How Empires End...

How Empires End...

Postby Billy » Tue Sep 09, 2014 3:48 pm

Good article over at Doug Casey's International Man, written by a guy named Jeff Thomas. Called "How Empires End". ... mpires-end

The short version is: Pretty much no matter which civilization we're talking about or which period in history, all Empires fall the same way, following the same steps. It is the exception where an Empire is taken down from outside - conquered by a bigger, stronger adversary. They usually collapse on their own. Or grow so weak, a stiff wind will knock 'em over...

We're no different, nor are we immune from this process simply because we're Americans (yes, I know others read this who are not Americans, but they're not immune either. And with all the central banks tied to one another, if one goes down, all of us go down...)

I hope Mr. Casey and Mr. Thomas don't mind if I quote them here...

1. The reach of government leaders habitually exceeds their grasp.

2. Dramatic expansion (generally through warfare) is undertaken without a clear plan as to how that expansion is to be financed.

3. The population is overtaxed as the bills for expansion become due, without consideration as to whether the population can afford increased taxation.

4. Heavy taxation causes investment by the private sector to diminish, and the economy begins to decline.

5. Costs of goods rise, without wages keeping pace.

6. Tax revenue declines as the economy declines (due to excessive taxation). Taxes are increased again, in order to top up government revenues.

7. In spite of all the above, government leaders personally hoard as much as they can, further limiting the circulation of wealth in the business community.

8. Governments issue bonds and otherwise borrow to continue expansion, with no plan as to repayment.

9. Dramatic authoritarian control is instituted to assure that the public continues to comply with demands, even if those demands cannot be met by the public.

10. Economic and social collapse occurs, often marked by unrest and riots, the collapse of the economy, and the exit of those who are productive.

11. In this final period, the empire turns on itself, treating its people as the enemy.

What is interesting to note, is that once the process reaches and crosses Stage 8, there can be no reversal. Once a civilization or Empire crosses that Rubicon, there's no turning back. Which means we have two choices.

1. Quietly pack up our things and leave for somewhere else.
2. Stick around and try to survive what's coming.

Since I am only familiar with the recent goings-on here in the US, I can only speak on those. It would be interesting if others - especially our brethren in the EU - would speak up and say what they know. I've heard ominous rumblings from other places - things about negative interest rates, governments taking folk's savings "for safekeeping", depositors being considered "shareholders" in the bank and have a goodly portion of their monies just outright taken... and, since I'm one of those types who keeps their ear to the ground and eye to the keyhole, I tend to listen close when I hear such things...

Don't ask me where I read it - it's been a hard trail and many a mile since I read it - but I remember reading about how in the last days of Rome, before it was sacked by Alaric, that there was not one single operational farm within 100 miles of the Eternal City. Taxes were so high, no man could afford to farm the land, raise crops and make a living. Rome had crossed their own particular Rubicon - same as Gaius Julius Caesar did centuries before - and was a hollow, rotten shell by the time Alaric and his friends showed up.

Rome was sacked more than once, but the first one by Alaric began a long decline into the Dark Ages. Long by our standards, an eyeblink by histories'.. Knowledge was lost once those who knew it died off or were killed. Eventually, the population of Rome amounted to less than 10,000 people - the Colosseum turned into a garbage dump and raided for building materials...

We're no different. Nor exempt. The more I think about it, the more I believe that the Pax Americana will come to an end because we committed suicide. Folks might not want to believe it, but we crossed Stage 8 aways back. We're now in Stage 9 - our own Government tightening the screws, even pre-positioning assets under the 1033 Program (military grade hardware and armored vehicles - lots of them - given to police departments) in preparation for what's coming. They're brutes and quite evil, but they're not stupid. Once Economic Ragnarök hits, this country will fracture. It will be.. ugly.

The only thing I'm going to try to do is keep me and mine alive and save who and what I can, while I can. Once things shake out, if I'm alive, then I'll lend a hand. If not, well then it ain't my problem anymore...
“Life is slavery if the courage to die is absent.” - Seneca
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Re: How Empires End... I

Postby BeckaSutton » Tue Sep 09, 2014 5:55 pm

I'd be inclined to say that Rome is a really bad example.

For one thing the fall of the (western) Roman Empire began much earlier than Alaric. By the time he sacked Rome in 402 the Empire had already split in two (The Eastern Roman Empire/Byzantium Empire lasting another 1000 years and eventually falling to outsiders) and Rome wasn't even the capital of the Western Roman Empire anymore Ravenna was.

If I had to peg a beginning of the decline I'd go for the mid-2nd Century. Rome was at the height of it's power. The empire had around 65 million subjects.

*Bang* *Plague*

Twenty years later the population has dropped to around 40 million.

