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Guest Post: How Empires Fall

Tyler Durden's picture




 

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The imperial tree falls not because the challenges are too great but because the core of the tree has been weakened by the gradual loss of surplus, purpose, institutional effectiveness, intellectual vigor and productive investment.

Comparing the American Empire with the Roman Empire in its terminal decline is a popular intellectual parlor game. The comparison is inexact on a number of fronts, starting with the nature of empire: Rome ruled a territorial empire, while the U.S. is a hegemony that doesn't need to hold territory (other than key overseas military bases); its dominance is based on the global projection of hard and soft power, diplomacy, finance and the monetary regime of the reserve currency.

Despite the apparent difference, the two empires share the key characteristic of all enduring empires: they extract the cost of maintaining the empire from client states and/or allies.

The mechanisms differ, but the results are the same: the empire's cost is distributed to those who benefit from its secure trade routes.

Two of the key characteristics of an empire in terminal decline are complacency and intellectual sclerosis, what I have termed a failure of imagination.

Michael Grant described these causes of decline in his excellent account The Fall of the Roman Empire, a short book I have been recommending since 2009:

There was no room at all, in these ways of thinking, for the novel, apocalyptic situation which had now arisen, a situation which needed solutions as radical as itself. (The Status Quo) attitude is a complacent acceptance of things as they are, without a single new idea.

This acceptance was accompanied by greatly excessive optimism about the present and future. Even when the end was only sixty years away, and the Empire was already crumbling fast, Rutilius continued to address the spirit of Rome with the same supreme assurance.

This blind adherence to the ideas of the past ranks high among the principal causes of the downfall of Rome. If you were sufficiently lulled by these traditional fictions, there was no call to take any practical first-aid measures at all.

In other words, if our idea of intellectual rigor and honesty is Paul Krugman dancing around the Neo-Keynesian Cargo Cult campfire waving dead chickens and mumbling nonsensical claims of grand success, we are well and truly doomed.

The chapter titles of the book give a precis of the other causes Grant identifies:

The Gulfs Between the Classes

The Credibility Gap

The Partnerships That Failed

The Groups That Opted Out

The Undermining of Effort

I recently read a lengthier book by Adrian Goldsworthy titled How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower.

In Goldsworthy's view, a key driver of decline was the constant political struggle for power drained resources away from protecting the Imperial borders from barbarian incursions and addressing the long-term problems facing the Empire.

Such conflicts for the Imperial throne often led to outright civil war, with factions of the Roman army meeting on the field of battle.

In other words, Rome didn't fall so much as erode away, its many strengths squandered on in-fighting, mismanagement and personal aggrandizement/corruption.

More telling for the present is Goldsworthy's identification of expansive, sclerotic bureaucracies that lost sight of their purpose. The top leadership abandoned the pursuit of the common good for personal gain, wealth and power. This rot at the top soon spread down the chain of command to infect and corrupt the entire institutional culture.

As the empire shrank and lost tax revenues, the Imperial bureaucracies continued growing, much as parasites attach themselves to a weakened host.

Individual contributions and institutional success are both difficult to measure in large bureaucracies, and it is tempting to define success by easily achieved metrics that reflect positively on individual contributions and the institutional management.

As the organization loses focus on its original purpose, the core purpose of the institution is given lip service but is replaced with facsimiles of managerial effectiveness, bureaucratic infighting over resources and the targeting of easily gamed metrics as substitutes for actual success.

People who have no skin in the game behave quite differently from those who face consequences. This disconnection of risk from consequence is called moral hazard.

Bureaucracies tend to institutionalize moral hazard: those managing the institution’s departments rarely suffer any personal consequence when the institution fails to perform its function. Funds are placed at risk, but the individuals making the bets with the institution’s money suffer no losses should their policies result in failure.

By breaking the institutional purpose into small pieces whose success is measured by easily gamed targets, the institution can be failing its primary function even as every department reports continued success in meeting its goals. Repeated failure and loss of focus erode the institution even as those in charge advance up the administrative ladder.

In the final years of the Empire, in the 5th century A.D., this institutional failure led to the absurdity of detailed descriptions of army units being distributed within the Imperial bureaucracy, while the actual units themselves--the troops, the officers and the equipment--had ceased to exist. In some cases, it appears bureaucrats and officers collected pay for supplying and commanding completely phantom legions.

The disconnect between the failure to fulfill the institution’s original function and the leadership’s rise feeds cynicism in the institution’s employees and erodes their purpose and initiative. Soon the institutional culture is one of self-aggrandizement, gaming of departmental targets, protection of budgets and a collapse of the work ethic to the minimum level needed to avoid dismissal. Personal responsibility for institutional failure is lost.

Does this describe the vast state fiefdoms and state-protected cartels of America's military-industrial complex, sickcare and the education industry? I think the answer is self-evident: yes. While there are still hard-working, competent people within these sprawling empires of moral hazard, these few are not enough to wring long-term success from negligence, friction and incompetence. All they can do is stave off implosion for a time.

There are many other causes for Rome's decline, including epidemics of plague, military over-reach, chronic deficits, debasement of the currency, a parasitic Elite that was immune to what was left of the rule of law, weak leadership, and rising dependence on the Central State for bread and circuses.

America is not Rome, just as the immensely successful Tang Empire in China (700-900 A.D.) was neither Rome nor America. These dissimilarities should not blind us to the underlying dynamics in the decline and fall of all great powers, which can be summarized as the slow erosion of shared purpose, surplus and the productive investment of that surplus.

When a storm arises--a conflict with neighboring powers, an outbreak of plague, a disastrous drought--the imperial tree falls, not because the challenge was too great but because the core of the tree had been weakened by the gradual loss of surplus, purpose, institutional effectiveness, intellectual vigor and productive investment.

