.

I now see a very obvious trajectory that I think applies to all empires that have been too successful, that is, empires which have defeated all rivals or have reached such dominance they have no real competitors.Once there are no truly dangerous rivals to threaten the Imperial hegemony and prosperity, the ambitions of insiders turn from glory gained on the battlefield by defeating fearsome rivals to gaining an equivalently undisputed power over the imperial political system.

The empire’s very success in eliminating threats and rivals dissolves the primary source of political unity: with no credible external threat, insiders are free to devote their energies and resources to destroying political rivals.It’s difficult not to see signs of this same trajectory in the U.S. since the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1990.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trump, Gorbachev and the fall of the American empire

Trump, Gorbachev and the fall of the American empire

Could Donald Trump be the Last World Emperor? States and Empires After the End of the Fossil Age

Could Donald Trump be the Last World Emperor? States and Empires After the End of the Fossil Age

Empires are short-lived structures created and kept together by the availability of mineral resources, fossil fuels in our times. They tend to decline and fall with the decline of the resources that created them, and that’s the destiny of the current World Empire: the American one. Will new empires be possible with the gradual disappearance of the abundant mineral resources of the past? Maybe not, and Donald Trump could be the last great emperor in history.

A warlord named Sargon of Akkad was perhaps the first man in history to rule a true empire, around mid 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamia. Before him, humans had been warring against each other for millennia, but the largest social structures they had developed were no larger than city-states. Gradually, new forms of social aggregation emerged: kingdoms and empires, structures kept together by a central government that, normally, involves a larger than life male figure, emperor or king, who keeps the state together using a combination of force, prestige, and gifts.

Sargon’s Empire went through the normal destiny of the empires that came after it: glory and plunder at the beginning, then struggle, destruction and, finally, collapse. Nothing unusual for a cycle that would span millennia of human history. Taagenpera shows how empires come and go (image source)

The rise and fall of empires looks like a chemical reaction, flaring and then subsidizing, as a reaction running out of reactants — then restarting when new reactants have accumulated. For empires, the reactants might have been mineral resources — it may well be that Sargon’s empire was the result of silver having become a standard medium of exchange in Mesopotamia.
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The Dynamics of Decadence

The Dynamics of Decadence

In the present era of decadence, Universal Basic Income (UBI) is the modern equivalent of Bread and Circuses.

The dynamics of decadence are easy to understand: as affluence becomes the norm that is widely assumed to be permanent, shared purpose and sacrifice for the common good is replaced by self-absorbed decadence and an ethos of maximizing personal gain.

In his seminal essay The Fate of Empires, Sir John Glubb listed these core dynamics of imperial decline:

(a) A growing love of money as an end in itself.

(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.

(c) Selfishness and self-absorption.

(d) Loss of any sense of duty to the common good.

Glubb included the following in his list of the characteristics of decadence:

— An increase in frivolity, hedonism, materialism and the worship of unproductive celebrity.

— A loss of social cohesion.

— The willingness of an increasing number to live at the expense of a bloated bureaucratic state.

Glubb’s list may at first glance be largely psychological–self-aggrandizement and a focus on hedonistic pursuits–but the dynamics of decadence have economic, political and social ramifications.

First and foremost, the aristocratic financial and political elites secured their position at the expense of social mobility by erecting barriers that protect them from competition and accountability. In effect, they eliminated the risk posed by change by rigging the system to their benefit.

To fund their extravagant lifestyles, they took more of the earnings of those below them, widening the inequality between the aristocracy and commoners to extremes. Historian Peter Turchin reports that where the patricians of the Roman Republic had 10 or 20 times the wealth of an average Roman citizen, by the late Empire the elites possessed up to 200,000 times the wealth of the average commoner.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Telltale Signs of Imperial Decline

The Telltale Signs of Imperial Decline

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

War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires

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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How the World Elites are Going to Betray us: Lessons from Roman History

How the World Elites are Going to Betray us: Lessons from Roman History

The more I study the story of the Roman Empire, the more I see the similarities with our world. Of course, history doesn’t always repeat itself, but it is impressive to note how with the start of the collapse of the Western Empire, the Roman elites abandoned the people to build themselves strongholds in safe places. Something similar may be starting to occur in our times and our elites may decide to seek for safe havens while leaving us to drown, starve, or burn.

Rutilius Namatianus is known today for his “De Reditu Suo” (of his return). It is a long poem where he tells us of his travel along the Italian coast around 416 AD, during the last decades of the Western Roman Empire. We read in it a chilling report of the ongoing collapse: abandoned cities, wastelands, ruined roads, and more.

But who was Rutilius Namatianus, and what was he doing? A patrician, a powerful man, a rich man, and also a liar and a traitor. He was running away from Rome, probably taking with him gold, slaves, and troops with the idea of building himself a feud in Southern France, where he had some possessions. In doing so, he was abandoning the people of Rome to fend off for themselves. The people whom it was his duty to defend as praefectus urbi, the prefect of Rome, the delegate of the Emperor himself.