The Roman Empire never really recovered. It's population started to rise again slowly but it started taking critical knocks regularly because it couldn't field enough people to protect itself. By the time of Constantine the population of Rome itself had been declining steadily for some time and most of the Empire's population was in the East and by the time Rome's population got really low Constantinople had a population of around 750,000 people (possibly as many as 1 million).

So Rome didn't so much fall as contract, relocate and eventually it get subsumed into another empire.

Which isn't to say there wasn't an economic component just that it wasn't just the economic situation.


As to governments in Europe nicking people's savings and considering savers shareholders - that sounds like a kind of Chinese Whispers version of what happened in Cyprus which was more about stopping the banks collapsing than the government's debts (except in so far as the IMF wouldn't give them more money unless they did that so they wouldn't have to give them so much). The plan was to levy the needed money from savers and give them shares in the bank instead. The proposal caused a whole lot of trouble and had to be amended somewhat. ... ial_crisis

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Re: How Empires End...

Postby Billy » Wed Sep 10, 2014 6:44 pm


Thank you for your reply... I was beginning to think I was all alone here...

I'm aware of the splitting of the empire, as well as the Eastern Roman Empire continuing on for some time, as well as misguided and wasteful efforts by Justinian to reclaim territories lost by the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. If memory serves, they suffered their own problems with the plague as well, but continued on for several centuries until losing to the Turks in the 11th century... plague doesn't necessarily mean the start of a decline. I understand your point, and we can bat this around till Rapture - was the plague the catalyst? Was it the fact that Romans didn't use their own people to populate the military anymore, instead relying on mercenaries? Was it that the Byzantines were better off economically than their Western counterparts that allowed them to weather the plague better?

Mentioning Justinian... curious, Justinian's reach exceeded his grasp, his expansionist military policies led to a devaluation of their money - wasn't he the one who started the habit of devaluing the denarius by mixing in lesser metals? (As well as increasing taxes and pulling all sorts of tricks, like not paying the military, making up phony wills for rich, deceased folks that said they were leaving all their wealth to him, etc).. people were becoming angry, which led to a tightening of the screws, which led directly to the Nika riots, which led to half the city of Constantinople being burned to the ground and tens of thousands of people slaughtered... all of which follows the above 11 Stages almost to the letter... if not for Justinian's wife, that would have probably been the end of the Byzantines...

I don't think the Roman Empire is "a really bad" example, especially since you basically agree with me by saying "Which isn't to say there wasn't an economic component just that it wasn't just the economic situation." You just misinterpret my original post - I wasn't saying that the Roman Empire fell solely because of economic reasons - the article I cited (did you read it?) specifically says that it's not solely economic reasons why empires fall. Mr. Thomas makes the point that economic reasons play a much greater role than we traditionally give them credit in the weakening of an empire, which makes them easy pickings for a stronger opponent.

And, let's face it, saying that "Emperor so-and-so wasn't fiscally responsible" isn't nearly as sexy as saying "General Whats-his-name attacked, killed everyone and burned the city to the ground" or that a horrible plague swept through the Empire, killing millions...

Still, all this is academic. The point is that Western Civilization (and especially the US) is following the above Stages like it is preordained. Since all of the countries and central banks of Western Civilization are intertwined, so goes the US, so goes the West. No matter what you believe, we ARE on the decline. Ours is a dying empire. I should know. I was a solider for most of my adult life in the service of that Empire. They tell us it's a Republic, but nobody really believes that. We've overspent ourselves into a crack. It's only a matter of time until the butcher's bill comes due...

And... I wasn't familiar with the phrase "Chinese Whispers"... :) Had to go look it up. We can discuss the coming Economic Implosion later... I have to get back out into the barn and do some good work before the day's done...
“Life is slavery if the courage to die is absent.” - Seneca
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Re: How Empires End...

Postby Strongbow » Sat Nov 22, 2014 6:18 pm

Great discussion folks! Surely when one empire collapses, it paves the way for other? That would then continue the wheel and a society, although different, would continue?
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Re: How Empires End...

Postby steve » Mon Oct 19, 2015 1:43 pm

I thought this poster from the 1930s depicting the rise and fall of empires since 2000 BC would be interesting. ... ingle.html
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Re: How Empires End...

Postby Strongbow » Sat May 28, 2016 7:36 am

Hi Steve,
Sorry for the late reply, busy times.

That poster/chart is very interesting - thanks for posting it. That was some serious work involved .


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A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

Postby Dave Z » Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:21 am

If civilization is to survive it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature.

From A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

SPOILER ALERT: It's not looking good for civilization.

This book fits in well with the theme of this topic. It's a survey of several, fallen empire/civilizations and what went wrong with them along with general ruminations on the plight of humankind, and how we might apply lessons learned to save our own.

It's not only entertaining, funny and informative, but short.

For a taste, check out this chapter:

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