 

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Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:28 | 3461396 mantrid
mantrid's picture

GOLD BITCHEZ!

 

uhm... did I miss something?!

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:33 | 3461419 New England Patriot
New England Patriot's picture

The bottom line is that when a person or group of people stop doing what is right, just, moral, and efficient, they are no more immune to the ill effects than someone who is denying the law of gravity.

 

Somewhere along the way, we've changed. Why expect the same result with different inputs?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:34 | 3461440 cifo
cifo's picture

Unfortunately, the empire can last more than I can be solvent.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:36 | 3461462 kralizec
kralizec's picture

Lead bitchez!

(The "Game Changer") ;)

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:49 | 3461555 Ahmeexnal
Ahmeexnal's picture

The Fall of the Roman Empire began with The Collectivization of the Roman Empire.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:55 | 3461586 The Gooch
The Gooch's picture

From 4-Chan- regarding Boston-

http://imgur.com/a/sUrnA

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:11 | 3461709 Manthong
Manthong's picture

The fish rots from the head down.

But at least a fish has never posted a fraudulent layered graphics file birth document.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:24 | 3461826 Bastiat
Bastiat's picture

Amazing.  That's what I expected to see from an area blanketed with surveillance cameras.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:58 | 3461617 Transformer
Transformer's picture

Politics don't matter that much.  When pspychopaths move into positions of authority throughout the culture, destruction begins.

This is so blatantly obvious, I just don't know why it is not discussed more.  Psychopaths don't feel much of anythnig.  One of the things most of them do feel is the ego rush from winning.  They usually do not care about the future and often do not respond to pain or the threat of it as normal people do.

Psychopaths do not even seem to care about the future of their children.  They consume and destroy everything in their quest to win.  Until society comes up with a way to deal with this 1-2% of the population, we are doomed to civilization cycles, like the one we are ending up now.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:45 | 3461970 slightlyskeptical
slightlyskeptical's picture

Damn good insight.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 18:42 | 3463761 margaris
margaris's picture

Either that, or we stop imagining that those people have authority over us.

WE DON'T HAVE TO OBEY!

WE DON'T NEED RULERS!

Anarchism is the future, because as long as we have rulers (or a throne) we will have sociopaths fighting to get on that throne.

So, the throne is the problem, and not so much sociopathy (which can be looked at as some kind of sickness)

... you can't irradicate "sickness"... that's like a "war on terror" or a "war on violence"... very pointless and disastrous.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:49 | 3461563 Lohn Jocke
Lohn Jocke's picture

You should buy my American origin rice. It has much less lead than the Viet and Chinese varieties.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:13 | 3461720 sgt_doom
sgt_doom's picture

The major overall problems with this blog post is that it makes too many assumptions and presumes far too much.

One of the best short summaries of some economic underlying causes was explained in Prof. Tainter's short paper:

http://www.jayhanson.us/page134.htm

(Well worth reading!)

Empires are overextended as the economic elites mean to extract every last cent of worth form them, from the people, etc., it is by design, not circumstance nor happenstance.

History does explain things, but first one must distinguish between history, and Wall Street-financed propaganda (Gillian Tett's "Fool's Gold" Sebastian Mallaby's "More Money Than God" and many many other such tracts of nonsense and drivel).

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 15:51 | 3462856 massornament
massornament's picture

I don't think this blog post is too far off Tainter's work. His book, The Collapse of Complex Societies (which is excellent), is more about how diminishing marginal returns can be applied to a complex system like an empire. It simply becomes too costly to keep the ever increasing complexity of the system going. And it is not just the elites that try to maximize their position but all classes... the 'dole' originally refered to the 'corn dole' (free flour/bread) provided to Roman citizens. Military overstretch, political corruption, falling tax revenues, debt, currency debasement, and increased costs to run increasingly complex systems... Tainter's work isn't really ideological in the normal sense of that term.

Thu, 04/18/2013 - 00:31 | 3465081 MikeMcGspot
MikeMcGspot's picture

Tainters excellent collapse book also cites improvement in bone density of average Romans post collapse, here he speculates there were general nutritional improvements as people were no longer working themselves to the bone to keep the complex society/system going.

Perhaps there could be significant improvement in health for many post collapse US empire,

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 19:16 | 3463903 Kirk2NCC1701
Kirk2NCC1701's picture

"Unfortunately, the empire can last more than I can be solvent."

I'm hoping on outlasting the American Empire, but not the USA.  A subtle but important difference.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:23 | 3462301 zerozulu
zerozulu's picture

Homosexuality is another sign of falling empires. It shows degradation of moral social values.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 15:07 | 3462578 Meat Hammer
Meat Hammer's picture

I down-arrowed you because I don't care where someone sticks his wee-wee, but I do think libs may abort and buttfuck each other into extinction.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 19:02 | 3463842 margaris
margaris's picture

The real degradation is that people will get very strong feelings about gay marriage etc... but will not give a damn that their children are fighting and dying in unjust wars, and that banksters are looting the country.

Maybe it's a hidden psychological effect on the subconscious:

Everybody talks about the gays, because you subconsciously know you are literally being fucked in the ass by your government, the banks etc... so no wonder you concern yourself with anal sex.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 23:05 | 3464866 Dull Care
Dull Care's picture

I agree with you and the gentleman who made his observation. There is no way the promotion of alternative lifestyles can be healthy for a society. I find it very strange that anyone could reach a different conclusion.

On the other hand you are very correct as well. It's hilarious to watch Americans get wrapped up in an albeit terrible terrorist attack yet fail to see how the U.S. Military does these things far more frequently on a much grander scale.

Americans are simply frogs in a kettle that are getting boiled very slowly and it won't be long before they're toast.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 17:34 | 3463371 N57Mike
N57Mike's picture

Yes Patriot, thank you, its very simple...., why is "don't lie, don't steal, don't covet neighbors wife or possessions" a problem, ... Why can't this be tacked up on all wall?

