How A Country Dies

Tyler Durden's picture

Orighinally posted at Economic Noise blog,

A country dies slowly.

Those living during the decline of Rome were likely unaware that anything was happening. The decline took over a couple of hundred years. Anyone living during the decline only saw a small part of what was happening and likely never noticed it as anything other than ordinary.

Countries don’t have genetically determined life spans. Nor do they die quickly, unless the cataclysm of some great war does them in. Even in such extreme cases, there are usually warning signs, which are more obvious in hindsight than at the time.

Few citizens of a dying nation recognize the signs. Most are too busy trying to live their lives, sometimes not an easy task.  If death occupies their mind, it is with respect to themselves, a relative or a friend. Most cannot conceive of the death of a nation.

A Country Dies Slowly First

For those interested, signs or symptoms precede death for a country often as they do for a person. There is a pattern that involves the following:

1. The Economy

Economically, people become poorer. It becomes harder to feed a family. Economic growth stalls and then reverses. Work opportunities decline. Disincentives to work rise as government tries to ease the burden on the unemployed and lower skilled. These efforts require more revenues which means higher taxes or debt financing. Disincentives to create jobs are magnified by attempts to address the problem. Higher taxes and other burdens are imposed on the productive making work less attractive.

The response should not be surprising. Capital flees first. It goes to areas where adequate returns are still available. Jobs are created but not in the host country. Finally a “brain drain” begins. Talented people leave the country for places that offer greater opportunity. In the case of the US, to escape US taxes these people must renounce their citizenship. Citizenship renouncements are currently at the highest levels in the history.

The flight of capital, both real and human, further  lowers standards of living. Signs of stagnation become more apparent. They may begin as seemingly benign as roads which have too many potholes. “For rent” signs are seen more frequently. Classified job ads  decrease. “Going out of Business” sales are no longer marketing gimmicks.

Initially, people dig into their savings or begin to borrow in order to retain their standard of living. Most believe it is a temporary situation. Eventually bankruptcies increase. Strip or full malls close. Large areas like Detroit become close to uninhabitable.

These conditions characterize the beginnings of the decline. As the decline continues, things get much worse.

2. The State

The State is threatened by a decline. Generally it moves into full pretend mode. Three behavioral traits characterize its behavior. The State must convince citizens:

  1. things are not as bad as they seem.
  2. the State is not responsible for the situation.
  3.  the State must do more (grow bigger) in order to solve the problems.

Statistics issued by the State are fudged to convey a false image of well-being. Government spending soars in an effort to juice reported economic activity. Much of the spending is unproductive in terms of providing things that would have otherwise been bought. It is also counterproductive to a proper functioning economy as price discovery is disrupted and consumer and investment decisions are based on false signals.

Incentives are  provided to encourage people to live beyond their means.  Debt appears nearly free and readily available. Bubbles occur and then burst. New bubbles are necessary to replace old bubbles. People and businesses are encouraged to make imprudent decisions, all in the attempt to make the economy appear better.

The State has one objective and that is to remain in power. Laws and regulations  multiply at ever faster rates. Tyrannical rules and legislation are passed under the pretense of protecting the people against some threat. In reality, these laws are passed to protect the leaders against the public when they finally understand what has been done to them.

“Bread and circuses” increase to divert peoples attention from the developing problems. Dependency increases reflecting an attempt to placate the masses. A “wag the dog” war or crisis is often used as a means to rally the public against some phony enemy.

3. Society

Society becomes coarsens as this process progresses. People increasingly are unable to provide properly for their families. Some desperately turn to unethical behavior, even criminal acts.   Common decency declines.

The regulations imposed from above reduce the sphere of voluntary interactions between people. The government decides more and more what you must do, when and how you must do it. What you can say comes under attack. Finally how you must live is increasingly determined.

Free markets are slowly replaced by a command and control ordering of society. Coercion displaces freedom as the coordinating force for society. People increasingly do what they must rather than what they want.

Interest groups, i.e. politically preferred constituents, created in good times don’t demand less when there is less available. The inability to meet their demands creates political strife and eventually civil problems. Honoring their demands divides society even more. Not honoring demands may produce rioting and civil unrest.

Societybecomes increasingly divided in terms of the “makers” and the “takers.”  As the takers grow in numbers, the makers shrink in numbers. Soon the parasites overwhelm the productive. Society collapses at that point.