Namatianus was doing nothing worse than other rich and powerful Romans were. Emperor Honorius himself had run away from Rome, settling in Ravenna, protected by the marshes surrounding the city and with ships ready to take him to safety in Byzantium if things were to get really bad.

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When Worse is the Enemy of Bad

When Worse is the Enemy of Bad

Photo source davitydave | CC BY 2.0

There comes a time in the decline of an empire when–in its hubris, its arrogance–it decouples from reason and blindly blunders toward its fate in a ludicrous ugly trance of stupidity.  To paraphrase Walter Cronkite–we are there.

Trump makes his one positive, even useful, gesture as President, and the decayed corpse of the Democratic Party bursts its cerements with a stinking roar of horror.

The claim that all that is wrong with America is due to the malignant machinations of Putin is the most blatantly false, potentially disastrous bucket of bullshit ever inflicted by the matrix on this ignorant, credulous, propagandized people.

The MSM–the PR arm of the War Machine Complex that owns us–has so infected the national mind with the sleazy fiction concocted by the Democrat’s Geezer Politburo–the DNC slugs, Schumer, Pelosi and their geriatric myrmidons–that Trumpophobe Automatons rage at Putin and howl for a war, the horror of which they can’t begin to imagine.

Because hostility, provocation and resultant war is exactly what is comprehended in this national insanity.  Blaming their election loss on Russia, after decades impoverishing working people for the obscene enrichment of the War Machine and its megacorporate monsters, would just be ridiculous if it weren’t so foolishly, desperately dangerous.

As vile, as odious as he is, Democrat honchos know they can’ t beat Trump by shell-gaming Americans for their Wall Street donors any more–hey, it worked fine for ages–so they slime him as a traitor in bed with that monster we’ve been made to fear most: Putin and the Evil Empire Redux.

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Declining and Falling

Are we destined for the same fate as that other empire?

At the end of World War II, the US enjoyed geopolitical supremacy unmatched since the Roman empire. Friends and foes had been devastated by the war: millions dead, thousands of towns and cities destroyed, commercial and industrial infrastructure decimated. The only conflict on US soil was Pearl Harbor. Total war casualties were comparatively light. The US had the atomic bomb. American industry was intact, could quickly be retooled for production of civilian goods, and would face limited competition in global markets.

Power corrupts in direct relation to the degree of power; absolute power corrupts absolutely. That leaves only one direction for the occupant of a summit: down. That would be the proper starting point for some future Edward Gibbon, writing a magnum opus on the decline and fall of the American Empire.

The New Deal was a motley menagerie of ineffectual statist nostrums, cover for a naked power grab. The government took control of the economy, credit, the financial system, agriculture, industry, and a much larger share of the gross domestic product. Notwithstanding its unprecedented call on American incomes, it ran record deficits. Opposition was demonized, cowed, or persecuted. The judiciary was reconstituted as a rubber stamp and the Constitution stretched beyond recognition. The New Deal paved the way for further expansion of government control during World War II.

At war’s end, America’s rulers had no intention of relinquishing that control. Conveniently, the Soviet Union, wartime ally but postwar foe, developed its own atomic bomb in 1949. Now the US government had the excuse it needed—the Cold War—to justify global interventionism as “leader of the free world,” and the military and intelligence programs and budgets needed to sustain that role. Leaving office, Eisenhower issued his famous warning about the “military-industrial complex,” but by then it was too late. The establishment would maintain its empire by fair means or foul.

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What If All the Cheap Stuff Goes Away?

What If All the Cheap Stuff Goes Away?

Nothing stays the same in dynamic systems, and it’s inevitable that the current glut of low costs / cheap stuff will give way to scarcities that cannot be filled at current low prices.

One of the books I just finished reading is The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire. The thesis of the book is fascinating to those of us interested in the rise and fall of empires: Rome expanded for many reasons, but one that is overlooked was the good fortune of an era of moderate weather from around 200 BC to 150 AD: rain was relatively plentiful/ regular and temperatures were relatively warm.

Then one of Earth’s numerous periods of cooling–a mini ice age–replaced the moderate weather, pressuring agricultural production.

Roman technology and security greatly expanded trade, opening routes to China, India and Africa that supplied much of Roman Europe with luxury goods. The Mediterranean acted as a cost-effective inland sea for transporting enormous quantities of grain, wine, etc. around the empire.

These trade routes acted as vectors for diseases from afar that swept through the Roman world, decimating the empire’s hundreds of densely populated cities whose residents had little resistance to the unfamiliar microbes.

Rome collapsed not just from civil strife and mismanagement, but from environmental and infectious disease pressures that did not exist in its heyday.

Colder, drier weather stresses the populace by reducing their food intake, which leaves them more vulnerable to infectious diseases. This dynamic was also present in the 15th century during another mini ice age, when the bubonic plague (Black Death) killed approximately 40% of Europe’s population.