Lack of, and lost spiritually, this Nation is.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:32 | 3461431 tallen
tallen's picture

If people think the drop in gold was bad, wait until the stock market crashes again.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:35 | 3461455 TeamDepends
TeamDepends's picture

Yep, they didn't see that comin'.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:38 | 3461483 ParkAveFlasher
ParkAveFlasher's picture

I don't know about you guys, but I cursed how broke I was when gold was at $1700.

Now I'm itching to free up cash.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:45 | 3461532 TeamDepends
TeamDepends's picture

Times is tough!!!!

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:46 | 3461540 resurger
resurger's picture

I hope there wont be any circus breakers when that happens

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:31 | 3461432 DaddyO
DaddyO's picture

"It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen?"

DaddyO

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:41 | 3461513 SpiceMustFlow
SpiceMustFlow's picture

OT but where is a fucking ZH commentary on reinhart and rogoff fiasco?! Making me read ducking salon?!

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:43 | 3461522 SpiceMustFlow
SpiceMustFlow's picture

Fucking predictive text

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:28 | 3461856 salsabob
salsabob's picture

R&R has gotten a lot of love here in the past (e.g. 5/7/12) as part of the echo chamber here.  Let's see how long their fiasco will be ignored.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:39 | 3461935 SpiceMustFlow
SpiceMustFlow's picture

I'm dreading the attention krugman's bitch ass is going to get from this. He probably had a dozen orgasms when the news broke. I just want to hear the ZH explanation and take, the other sites are killing me

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:31 | 3461423 jjsilver
jjsilver's picture

If

"When  plunder  becomes  a  way  of  life  for  a group  of  men living  together  in  society,  they  create  for  themselves in  the  course  of  time,  a  legal  system  that authorizes  it  and  a  moral  code  that  glorifies  it."
Frederick  Bastiat,  1850

Then

Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.
MAPP v. OHIO, 367 U.S. 643 (1961) Supreme Court

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:37 | 3461472 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Indeed.  We are entering a period where the following quote rings true as well. - ""The great questions of the the day will not be resolved by speeches and majority decisions ... but by iron and blood"   Hedge accordingly.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:42 | 3461509 centerline
centerline's picture

Same as it ever was.  When money fails, the weapons come out.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:54 | 3461590 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Violence, not gold, is at the top of the value pyramid.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:09 | 3461698 ParkAveFlasher
ParkAveFlasher's picture

I disagree.  Sex to impregnate beats all comers as king of the evolutionary hill.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 19:11 | 3463885 Kirk2NCC1701
Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Same as it ever was.  When men's character, sanity or decency fail, and primal forces take over, then money also fails.  And the weapons come out.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:31 | 3461428 duo
duo's picture

so what was Rome's version of Obamacare?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:33 | 3461441 mantrid
mantrid's picture

they say elite Romans didn't wash

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:33 | 3461449 rp1
rp1's picture

Why are world markets crashing?  Don't Vote For Gold!  Understand this for a bright future 

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:48 | 3461514 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

with 7+ billion people all competing for a better quality of life.  Resource scarcity is going to shove that paper so far up your ass you are going to wish you never put it out there.  Moreover, the moral hazard has not been addressed and fraud remains the status quo. I suggest you hedge accordingly.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:56 | 3461604 hannah
hannah's picture

here we go again...THERE ISNT A RESOURCE SCARCITY....THERE IS A SCARCITY OF PHYSICAL CASH TO BUY THE RESOURCES. without credit the whole ball of wax is melting like the wicked witch...

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:12 | 3461717 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Money credits can be created with the push of a fucking button moron.  Just ask Bernanke, resources cannot.  Please, you're not even trying.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:09 | 3462173 hannah
hannah's picture

bernanke gives YOU money...fuck you stupid idiot. you dont have access to the printing press..YOU dont have unlimited physical fiat. if you want more resource than you have money , you are shit out of luck.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:42 | 3462432 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Wrong again.  Every year we thin out some timber on our property whenever we want and use those resources in a number of ways.  Troll harder loser.

Thu, 04/18/2013 - 13:06 | 3467061 hannah
hannah's picture

law ...you are truely an idiot. everyone in the world that needs resources has 'timber' they can sell...? the world is out of cash. no credit. they are fucked and with your iq, so are you.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:17 | 3461747 sgt_doom
sgt_doom's picture

People will mark you down as mindless libertarians must obsessively follow their cult leaders.....

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:42 | 3462438 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Troll.  Scared troll at that.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:34 | 3461460 Never One Roach
Never One Roach's picture

Ok, now I'm scared.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:36 | 3461464 rsnoble
rsnoble's picture

Is that NYC getting ready to go over the waterfall? Quick, someone cut the cord!

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:45 | 3461534 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Optimist, one could only hope this is true and California is right behind them.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:35 | 3461466 Douglasnew
Douglasnew's picture

The question you have to ask yourself is Gold or Dollars? Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of the Fed or to take possession of the barbarous relic? You can not eat either. Neither produces yield. Yet the dollar is paper and being diluted, wantonly and recklessly. First sign of a serious correction and everyone runs back into the burning house but just look at the long term guarantee which is that we will NEVER have the political will to do anything but print more and more to maintain the status quo. Do you have fire Insurance on your home against all odds that it will ever burn? Do you dutifully pay that premium into the ether each year never to be seen again? Well then get yourself 5-10% physical and hold it as you would any Insurance policy and you need not check to see if your house is burning by checking it's price every day. You will surely know when the day comes that you were the wiser to maintain it.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:35 | 3461467 Douglasnew
Douglasnew's picture

The question you have to ask yourself is Gold or Dollars? Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of the Fed or to take possession of the barbarous relic? You can not eat either. Neither produces yield. Yet the dollar is paper and being diluted, wantonly and recklessly. First sign of a serious correction and everyone runs back into the burning house but just look at the long term guarantee which is that we will NEVER have the political will to do anything but print more and more to maintain the status quo. Do you have fire Insurance on your home against all odds that it will ever burn? Do you dutifully pay that premium into the ether each year never to be seen again? Well then get yourself 5-10% physical and hold it as you would any Insurance policy and you need not check to see if your house is burning by checking it's price every day. You will surely know when the day comes that you were the wiser to maintain it.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:57 | 3461614 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

STOP YELLING, I got it the first time ;-)

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:06 | 3461673 Hulk
Hulk's picture

He's going to run Tyler out of black ink !!!

