It's What's Happening Beneath The Surface That Matters: Moral Decay And Rising Inequality

Tyler Durden's picture

Via Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

These disintegrative forces are easy to see but elusive to pin down. Nobody defines themselves as self-serving, greedy and lacking in virtue. Everyone feels trapped in the system.

With the media's hyperactive three-ring circus blasting 24/7, it's easy to forget that everything consequential is happening beneath the surface, out of sight and largely out of mind.

What's going on beneath the surface is structural and systemic--for example, the 4th Industrial Revolution that is transforming the global economy and social order, regardless of political ideologies or our wishes.

Centralization--the "solution" to every problem since 1940--is now the problem. Centralization generates corruption, privilege, rentier skims, institutionalized rackets and pushes one-size-fits all failure down the chain of command.

Fragmentation and the De-Optimization of Centralization (January 2, 2017)

Another "solution"--issuing more costly credentials--has also failed. An over-abundance of credentials pushes wages down, even for the highly educated, while the credential mill of higher education has become a bloated, ineffective cartel that charges outrageous fees for increasingly valueless credentials.

The structural changes in the economy are visible in these charts:

The civilian participation rate is plummeting, despite the "recovery:"

The civilian participation rate for men is in a multi-decade decline:

As a percentage of GDP, wages have been declining for decades.

The rich have managed to gain wealth and income while the bottom 95% have gotten poorer as the cost of living soars and their wages stagnate.

There is more going on here than changes wrought by technology. Consider how many analysts identify central banks as a key cause of rising inequality and debt burdens. Consider how many people identify "money in politics" as a key factor in the corruption of governance. Consider how many people view "big government" as the force eroding civil liberties and imposing financial repression on all but the super-wealthy who influence Big Government with campaign contributions, lobbying, sweetheart contracts, revolving doors between government jobs and lucrative corporate positions, etc.

All of these institutions were present in the "golden era" of the 1950s and 60s. The Federal Reserve and Big Government were dominant forces, and money was the mother's milk of politics. Large corporations flourished and heavily influenced government policies.

So what's changed? Why are our systems of governance and finance now so dominated by the super-wealthy and corporations? Why are they so corrupted and ineffective?

Beneath the surface, the moral dynamics of the social order and the economic mode of production have corroded, generating systemic moral decay and soaring inequality. An awareness of the common good has been completely eclipsed by a single-minded, obsessive devotion to maximizing personal gain by whatever means are available.

Those benefiting from obsolete ideas and systems cling to them obstinately to maintain their slice of the pie, dooming the entire social/ economic /political order to stagnation and collapse.

With the loss of an awareness of the common good, there is no stomach for sacrifice of any kind--we wuz promised and I'm a deserving victim are the cultural norms.

Moral decay at the top quickly infects the entire social-order pyramid. Once injustice is institutionalized in unearned privileges, rentier skims and scams, systemic fraud, state-enforced rackets, a some-are-more-equal-than-others judicial system and a drug-war Gulag for the disenfranchized, the systemic injustices corrupt not just every institution but the culture that is internalized by every participant.

I covered these dynamics in my short book Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege, and historian Peter Turchin has illuminated historic cycles and examples in his book War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires, which describes how civic virtue is gradually replaced by personal greed and self-interest.

This excerpt perfectly captures the current zeitgeist:

"Virtus included the ability to distinguish between good and evil and to act in ways that promoted good, and especially the common good. Unlike Greeks, Romans did not stress individual prowess, as exhibited by Homeric heroes or Olympic champions. The ideal of hero was one whose courage, wisdom, and self-sacrifice saved his country in time of peril.

Unlike the selfish elites of the later periods, the aristocracy of the early Republic did not spare its blood or treasure in the service of the common interest. When 50,000 Romans, a staggering one fifth of Rome’s total manpower, perished in the battle of Cannae, as mentioned previously, the senate lost almost one third of its membership. This suggests that the senatorial aristocracy was more likely to be killed in wars than the average citizen....

The wealthy classes were also the first to volunteer extra taxes when they were needed… A graduated scale was used in which the senators paid the most, followed by the knights, and then other citizens. In addition, officers and centurions (but not common soldiers!) served without pay, saving the state 20 percent of the legion’s payroll....

The richest 1 percent of the Romans during the early Republic was only 10 to 20 times as wealthy as an average Roman citizen."

Turchin's latest book, Ages of Discord, describes the cyclical nature of disintegrative and integrative eras. (Needless to say, we're in a disintegrative phase.)