Are The People Aware?

The United States, the once beacon of freedom and wealth, shows advanced deterioration  in all three areas above. The rate of deterioration is accelerating. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway’s response to a bankruptcy question:

How did your country die? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.

Do people understand what is happening to them and their country? I suspect they are not aware of the full consequences. Most people are not trained to think in these terms, nor should they be. For most of us, it is a chore to get through each day. That is true of the dullards and the brilliant, for most of us end up at levels that tax our abilities.

People sense there is something wrong even though they may be unable to identify what that something might be. Many probably believe that whatever is happening is temporary, sort of like an economic slowdown that reverts back to normal. For them, it is tighten the belt until the good times return.

The results from a recent Gallup poll are interesting and illustrate the increasing dissatisfaction:


Numerous observations could be made regarding many of these institutions. All have decreased in favorability. Gallup was definitive in this regard:

The current 7% of Americans who place confidence in Congress is the lowest of the 17 institutions Gallup measured this year, and is the lowest Gallup has ever found for any of these institutions. The dearth of public confidence in their elected leaders on Capitol Hill is yet another sign of the challenges that could face incumbents in 2014′s midterm elections — as well as more broadly a challenge to the broad underpinnings of the nation’s representative democratic system.

The  poll is not a direct measure of the health of the nation. However, it provides a very negative composite of public satisfaction.  People know they are unhappy even if they don’t know the cause of their unhappiness.

This confusion and distrust always  precedes the death of a nation.

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Flakmeister's picture

The US has a ways to go....

The UK is the frontunner, at least Italy can feed itself...

magnetosphere's picture

japan will give the brits a run for their money

max2205's picture

You are only alive as an adult for about 30 years (30-60) then old age hits

A limited time to effect events as most of your time is spent trying to stay afloat or get ahead.


A blink of an eye in grandest terms.

COSMOS's picture

I dont know about dying slowly.  The federal govt has sure bought a lot of ammo to make sure lots of people die quickly when the time comes.

jbvtme's picture

we are going from post industrial to trans human in a flash. no thought, no planning, no theorizing or contemplation. two hundred years ago we lived. today we survive (thanks chief joseph). this is not the usa's problem. it's happening planet wide.

jbvtme's picture

btw...during what period was this country ever great? indian genocide, slavery, exploitation of immigrants and factory workers, trashing the environment, wars, wars, wars, assassinations, political intrigue, debauched media, brainwashing in schools, fake moon landings, pedophelia, socialism, darwinism...there is barely a spiritual bone in the body of this wretched country ruled by reptilian reprobates spawned from the bottom of the gene pool who have floated like excrement to the top of the food chain. we have trashed this planet. i pray the mother ship shows us no mercy!

Flakmeister's picture


There is a lot of blood on damn well near everyones hands...

whotookmyalias's picture

A country dies by allowing greed to create a fiat currency and its citizens becoming self absorbed.  Cliff notes version.

Flakmeister's picture

You got it half right, sortof...

No one was going to tell the American people that they couldn't have their oil.....

Monty Burns's picture

This article purports to discern trends that cause/indicate a country's impending death and then applies them to the USSA.  But it's not convincing.  Seems to me that he takes what he sees what's happening to America and then retrofits this into a general theory of national death.  There's no evidence from other countries which allegedly went through this transition.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

People increasingly do what they must rather than what they want.

Sorry to break it to you, but this has always been the case for the poor and lower classes.

MeMadMax's picture

@ Monty Burns.

Yes we do.


TerminalDebt's picture

We need to find those 35 govmint workers that have confidence in Congress and take away their government money.

whotookmyalias's picture

The average American doesn't give a shit who runs the country, who lines whose pockets, and what the real economic outlook is.  They will bitch, but they won't do anything about it other than convince themselves voting for a slightly different colored wolf makes a difference.

Dutch's picture

A country dies when the ability to forcibly take things from one person, and give them to another, is effected by force by the "authorities", and people are brainwashed into thinking that it is normal and just. The "takers" get aggressive and the "makers" skip out.

RECISION's picture

States, Nations and Societies fall when there isn’t anyone left who is interested in fighting for them any more.     (link to: Recision)


Some people are productive.

Those who are not, will prey on them…

In one way or another.

Anusocracy's picture

Because for millions of years survival benefited from having enough functioning warm bodies. It didn't matter if they were killers and thieves - as long as they were good at killing, or stealing from, members of a neighboring tribe.