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:40 | 3461470 brodix
brodix's picture

You know when you are at the top of the wave when it's mostly foam and bubbles and little momentum.

 Go with the physics, not the politics. What is the gavitational center of attraction within your community?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:36 | 3461477 dick cheneys ghost
dick cheneys ghost's picture

But...That chickshit, chickenHawk Neo-con aszwipe Bill Kristol said that 'America' is not an empire

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:47 | 3461549 Mercury
Mercury's picture

Well, it's not really.

When S. Koreans, Europeans and denizens of everywhere else the US military has set up shop start paying taxes directly to Uncle Sam so I can pay less, I'll concede that the US is an empire.

Also, you pretty much signed your own death warrent back in the day if you killed or physically abused a Roman citizen anywhere in the world.  Not quite a similar situation today.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:54 | 3461591 mick_richfield
mick_richfield's picture

The taxes were called Treasury Bills.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:02 | 3461652 Mercury
Mercury's picture

T-bills mature in less than a year and haven't defaulted yet. Unlike taxes you can chose not to roll them over.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:53 | 3462508 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Ah yes, not what is the yeild relative to the true cost of living again?  What about negative interest rates, you prefer to pay the government to lose your money?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:58 | 3461599 dick cheneys ghost
dick cheneys ghost's picture

Tell that to the 'rest of the world'

 

The petro-dollar is the TAX

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:57 | 3461600 Apocalicious
Apocalicious's picture

Exactly, which is why our collapse will be faster. We have all the weaknesses and none of the strengths of an actual declining empire.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 16:25 | 3463024 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Not quite a similar situation indeed.

Romans had nothing like the USD, which is the way the US has set up the empire and the way wealth is transfered to the US.
The USD is the tax put on the rest of the world.

After that, an 'american' conceding or not... well, who cares?

Like telling Lance Armstrong was not a drug addict because he did not concede he was one.

'Americans' are duplicitous.Only a fool would refer to 'americans' concessions to determine reality.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:37 | 3461484 rp1
rp1's picture

Understand WHY:  THERE IS A VERY BRIGHT FUTURE!!!!!!!!!

 

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:05 | 3461488 Mercury
Mercury's picture

Comparing the American Empire with the Roman Empire in its terminal decline is a popular intellectual parlor game.

Another possible analog:

http://takimag.com/article/the_dawn_of_decadence/print#axzz2Qec4TCJ9

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:50 | 3462017 Ludwig Van
Ludwig Van's picture

Last words from your link, Mercury, re. the emergence of what might be called timeless decadence --

"...that is only possible in a civilization enfeebled by prosperity."

Thanks for the link. Good read.

.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:39 | 3461489 centerline
centerline's picture

Name one empire that did not turn on it's own people as an attempt to perpetuate the status quo?

 

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:51 | 3461573 Mercury
Mercury's picture

Any number of empires that were conquered by other empires.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:52 | 3461576 centerline
centerline's picture

lol.  Good one.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:00 | 3461631 Mercury
Mercury's picture

...and the English Empire which more or less came into existence by accident and disassembled itself by accident. The welfare dependency state, the cult of multiculturalism and the prostitution of the state to international plutocrats has already turned against the average Englishman more than the empire of his grandfathers ever did.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:23 | 3461799 sgt_doom
sgt_doom's picture

Now that is one of the most historically ignorant comments I've yet heard, Mercury.

Find out the date when the City of London Corporation first originated (hint:  it was far earlier than the 1066 invasion, and probably financed such).

Next, read these two volumes by P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins

British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion 1688-1914


Crisis and Deconstruction, 1914-1990

"This, together with the companion volume, Crisis and Deconstruction, 1914-1990, provides an ambitious, new and comprehensive interpretation of the forces behind British imperial expansion. The books explore the interaction of economic, social and political influences on the growth, and eventual end, of the Empire. Each volume can be used independently; together, they are a milestone in the history of imperialism, modern Britain and the British Empire itself, and make important contributions to comparative history, modern economic development and international relations. Highlights the role of the City of London and 'Gentlemanly Capitalism', a term established by the authors and widely used and referred to, in Britain's expansion abroad. Casts new light on many of the controversial episodes in the history of imperialism, such as the partition of Africa. Includes case studies covering not only the constitutional empire - Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Africa but also Britain's areas of informal influence in South America, the Ottoman Empire and China. It is aimed at specialists in the area of modern British history, European expansion/imperialism and international relations and the development of modern world economy. It should also be of interest to serious but non-specialist commentators."
Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:26 | 3461840 sgt_doom
sgt_doom's picture

Oops, this has since been combined into one volume, with the description here:

http://books.google.com/books/about/British_Imperialism_1688_2000.html?id=XCJaq77qIRIC

 

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:43 | 3461845 Mercury
Mercury's picture

Well, it was the British Empire of course, sorry about that typo but...

you might want to dismount and at least check Wikipedia first  - there weren't any corporations in 1066 or for many hundreds of years after that.