These long cycles parallel the cyclical analysis of David Hackett Fischer, whose masterwork The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History I've referenced many times over the years, most recently in We've Entered an Era of Rising Instability and Uncertainty (July 18, 2016).

Corralling the Fed, staunching the flow of money into politics and limiting the predations of Big Government on civil liberties and economic freedoms would be welcome reforms, but they won't be enough. The moral rot has hollowed out not just these institutions of governance and power, but the entire social order and the mode of production.

These disintegrative forces are easy to see but elusive to pin down. Nobody defines themselves as self-serving, greedy and lacking in virtue. Everyone feels trapped in the system as it is, a swirling funhouse of smoke and mirrors in which everyone seeks to maximize their private gain at the expense of others or the system itself, all the while signaling their virtue with cheap, substance-free speech acts.

This precisely mirrors what the Romans were proclaiming as their empire crumbled around them. You can't rebuild a moral center with more regulations and legislation, or by trying to silence critics. Proliferating regulations and attempts to silence critics are simply proof that the disintegration is accelerating down the slide to disorder and collapse.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Tallest Skil's picture

Inequality is the natural state of being. Hang all communists from lampposts.

End the fucking Fed and all of the GENUINE economic problems we face go away instantly.

hedgeless_horseman's picture


Moral decay at the top quickly infects the entire social-order pyramid. 

I don't mean to sound sexist, but...


When I think about Amy and Cathy, I cannot help but feel that this is the beginning of a trend caused, at least in part, by the fact that women now have a much higher labor force participation rate than men, meaning more stress, and a lower quality of life, especially in a recession.

Paper Boy's picture
Paper Boy (not verified) hedgeless_horseman Mar 6, 2017 2:05 PM

Satoshi can improve your morale. Try buying something that goes up in value for a change, you will like it...

JRobby's picture

"Bankster Mentality" has created a large new wave of scamsters and morally bankrupt "commerce"

7thGenMO's picture

Agree, and it is worthwhile to observe that the Bankster scams of debasing the silver currency (I think silver content of quarters was removed in the 60's) and defaulting on the gold standard in the 70's can be correlated with the charts in this article.  Debasing the currency also debases morality.  Debasing morality erodes the general well-being because a prosperous society is built on trust.

edifice's picture

1964 was the last year that the coins had silver. 1981 (reliably) for copper pennies. Denver Mint produced copper pennies into 1982.

HardAssets's picture

The banksters and their un-Constitutional fiat 'money' scam have stolen 98% of the purchasing power of the US dollar.

Is it any surprise that the people would feel pressured and desperate?

Time for bankster 'debt' Jubilee followed by locking up a lot of them & throwing away the keys.

DaveA's picture

The old solution to inequality was to have price control and rationing for women, and free markets for everything else. That didn't make men equal, but it ensured that the majority of men could afford to marry a young woman and have children. Poverty doesn't feel so bad when you have pussy.

Now that women have been emancipated, non-elite men are supposed to stay in the workforce so they can pay taxes to provide make-work jobs for "strong, independent" women, and eventually marry those sluts when their looks fade and they suddenly want a husband with a steady job.

Angry White Guy's picture

No thanks, man, not I.  No freaking way I'm marrying some used and abused hag looking for a meal ticket for her three kids by three different men.

It's gotten to the point for me 99% of women are totally WORTHLESS.  Someone please fill me in on what sort of value I'd get by marrying an American woman.

I already do everything myself out of necessity.  Cook, clean, work, exercise, all on my own.  Only utility left is sex, and believe me, most of them can't even get that right.

Increasingly, society is offering exactly zero logical reasons to participate in society.  

All I can say is history is littered with the ashes of societies that had large swaths of men with little hope of work (or keeping the fruits of such), women, or family life.

Personally I feel most days I'm living a fuking nightmere as a man.  Just not much to look forward to anymore, well, other than the collapse.

DaveA's picture

The classic work on the subject:

I'd suggest finding a young virgin white woman in Eastern Europe to wife up. Non-white women are easier, if you want all your descendants to be racial mystery meat like Elliot Rodger.

The original difference between North America and Latin America is that the English married English women while the Spanish and Portuguese married native women.

prime american's picture
prime american (not verified) DaveA Mar 6, 2017 5:07 PM

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

Angry White Guy's picture

Some rather brutal truth in there.  Sad but true.

Also, no mystery meat for me, either.  Would ruin a long line of pure blood.

Angry White Guy's picture

I wonder who the Omega-Beta asshat down voter is.

TeethVillage88s's picture

Article is narrow, doesn't cover all possibilities.

"Moral decay at the top quickly infects the entire social-order pyramid."