Now, with 7+ billion people and the tribes all jumbled together, most decent people can't overcome that totally unnecessary survival adaptation and exclude all the savages from society.

conscious being's picture

When I was a kid growing up in the USA (We did not call it the Homeland back then) war movies and shows were on all the time.

Taking at gun point, as long as the taking happened outside the big px, outside the Homeland, was advertised as a noble profession.

Omegaman2211's picture

You do not get to refer to anyone else here as a troll.

teslaberry's picture

and this is the great question of ethics. 


no HOUSE , let alone GREAT HOUSE, let alone moreso CITYSTATE, let alone moreson EMPIRE was built without some form of agressive violence, at the very least as a miscalculation of the necessary amount of force to use to keep other agressors at bay, by projecting an image of strength by shanking another city or nation state to look tough, or to teach them  a lesson. 


the larger the empire the more violence, almost by necessity. 


so no empire can ever be considered an ethical entity. and yet somehow----the idea of stopping world war through global government remains an appealing fantasy about mankind taking the necessary steps to end fighting. 


it seems that the more we try to stop fighting , the more we fight, no?

but if accepting war is unethical, and the pursuit of peace is an unthethical lie making the outcomes of war even more violent, than is 'peace' in itself a paradox?

the paradox of peace. we had to burn the village down to save it.

there is no such thing as peace, there are men with ideas of utopianized systems of order seeking to have their vision imposed upon many people, and of course, all of these utopias are apparently devoid of violence. that does not make them peaceful utopias.

brave new blablabla.....

Anusocracy's picture

Government is the symptom, the people who enable government are the disease.

The problem is that they can't understand that.

Weisshaupt's picture

" "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!""-Upton Sinclair. 

They want thier citizen snacks.  They don't care who is held at govt gunpoint to provide them ( and it could never be them, could it?)

cpnscarlet's picture

A Vapid statement to say the least.

For your standard, nobaody and no country was ever great. And on the scale of perfection, you're right (there's a theological statement there). But if you DO expect perfection when humans are involved, you will be a bit dissapointed, then greatly dissapointed. Think about that when the shoe is on the other foot and some being (and He won't be on some mothership) will be judging your lack of greatness.

And if you really think the moon landings were fake, you're depriving yourself of an opportunity to be proud of one of the greatest things mankind ever did. I pity you in your cycnical ignorance of a true endeavour with a great success.

jbvtme's picture

the moon landings were filmed in stanley kubrick's studio. you're a bit behind the times, fratboy

RevRex's picture

One of the "DREAMS" FROM MY FATHER" that Obama often thinks about is how to kill off America as quickly as possible.

Flakmeister's picture

Have you heard the term Hedgetard?

People that post shit like you just did are known as Hedgetards...

SilverCoinLover's picture

Hedgetards! Love it! I feel much better now.

jbvtme's picture

you're in a battle of wits unarmed, goatboy. indian genocide, slavery, political assassinations, exploitation of workers...ease my misguided mind.  what has this country done that would define it as being great? (gotta go out for a couple.  take your time). why didn't russia go to the moon? or anyone else for that matter?

Flakmeister's picture

Because they couldn't....

Now run along Hedgetard....

BLOTTO's picture

I think its because the Russians commodore64 computer wasnt working as well as the US...

Flakmeister's picture

Wasn't that the Commissar64?

Weisshaupt's picture

So go on and give us an example of a "Great Nation" -
I understand that criticizing others lets you feel some personal sense of moral Superiority, and that is the reason you do it. But your inflated ego aside, what would you laud as an example of a "Great Nation"?

If no Nation is great, America is hardly exception in this regard, correct? Of course, you are probably the sort that thinks "if only I were in charge, I would bully, persecute and slaughter them into being Great" - because the self-righteous totalitarian despot is the hallmark of the left.

conscious being's picture

Flakmeister - I checked the link and I'm shocked to say I agree with you.

Yes the moon landings were fake.  Many holes in the story, but the link is a disinformatin hit piece that starts out takking about 1943 Nazi flying saucers!?!  Didn't we bomb the bridges at Toko Ri with a couple of those?

Do us all a favor Flak and stop yourself from taking the ad homonim approach.  Do it for the Hedge, Flak.  You'll be doing your part to improve the Hedge experience.