 

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 15:48 | 3462840 centerline
centerline's picture

The English have had a hell of a run.  London has been the center of known universe (and still is in many ways when it comes to Western finance).  They are in the process of roasting thier own as well.  Very fucked up society to boot.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:38 | 3461491 rsnoble
rsnoble's picture

So I guess the opposite of being in an empire is being a pissant waiting to get gobbled up by an empire.  Fucked either way.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:41 | 3461492 Super Broccoli
Super Broccoli's picture

please don't compare an illiterate redneck association that barely ruled over the last 50 years to the roman empire !

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:40 | 3461504 rsnoble
rsnoble's picture

Now you look here Broccoli.........i've been slamming beers for an hour now, got the 4 wheelers and guns loaded down for a stroll here shortly since my work for the day is done............don't be giving me any bullshit about rednecks. LOL.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:50 | 3461552 Super Broccoli
Super Broccoli's picture

;-) nice one rsnoble !

 

now looking at the whole story i have to admit USofA might still, in a few centuries, hold a line in the history books under comment "what happened in the direct WWII aftermath" :-)

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:07 | 3461693 rsnoble
rsnoble's picture

Thanks.  Looks like some don't realize im just joking.  Well except the drinking and 4wheelers part that's true.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:49 | 3462016 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

Next thing you know, someone will be making comments about Yankees and cracka'z.

No one thinks that would be a good idea.

- Ned

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:47 | 3461553 Mr. Hudson
Mr. Hudson's picture

Didn't the evil tribe start ruling this country in 1913?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:51 | 3461571 Super Broccoli
Super Broccoli's picture

yeah but the evil tribe isn't american and has been around for a long time ...

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:39 | 3461501 fonzannoon
fonzannoon's picture

so if this market really starts dumping and the fed is already printing 85 bil a month what can they say or do to try to stop the fall?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:43 | 3461525 rsnoble
rsnoble's picture

Tell GS they've scared enough people off and to stop the sell program and buy all they can buy with newly printed 500b in digitized horseshit that will be traded for digitized stocks which were originally paper of a broke company all of which will soon be traded for real assets like your house etc.  Or something like that.  I can't keep up anymore.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:47 | 3461545 centerline
centerline's picture

I am still on the same theory from years ago that at some point the Fed is going to step back from the printing press lever and hand the responsibility over to the politicians, who have boxed themselves in at this point.  Pressure will mount on Main Street, pushing the dumbshit politicians to act, and the blame for what happens next will have been effectively shifted.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:49 | 3461566 fonzannoon
fonzannoon's picture

we won't know until the market starts really tanking and forces their hand. 

My guess is the fed somehow just starts coming in and openly buying stocks.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:59 | 3461625 centerline
centerline's picture

Yeah.  I would think it moves more into the open with active dissent from members increasing every step of the way to hedge against "unintended" (cough cough) consequences.  At some point creating a standoff of sorts.  Got to get the politicians hands on the lever, take pictures of it, fingerprint it, etc.

I am still a believer that the Fed was built to be dismantled.  Same as the big banks.  It is the private ownership and the rest of the looters that are in the "club" that benefit and will want to start the next cycle at some point after the ugliness has quieted down.

Hard to say what the world will look like then and what nation is on top.

 

PS... Got that book (The Long Walk) on order as of today - lol.  

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:40 | 3461510 rp1
rp1's picture

The empire has not fallen, but America WILL reform.  So will Europe.  And China.  The NEW WORLD awaits, and it is a BRIGHT FUTURE!   Don't Vote For Gold!  

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:42 | 3461519 rp1
rp1's picture

Stop speculating and go to cash.  Don't vote for gold!

 

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:01 | 3461646 Overfed
Overfed's picture

Stop spamming us with that fuckin' shit!

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:42 | 3461523 Thoresen
Thoresen's picture

You could have just stayed part of the British Empire, but no, you had to do your own thing.

How much tax is still owing to The Crown  since 1776?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:42 | 3461524 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

The sad thing is, when this empire collapses it has the miltary and financial potential to take the world down with it.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:47 | 3461550 Spastica Rex
Spastica Rex's picture

Yeah, but just imagine if the American Empire were a global empire.

Oh, wait...

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:49 | 3461568 Bearwagon
Bearwagon's picture

May you find solace in the fact, that the planet will be just fine. It's only mankind and some other species that will go down. The planet and life on it will survive.  :)

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:01 | 3461633 centerline
centerline's picture

George Carlin postulated that we are here to make plastic.  And when there is enough plastic, Mother Nature will get rid of us and another species will have it's turn at the top of the food chain.  lol.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:38 | 3461914 WTFisThat
WTFisThat's picture

I'm not so sure if our not so friendly aliens would let us light all the nukes bitchez

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 15:49 | 3462855 centerline
centerline's picture

Unless nuclear BBQ is tasty to them.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:44 | 3461537 Bearwagon
Bearwagon's picture

And thus, the Crimson Permanent Assurance was launched onto the high seas of international finance  ;-)

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xyqxc_the-crimson-permanent-assurance_fun

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:54 | 3461558 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

CNBC is right now unveiling and promoting "CNBC ETF Retirment Portfolios".

OMFG.

The "investment advisor" they have on to push them looks like the Cat that just ate the Canary, trying not to grin or laugh.

Rome?  My favorite term from the article that describes the impending fall of the U.S. is "Rot at the Top".

 

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:00 | 3462114 noless
noless's picture

Just heard an ad on the radio down here about winning a european vacation, it said it came with 2500 duetsch marks.. Not euro, marks..

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:52 | 3461578 Floodmaster
Floodmaster's picture

U.S Banks should be considered Nationalized, Lloyd Blankfein a simple public servant.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:54 | 3461592 Confundido
Confundido's picture

Where is Kevin Henry?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:57 | 3461605 Hedgetard55
Hedgetard55's picture

CRAAPL just broke through 400.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:59 | 3461628 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

Amity Schlaes has a good review of how things were reversed in the past.

http://www.amazon.com/Coolidge-Amity-Shlaes/dp/0061967556/ref=sr_1_1?s=b...