Which brings us to the present: global weather has been conducive to record harvests of grains and other foodstuffs, and I wonder what will happen when this run of good fortune ends, something history tells us is inevitable. Despite the slow erosion of inflation, food is remarkably cheap in the developed world.

What happens should immoderate weather strike major grain-growing regions of the world?

Then there’s infectious diseases.  Global air travel and trade has expanded the spectrum of disease vectors to levels that give experts pause.  The potential for an infectious disease that can’t be mitigated to spread globally is another seriously under-appreciated threat to trade, tourism and cheap stuff in general.

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US Doubles Down As Empire Declines

US Doubles Down As Empire Declines

US empire is in decline. Reports of the end of the US being the unitary power in world affairs are common, as are predictions of the end of US empire. China surpassed the United States as the world economic leader according to Purchasing Power Parity Gross National Product, and Russia announced new weapons that can overcome the US’ defense systems.

What is happening in the United States, in response, is to do more of what has been causing the decline. As the Pentagon outlined in its post-primacy report, the US’ plan is more money, more aggression and more surveillance. Congress voted nearly unanimously to give the Pentagon tens of billions more than it requested. Military spending will now consume 57% of federal discretionary spending, leaving less for basic necessities. The Trump administration’s new nominees to the State Department and CIA are a war hawk and a torturer. And the Democrat’s “Blue Wave” is composed of security state candidates.

The US is escalating an arms race with Russia and China. This may create the mirror image of President Reagan forcing Russia to spend so much on its military that it aided in the break-up of the Soviet Union. The US economy cannot handle more military spending, worsening austerity when most people in the US are in financial distress.

This is an urgent situation for all people in the world. In the US, we carry an extra burden as citizens of empire to do what we can to oppose US imperialism. We must be clear that it is time to end wars and other tools of regime change, to become a cooperative member of the world community and to prioritize the needs of people and protection of the planet.

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When Empire’s Die

When Empire’s Die

When empires begin to die, their public acts–in sharp contrast to the ponderous, stately sobriety of their behavior while ascendant–tend to be marked by queer and pathetic eruptions of idiocy, bathos, and mania.

Though it can’t be known when our last Imperial Clown will douse the last lights of The Exceptional Empire and drop the keys in the mailbox for the last failed bank–America is showing clear signs of approaching meltdown.

In Rome, one dingy Caesar burlesqued as a gladiator, then went on stage in drag to warble of nymphs and fauns, and made his horse a senator.

At Tsarist Russia’s end, the Imperials ran their bloody circus on the whims of a drunken, deranged sociopath repeatedly arrested for public indecency.

Hitler egomaniacally wasted his mighty wehrmacht against Russian winter, then as his Reich exploded and burnt around him, had his gofer shoot him.

The American Empire, enmeshed and floundering in a smothering net of contradictions, deceptions, and disastrous choices, is now playing out a pathetic absurdist farce before a fascinated and astonished world.

The essence of it is this.  Due to prolonged betrayal of working people by the Democratic Party over many decades, the blatantly falsity and obvious deception it peddled so hard and so long to keep them in thrall have at last lost their grip.  The result was loss of the Presidential election in 2016.

Stunned and unable to swallow the undeniable reason for it, the desperate party leadership concocted a preposterous, threadbare fantasy narrative to deny responsibility and direct shame, blame and disgrace away from itself.

The obvious best target was Trump, since so many good people detest him for so many good reasons.  It would not suffice, though, to attack him as a legitimate opponent because that would mean the electorate, left to itself, had made this awful choice.  Unthinkable, even for the half of it Hillary had deplored.

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Depravity, Frivolity, and Dissent: Are We Watching the End of an Empire?

Depravity, Frivolity, and Dissent: Are We Watching the End of an Empire?

(ADULT CONTENT WARNING)

A 40-year-old essay predicted the end of an empire and current events sure make it look like we’re watching it happen in real time.

I spend a fair bit of time scanning the news every day for my site, Preppers Daily News. And some days, I just have to shake my head as I realize that people are so desperate for…something…that they just keep going to further and further extremes to try and find that elusive thing their lives are missing.

The more I read, the more likeness I see to Sir John Glubb’s essay, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival. (It’s only 24 pages and you should definitely read it – it’s brilliant.) Sir Glubb wrote this outstanding work when he was 79 years old, after a lifetime of being a soldier, traveling the world, and analyzing history. It’s well worth a read as he goes into detail about the fall of empires past.

The final stage of the end of an empire is the Age of Decadence. Some signs of this age are political dissensions (Antifa, anyone?), an influx of foreigners (Europe, anyone?), the welfare state (America, anyone?), despair (350 million people diagnosed), depravity (see below), and the rise of frivolity as people try to fill lives that have less and less meaning.

Sound familiar?

This video is a brief synopsis of the signs of an empire that is near its end.

A synopsis I read makes Glubb’s theory entirely applicable to modern society:

In the age of decadence many people choose to behave in ways that are unsustainable, apparently unaware of the consequences. They indulge in excessive, often conspicuous, consumption.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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