I was just looking for a place to post that we don't really treat each other very well. There are values missing. Humanism. Charity. Respect for people being people. Self Respect as you are pointing out.

- Systemically we value work and earnings more than people
- Little value for amateur work, self learning, self invention, sabbaticals from work, travel to see the world, personal research

- Would my doctors or law enforcement or community leaders respect any work we do to learn about central banking, economics, BLS data, Census data, FRED Charts, job trends, corruption of our nation, globalism, lobbying by foreigners?

kareninca's picture

Women don't have a higher labor force participation rate than men!!!  You are misreading the chart.  Look at it again.

 There are two separate scales; one for men and one for women.  Men have a labor participation rate of about 69 percent (their scale is on the LEFT SIDE and is in BLUE).  Women have a labor force particpation rate of about 57 percent (their scale is on the RIGHT side and is in GREEN).

It is true that it is a stupidly designed chart.

It is also true that men have dropped out at a much faster rate than women, but that is very different from claiming that their participation rate is lower!!!  Good grief.


A. Boaty's picture

I used to live near some real communists. They talked constantly about dialectical materialism, economic determinism, worker control of factories, the confilct between the proletariat and the bourgeoise as a political struggle, a proletariat revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the gradual withering away of the state.

Somehow, I must have missed that kind of rhetoric from today's political class.

DaveA's picture

In every honest election, the working proletariat chose patriotic national socialism over international Bolshevik Jew socialism. The communists never forgave them for this, and now seek to destroy the proletariat with feminism, sexual perversion, and mass immigration.

A. Boaty's picture

In other words, they distract people with social issues while the banksters steal all they can? Commies working with banksters? Does that make sense?

Do you mean to imply that only Nazis can win an honest election?

Angry White Guy's picture

They were the last nation-state to even attempt at the collective level to fight back against Commies and Shyster globalist banksters.  We are all well versed in how the world payed them back for that effort.

DaveA's picture

No, but if allowed to run, Nazis always get more votes than Communists. If I wanted socialism, I'd want people of my nationality, not a bunch of (((rootless cosmopolitans))), in charge of it.

animalogic's picture

COMMUNISTS ? WHAT communists ? If you want to hang someone hang the FED & all the evil dreck from the FIRE sector...or are they communists ? Hard to know when you use such terms so loosly....

Sudden Debt's picture

There are more porn sites on the internet then there are grains of sand on all the beaches of the world.

And a movie isn't a movie if somebody doens't get killed.


moral decay? I wonder how kids see the world today because it's totally different as how I saw it in the 90's.

FreeShitter's picture

RIP Billy Paxton "Game over man, game over" That sums up our situtation.

BigFatUglyBubble's picture

I wonder how kids see the world today because it's totally different as how I saw it in the 90's.

Hopefully the next generation becomes repulsed by the fakeness and over-indulgence of our modern society.  They will want real things, real relationships (not facebook relationships), real money, real food.  Youth often rebels, so I think it's likely.  Also, a universal constant is that all things revolve in cycles.  I have optimism, but I think things might have to get worse before they get better. 

FreeShitter's picture

hence my above comment ! This era is toast. Your Bible reference is spot on.

PresidentCamacho's picture

It's already happening to the horror of our dual citizen technocrats at google, facebook, and tel aviv.



This time when the people realize whats going on the Punishment to the groups responsible will be global.
Some groups never learn from their mistakes and that is why they always end up getting the stick in the ass from every country they ever enter.

Angry White Guy's picture

I'm 37 and the two things I yearn for are real relationships (umm, cough, real women) and real money.  I've been that way for almost 10 years now and NO, it's not improving at all.

edifice's picture

Truth. I turn 37 next month.

Dead Indiana Sky's picture

From my observation life imitates art, not the other way around.  Question is, how much further down the morality hole can we go from here?

Vilfredo Pareto's picture

90's?  Lol.


Try the 70's.


A single income could support a family.  Most kids grew up in two parent homes.  First graders walked to school.  The county jail had 6 cells I believe.   Population about 16,000.   Now the population is about 50,000 and they are busting at the seams with the county lock up officially at 200 beds.

BigFatUglyBubble's picture

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Pollygotacracker's picture

The Apostle Paul was spot on. We may be in the last of the last days. The level of greed in our society is unprecedented. 

Soul Glow's picture

Just got back from my coin shop, where they were sold out of silver dimes.  I had to go to a different coin shop to get some.  Keep buying them dimes!