- Ned

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:01 | 3461642 The_Small_Lebowski
The_Small_Lebowski's picture

Farmland is just about the only guaranteed safe asset now. Theyre not making any more of it, and you can eat too!

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:34 | 3461887 WTFisThat
WTFisThat's picture

Sure, but don't forge that taxes could be easly raised

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 17:27 | 3463317 N57Mike
N57Mike's picture

And they steal your land use rights by regulation ...

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:07 | 3461683 myblueshades
myblueshades's picture

The imperial tree falls- Because usury.

It aint complicated is it. Top heavy by design. perpetual weakening of the base.

One could almost think it was a cunning plan of some kind by an unscrupulous minority of parasitic and spiritually vacuous greed monsters who did nothing but profit from uncertainty & grow fat on the teat of an ever expanding class of uneducated proles hypnotized by TV's & iphones.

Buy shit now before the end timez!!

Funny how a foray into Jewish conspiracy vids on youtube led me to feminism. How much shit has your lass got compared to you? How much does she spend on make up n shoes & fuck knows what the point is magazines?

Nice one Tyler. "We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really what we need."

 

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:09 | 3461702 Mr. Hudson
Mr. Hudson's picture

I had this dream that the sheeple were all texting on their iphones while being lined up to be executed.

 

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:34 | 3461903 vulcanraven
vulcanraven's picture

And posting pictures of executions live on Instagram

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 23:44 | 3464977 Dull Care
Dull Care's picture

That's a very funny image. I could totally see the vapid, insipid masses doing just that.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:15 | 3461737 tip e. canoe
tip e. canoe's picture

it's always the slow leak that's never dealt with that will eventually rot away the most sturdy of foundations.

drip drip drip

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:17 | 3461752 RougeUnderwriter
RougeUnderwriter's picture

Gordon Gekko: Money is not the most important commodity...time is

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 15:04 | 3462579 mick_richfield
mick_richfield's picture

But ... didn't Einstein prove that Time is Money ?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:24 | 3461827 orkneylad
orkneylad's picture

So entrenched is the establishment viewpoint that no amount of evidence to the contrary seems to dent their facade of certitude.

The political machine has chosen it’s course, and no amount of contrary evidence will divert it from the ‘prize’ of de-carbonisation. To change one’s opinion is the normal act of rational people when new information is presented, yet in politics, the U-turn is seen as political suicide. The ‘program’ must be adhered to, the manifesto is sacrosanct, even if it means the collective denial of a torrent of new evidence. This seems to me a terrible malaise, this seeming triumph of ‘conviction’ over ‘pragmatism’ in today’s politics.

The immutable mind of the conviction politician has become a dangerous liability: his rigitity in the face of a changing world does not bode well for any of us.

“Pragmatism is a painfull process of continually correcting errors: ideology is a blissful path of being oblivious to them.”

So let’s hear it for pragmatism: for trusting evidence rather than theory; for looking at the specifics of the situation rather than some overarching narrative; for preferring what works to what fits our preconceptions; and for being willing to test our ideas and change direction as is necessary.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:10 | 3462184 Ludwig Van
Ludwig Van's picture

Yup. I'm of the entrenched ideological conviction that pragmatism is the way to go.

.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:26 | 3461835 reader2010
reader2010's picture

The American Empire will NEVER die. After some widespread civil wars, the remanents will move its capital east to Beijington (formerly known as Beijing) and give it a new name something like the Great East American Empire.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:28 | 3461850 Paracelsus
Paracelsus's picture

 Corzine,Dimon,everyone free but Madoff,and he wanted to be locked up for protection (waiting for a Pres. pardon??).

 Bradley Manning banged up for three years on pretrial confinement (much of that in solitary).

 I agree with a few finance bloggers who have pointed out that the Cyprus depositor confiscation is a defining moment in this mess.For the ECB to approve of "injecting risk back into the bloodstream" (bank runs) someone must be terrified of mass insolvency (Banker meet Guillotine).My question is where do the elites think they are going to run to? Fly your learjet to where exactly?

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:13 | 3462226 Billy Shears
Billy Shears's picture

ironically, truly a prison planet!

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 16:54 | 3463145 headless blogger
headless blogger's picture

They're not going to be welcome for much longer in China and other Asian places for much longer....Like they seem to think they are. South Americans are saying NO to elites, as this one man did to old man Rockefeller at a Chilean Airport:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFWzDFjBKUw

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:29 | 3461852 TrustbutVerify
TrustbutVerify's picture

Is the United States an empire?  I think not.  The "empire" that falls can be any entity that loses its way - a country, a government, a company, an individual.  Lose the requirements for success and its over.  This 'culture of success" is, too often, laughed at.  

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:29 | 3461863 exartizo
exartizo's picture

The corruption that fomented in ancient Rome because of its moral degradation brought it down.

The primary cause was moral and ethical decay.

Homosexuality and Lesbianism became rampant.

Similar to the United States today.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:51 | 3462013 SmallerGovNow2
SmallerGovNow2's picture

Spot on...

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 16:41 | 3463090 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Nothing of the sort for 'americans'.

'American' nature has not changed. The environment simply no longer support them. They have outgrown the environment on a global scale.

Lance Armstrong is no more a liar when speaking of his drugs issues than the founding fathers were when declaring freedom an inalienable human right and keeping slaves.

Both are 'americans'.

What has changed? The Founding fathers were born in a world that was conserved to be consumed by their 'american' greed.

Armstrong is born in a world put on the path of depletion of resources by 'americans'.