Flakmeister's picture

It's called acccountability in a "public" forum, one reason why this country is fucked is when people say bat shit crazy things that are hardly called ever out for it...

In case you haven't noticed, I restrict using the term to matters of science denialism and the like. There are still plenty of whackadoo sites where they can discuss can faked moon landing, creationism, AGW denialism, Tesla free energy, abiotic oil and bask in the resulting echo.... 

Not here though...

Ghordius's picture

Flakmeister... thanks for that


                      "Everybody ought to be entitled to his own opinion. But not to his own facts"

detached.amusement's picture

As usual, get on to your agw jackoff fantasy hoping el nino will save some face for the models and everyone just tunes you right the fug out.  I'd like to get you to just say you will eat your hat (you dont have to include the metal and plastic) when the sham's finally done and there's nothing not even hot air or bad model assertions for them to stand on and they finally admit there was no real justification for the AGW crusade in the first place.  (I'm all for cleaning up actual pollutants, mind you.) 

You can upload it to youtube and post it here on ZH for everyone's entertainment.  Condiments optional.


Flakmeister's picture

May 2014....

Hottest May on record....

I'll order some crow for you, if you like...

Crazy Or Not's picture

I LOVE "Hedgetard" - one for Urban Dictionary perhaps? Certainly added to my vanacular.

This article and the ISIS execution of the hangman of CIA (gone rouge)  Mid East henchman.... reflects perhaps a new hotting up to the next phase of the game.

For the Buckling of Europe we may have to wait til the first frosts of winter and us Europhiles start to choke on our Gaz(prom) bill.....which after being rinsed though the "blame game" machine will coral the mainstreamers ever onwards to battle with Ronald's massing "evil empire".

Notice the current use of the "military advisor" box.
Siezure of IT gear from RT by Israel.
We are going Dark.
I will say no more for now.

SilverCoinLover's picture



You'll probably reply saying you're not a flat earther...I don't care, you still believe what they believe regarding the Apollo program. Guilt by association rules.



conscious being's picture

Put up or shut up.  See comment to Flakmeister above re. Ad homonim attacks are useless.  Like yelling fighting words in an echo chamber.

Now, did you know that the lunar lander cockpit was framed in ... mylar ... plastic sheets!?!  Lack of dust on lander, landing pads in photos, no real protection from solar radiation for humans or the rolls of film.  Which is the real reason nobody is going "back".  Nobody's going to Mars either for the same reason.

conscious being's picture

BTW mr screaming all in caps above - did you know that NASA SOMEHOW LOST ALL, YES ALL THE ORIGINAL, ANALOG APPOLLO MOON TAPES??

Did you know that?

Look it up.  Its true.

They're in a box some where ... with LOIS LERNER'S HARD DRIVE.

TheReplacement's picture

And all of the astronauts, ground crews, mission control crews, and management kept quiet until they died. 

Real Estate Geek's picture

. . . and the Soviets.  Riiiight.

conscious being's picture

"kept quiet until they died. 

Interesting that in a post-Snowden world, you still want to use that argument.

How many kept quiet about pervasive NSA spying on the American people in breach of the 4th, for decades ... until they died?

How many actually knew what was going on?

As far as those that did know, like the Appollo astronauts, where is Neil?



RafterManFMJ's picture

One thing I dearly love about all the original video and audio "Moon Landings" video.

NASA claims they lost them.

"We put them by the toaster oven, then when we went to get them, damn, they was gone!"

I actually find it funny at this point all the ridiculous bullshit we get fire-hose fed. I find it funnier that the average rube doesn't even have the framework to sift the runny .gov shit for the occasional kidney stone of truth.

Nor do they care.

Dick Buttkiss's picture

OK, let's move on to something that was both real and staged:

BLOTTO's picture

How does one believe anything spewed by the illuminati controlled mainstream media after 9/11?

Not only did 9/11 put series doubts on anything significant 'they' tell us presently - it puts past events even more in the spot light about the true nature of them when the stories were already flawed in some way in the first place.


How do you not believe the official 9/11 story by the government, but believe their version of the moon landing, Titanic, ww1, etc...?

cpnscarlet's picture

Now it's Kubrick? Oh, that is rich! Some people will believe anything - whether it's government propaganda or trailer-park conspiracy theories.

So how did the retro-reflectors get on the moon?

LRO just radio backed some data. The message is "You're an A-hole".