March of DImes

tion's picture

Something about Mercury Dimes makes my heart sing <3 So pls don't buy them all, leave a few behind for me! My dealer probably dislikes that I will actually sit there picking out the ones with the higher relief.

jus_lite_reading's picture

Another excellent followup article to last week's powerful essay by Charles. Bravo for writing this but unfortunately, besides the few thousand people that read ZH and whatever get passed on, the majority of the sheep are asleep as the battle for the heart and soul of this Republic roars. The globalists have taken control of the media and entertainment industry and that is all part of their plan. However, what they fail to realize is that ultimately it all collapses due the inherently unsustainable nature of their communist/Marxist plan.

When one studies history going back thousands of years, there is always a common denominator that can be found which causes or acts as the catalyst for the fall of the empire (or nation or dynasty or rulership) and that is decadence and extreme wealth inequality. As much as I support Trump, I certainly do not think he will be able to stop the inevitable, only postpone it and perhaps set the final precedence that will set the tone forever -- all communists much die. That is the moral of this last story. 

Bryan's picture

My contention is that moral decay is THE root cause of most of the divisive issues currently killing modern society.  Unfortunately, like the proverbial frog being boiled, our culture just has no idea at all that any of this is happening; mostly because our collective historical memory is only about a year or two.  "We're better off than we were last year, so things must be better!"

Angry White Guy's picture

Who the FUK is better off than last year other than the Obama clan?

Silver Savior's picture

Moral decay is right. Damn people are such assholes these days. Inequality, sure. Everything is just getting worse. I guess the only thing to do is try to out prep each other.

Vilfredo Pareto's picture

Good idea.


Some peeps get to be masters in the new dark ages until the new Renaissance, and some will be serfs.    It may depend on planning lol.

Anonymous IX's picture

C'est vrai, mon ami.

In.Sip.ient's picture

"The moral rot has hollowed out not just ...

but the entire social order and

the mode of production."


Personally, I don't bother to judge other

peoples morals, such as they may be,

that would be GOD's call.


But you screw with production, and

its definitely game over!



Neoliberalism is defunct, but the ruling Oligopoly thinks it can maintain it as is and still profit. As soon as one part of the Pozi collapses the remainder will follow suit, and then the Oligopolists will want Thermonuclear Hot World War Three so that they can re-boot Casino Crony Narco Ponzi Capitalism whether we like it or not. This necessitates a complete overthrow of the Oligopoly so that the system wide reset will be for majority benefit and not that of a mere few people.

Vilfredo Pareto's picture

I wonder if most people who criticise neoliberalism can actually distinguish it from crony capitalism.  We are certainly not a neoliberal market oriented economy.


We switched from a consumer based economy to a Market based economy. Markets are dead unless they are Neoliberal Markets like Education, Medicine, Government, Corporatist.

Iconoclast421's picture

Newsflash: It isnt "beneath the surface".

Vilfredo Pareto's picture

If you look at all young republics throughout history there was a sense of shared responsibility and leadership from the front.  Venice was also a classic example.


Eventually they mature and ossify and class divisions become prominent.  And there is no longer a shared sense of responsibility and purpose.  We are probably on the downhill side or the cycle but I bet we still do ok for a few hundred more years.

beijing expat's picture

This is what happens when the degenerate Oligarchy teams up with the degenerate left.

animalogic's picture

" Beneath the surface, the moral dynamics of the social order and the economic mode of production have corroded, generating systemic moral decay and soaring inequality."

This is correct.

"With the loss of an awareness of the common good, there is no stomach for sacrifice of any kind--we wuz promised and I'm a deserving victim are the cultural norms." 

This is also correct, but -- there are still many people left who will make a sacrifice for their country IF they believe the cause is legitimate.

"Nobody defines themselves as self-serving, greedy and lacking in virtue. Everyone feels trapped in the system as it is, a swirling funhouse of smoke and mirrors in which everyone seeks to maximize their private gain at the expense of others or the system itself, all the while signaling their virtue with cheap, substance-free speech acts."

Not correct.

Privately, (& not so privately) Elites knew, have always known what they were doing. They PLANNED this economy & culture. Neoliberalism, supply side economics etc etc were cynically used from the early 70's to expropriate wealth, to SKIM ever greater slices from any productive surplus from the 99%. The Elites KNEW.

The great irony is our elites babble about free-markets incessantly, but "free markets" originally meant, to Adam Smith & many classical economists, an economy FREE from RENTIERS (ie the financial oligarchs who rule this world now).


Sledge-hammer's picture
Sledge-hammer (not verified) Mar 6, 2017 11:54 PM

Two words.  Da joos.