The Founding fathers started 'americanism'. They did not live long enough to see the consequences of it.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 19:05 | 3463858 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

AnAnonymous is in love with Lance Armstrong.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:35 | 3461881 Trajan
Trajan's picture

dude...nice but I prefer,  ;)

 

 

The limits of the Roman empire still extended from the Western Ocean to the Tigris, and from Mount Atlas to the Rhine and the Danube. To the undiscerning eye of the vulgar, Philip appeared a monarch no less powerful than Hadrian or Augustus had formerly been. The form was still the same, but the animating health and vigor were fled. The industry of the people was discouraged and exhausted by a long series of oppression. The discipline of the legions, which alone, after the extinction of every other virtue, had propped the greatness of the state, was corrupted by the ambition, or relaxed by the weakness, of the emperors. The strength of the frontiers, which had always consisted in arms rather than in fortifications, was insensibly undermined; and the fairest provinces were left exposed to the rapaciousness or ambition of the barbarians, who soon discovered the decline of the Roman empire.

 

The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire Volume 1 Chapter 7


Wed, 04/17/2013 - 13:44 | 3461975 SmallerGovNow2
SmallerGovNow2's picture

AWESOME post....

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:31 | 3462076 epwpixieq-1
epwpixieq-1's picture

Such an outstanding observation, which probably some have noticed around us, that is worth reposing it here:

" Individual contributions and institutional success are both difficult to measure in large bureaucracies, and it is tempting to define success by easily achieved metrics that reflect positively on individual contributions and the institutional management.

As the organization loses focus on its original purpose, the core purpose of the institution is given lip service but is replaced with facsimiles of managerial effectiveness, bureaucratic infighting over resources and the targeting of easily gamed metrics as substitutes for actual success."

Any big organization ( as there is no big organization without bureaucratic monstrosity ) has that, the bigger it is the more it is pronounced.

Which actually makes you admire Nature, for everything there is small and simple, elegant and lean and any inefficiency ( if such thing comes to exists ) dies in a due time to free resources for something more efficiently utilizing them.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 16:36 | 3463072 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

'Americans' have been from the start big societies.
They were State societies over stateless societies.

This 'american' author, just like so many other 'americans' can do it only when relying on a fabled past.

'American' societies have always been big administrative societies. They only grow fatter. And were fat from the start.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:00 | 3462121 Crash Overide
Crash Overide's picture

Rome is burning... again.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:08 | 3462166 Billy Shears
Billy Shears's picture

Veni, vidi, defecit.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 14:17 | 3462262 Billy Shears
Billy Shears's picture

Yes, Obama can board the airborne command and control doomsday 737 and threaten us all with annihilation if we don't agree to behave.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 15:39 | 3462765 Quantum Nucleonics
Quantum Nucleonics's picture

Well, first, the "Doomsday" aircraft are either E-6's which are 707's or E-4's which are 747-200's.

Also, Obama is a pansy.  No chance he'd pull the trigger.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 16:35 | 3463063 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

The roman empire was indeed a different one.

Not a global empire. Its downfall due to exhaustion of resources did not mean depletion of resources by all means.

The 'american' empire on the other hand is a totally different story.

'Americans' are caught in their own lies. 'Americans' have since the beginning wanted to appear for what they are not.

A force for freedom, when they expanded coercion like nobody else.
A force for justice when their system of injustice gets the psycho to salivate in anticipation.
A force for truth that even shames Jesus who claimed to be able to bamboozle anyone.

'Americans' are the core of the current situation and as such, are unable to perceive themselves as the core. It has to be someone else, something else.

The 'american' empire will live as long as the resiliency of those who endure for it can take it.

The days the Indians all over the world are gone, well, it is over for 'americans'.

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 19:36 | 3464008 Radical Marijuana
Radical Marijuana's picture

I think this is the most important aspect of the decline and fall of the Anglo-American (Zionist) empire:

"... rot at the top soon spread down the chain of command to infect and corrupt the entire institutional culture."

However, it is almost infinitely worse this time around because technologies have made us trillions of times more powerful!

That PROBLEM of technologies being trillions of times more powerful makes ANY "outright civil war, with factions of the Roman army meeting on the field of battle" almost impossible to imagine!


As the rule of law within the Anglo-American (Zionist) empire continues to be destroyed, due to too much triumphant corruption, eventually, that will result in serious breakdowns in the chain of command over the legalized violence that back up the legalized lies.

HOWEVER, just as it is impossible to come up with any coherent theory of how to fight any real war with weapons of mass destruction, it is impossible to come up with any coherent theory about how to fight a civil war or any kind of real revolution.

It is practically impossible to imagine how much more insane society is now than it was back in the times of every other empire that ever existed in human history!

The decline and fall of the current global empire appears to be inevitable, since it based on frauds, backed by force, BUT, the force can never make those frauds become true, and therefore society constantly behaves in ways more and more controlled by huge lies, which drives it more and more insane. However, there is nothing saner to replace it with which can be imagined, since the reality of weapons of mass destruction being trillions of times more powerful is the main thing that most people are able to not think about in any sane way.

Theoretically, we need radical paradigm shifts in militarism, in order to operate our murder systems' death controls in radically different ways. Those ways should be more thoroughly consistent with the sciences that made those weapons become possible. We should develop a radically different political science. However, that kind of suggestion is obviously ridiculously unrealistic.

Instead, we are rushing forwards, with exponential growth taking place in every possible INSANE way!

The Anglo-American (Zionist) empire now dominates the world through systems of electronic fiat money frauds, backed by the force of weapons of mass destruction. The decline of that system of runaway triumphant financial frauds must happen, because it is based on controlling everything with more and bigger lies, that get further and further away from any relatively objective reality, and thus, that empire automatically gets more psychotic. However, since it IS backed up by weapons of mass destruction, which makes any kind of violent civil war or revolution become insane, we are stuck inside of those systems continuing to be able to stabilize their insanities, to enable even more insane exponential growth, to head towards even worse eventual collapse into chaos.

The decline and fall of an empire based on science and technologies that have made it become trillions of times more powerful must become something which is trillions of times worse than any that ever happened previously in known human history. The ONLY theoretically possible solutions MUST be based upon a new political science, which has gone through profound paradigm changes. However, clearly, our politics continues to NOT do that, while it DOES back up more lies, with more violence, in an INSANE SPIRAL.

The first generation that has grown up with weapons of mass destruction is still alive now. We have not done anything but sleepwalk into the future, without adapting in any sane way to those new realities.

Instead, all that science and technology has been used to pump up the previously established empire to become trillions of times more INSANE!

Nothing has changed, while everything has changed. We still have the same runaway human ecology, and political economy, which are controlled by the triumphs of the deceits and bullshit social stories that were developed in the past. Almost nothing that the sciences which enabled weapons of mass destruction to be built has manifested in any significant way within our political processes. We have merely built more and bigger weapons of mass destruction, to back up the same old social pyramid systems based on legalized lies, backed by legalized violence.

I see no objective reasons to believe that we will do anything else than continue of that path, stabilizing our social insanity, on an astronomically amplified scale, until it finally collapses into chaos on the same astronomically amplified scale.

So far, there is not the slightest public sign of sufficient political paradigm shifts being made to cope with sciences making human beings trillions of times more powerful. The only things that have really happened is that has enabled us to become trillions of times more insane, since threats of insane violence ARE used to back up an increasingly insane runaway financial frauds.


Thu, 04/18/2013 - 06:50 | 3465496 WAMO556
WAMO556's picture

What you just said makes no sense. So the people of today are TRILLIONS of times more different then the people just 2000 years ago?

TRILLIONS?

Do you even know what you are saying?

ASS!!

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 19:47 | 3464048 xialala
xialala's picture

good point

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 22:20 | 3464613 smacker
smacker's picture

Coupla comments on empires...

- empires do not emerge nor do they collapse during the single life span of a human. Bearing this in mind is important because even though the British Empire essentially folded in 1948 with the independence of India, my life has largely been lived during the tail-end of that empire with the steady decline of everything that matters and rise of 'institutional corruption', as neatly set out in Charles Hugh-Smith's article. I have most certainly witnessed the latter in recent years in Britain. And there are plenty of political elites who still hold illusions about British influence around the world. In reality, we are a bankrupt nation with the elites and Establishment parasites fighting over what's left to steal, increasingly using MSM as a conduit.

- if the world of nations has to have (or needs) a global empire for guidance, I'd personally prefer it to be the American Empire (albeit not the one of the last 20 years or so). The very idea that the rising empire will be Chinese with subservient nations required to learn Mandarin, does not turn me on one jot.

Thu, 04/18/2013 - 01:10 | 3465168 FreedomGuy
FreedomGuy's picture

I suspect there is no one cause as to why great nations fail. This article is not terribly complete but it does make you think. What is most interesting is the there seems to be a general malaise and underlying feeling that America is in decline. I suspect this is historically unique to our time. I also think it portends very bad things. Even more interesing is that while so many feel we are decline there is no real change in anything for the better.

My feeling is the as the State grows it promises more and people sort of surrender to it. Collectivism is at the end of the day the worship of the State. All the characteristics of a beneificent god become attributed to the State. It promises sustenance and protection from all evil as long as you obey it.

it is no accident that Roman Emperors, Japanese Emperors, Pharaoh's and Communist leaders make themselves into gods. This is not coincidence. Even the old Christian kings of Europe professed at least the favor of God.

I leave this open ended but I do know this for sure. In the West we will degenerate into ripping each other apart trying to get favors and whatever is left of the State goodies. Newer stronger nations, peoples and ideologies will rise...with luck out of the ashes of the old.

Thu, 04/18/2013 - 03:09 | 3465311 cape_royds
cape_royds's picture

The problem is not that empires fall. Of course they fall--that's what empires do.

The problem is that it takes so long, and that an entire civilization sometimes gets lost in the process.

Consider that Caligula and Nero came EARLY in the history of the Roman Empire. Nero was ousted, and the Empire had a long bloody cycle of civil wars. Unfortunately, the Roman Empire dragged on for *four centuries* after Nero, and had innumerable civil wars during that time.

Roman armies sacked more Roman towns than all the "barbarians" put together. Roman arenas put more Roman subjects to death than all the "barbarians" put together. The Roman Empire was an engine of death, and as time went on, the empire depopulated itself as its inhabitants even despaired of their own reproductive instinct.

Characteristically, when the Romans encountered one of the most humane and insightful philosophers of the ancient Mediterranean world--Jesus of Nazareth, they put him to death in a grisly fashion. That was a typical Roman response to a new idea. Still more typically Roman was to shift the responsibility for the execution on their provincial subjects. Destroy and Deny--the imperial SOP.

Almost everything that was a problem with the late Roman Empire was also a problem with the early Roman Empire. The problems were always there, and the problems were always the same.

The problems were indeed fatal, nevertheless you could lose a lot of money trying to short the Empire!

"Christianity and Barbarism," to use Gibbon's formula, might be considered the only two good things that ever happened to the Roman Empire. On the basis of Christianity and Barbarism, there gradually arose a new civilization in Europe, with new languages, new art, new religion, and a different economy and social structure.

Arnold Toynbee argued that empires only arise as an effort to freeze-dry a troubled civilization--to force things to remain in an unsustainable pattern for as long as possible. In other words, empires are a symptom of a systemic failure afflicting an entire civilization.

An empire can never solve the major problems facing a civilization, since an empire is established to sustain the problems in place by externalizing the costs for as long as possible.

Empires must kick ass, in order to keep kicking the can..until they finally kick the bucket. But as I said, it takes so damn long to happen, and much else of value gets lost during that time.

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