Thank you, William, for this thoughtfully relevant article. I do have a question if you don't mind. Will the rapid pace of technological changeparticularly in the information fieldincrease the rate of decline and shorten these imperial cycles, and if so, could you suggest a formula for determining the decline multiplier?
Sir John Glubb (1897-1986: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bagot_Glubb), was old school, a British military man, who turned to writing in his later years, bringing his entire practical experience to bear.
The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival (1976) (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LVbwY54Ue8), is a relevant work for our time. His thesis is that history repeats itself, but individuals don’t learn. He opens his work by saying exactly that: “‘The only thing we learn from history,’ it has been said, ‘is that men never learn from history.’” There are many reasons for this, but one he stresses is that people take only a limited view of history, not considering the history of the human race itself. There is thus a cultural bias that distorts their vision and thinking.
If a longer-term view was taken the thing that would be seen is that all empires rise, then fall. Here is a list of nations, the dates of their rise and fall, and duration in years: Assyria 859-612 B.C., 247; Persia 538-330 B.C., 208 (Cyrus and his descendants); Greece 331-100 B.C., 231 (Alexander and his successors); Roman Republic 260-27 B.C., 233; Roman Empire 27 B.C.-A.D. 180, 207; Arab Empire A.D. 634-880, 246; Mameluke Empire 1250-1517, 267; Ottoman Empire 1320-1570, 250; Spain 1500-1750, 250; Romanov Russia 1682-1916, 234; Britain 1700-1950 250.
The average life span of past empires is about 250 years. Empires collapse, or rather, die, for similar reasons, but the key element is moral and political entropy. Vitality is lost in the younger generations, who no longer defend foundation ideals, or feel that the nation is worth fighting for; and indeed many may wish that the nation dies. Glubb says that “Nations who proclaim themselves unwilling to fight are liable to be conquered by peoples in the stage of militarism – perhaps even to see themselves incorporated into some new empire with the status of mere provinces or colonies.” This is particularly relevant today, with the current mass migration movement.
Here is what Glubb observed about the influx of foreigners and it contribution to the decline of empire:
“In the age of the first outburst and the subsequent Age of Conquests, the race is normally ethnically more or less homogeneous. This state of affairs facilitates a feeling of solidarity and comradeship. But in the Ages of Commerce and Affluence, every type of foreigner floods into the great city, the streets of which are reputed to be paved with gold. As, in most cases, this great city is also the capital of the empire, the cosmopolitan crowd at the seat of empire exercises a political influence greatly in excess of its relative numbers. Second- or third-generation foreign immigrants may appear outwardly to be entirely assimilated, but they often constitute a weakness in two directions. First, their basic human nature often differs from that of the original imperial stock. If the earlier imperial race was stubborn and slowmoving, the immigrants might come from more emotional races, thereby introducing cracks and schisms into the national policies, even if all were equally loyal. Second, while the nation is still affluent, all the diverse races may appear equally loyal. But in an acute emergency, the immigrants will often be less willing to sacrifice their lives and their property than will be the original descendants of the founder race. Third, the immigrants are liable to form communities of their own, protecting primarily their own interests, and only in the second degree that of the nation as a whole. Fourth, many of the foreign immigrants will probably belong to races originally conquered by and absorbed into the empire. While the empire is enjoying its High Noon of prosperity, all these people are proud and glad to be imperial citizens. But when decline sets in, it is extraordinary how the memory of ancient wars, perhaps centuries before, is suddenly revived, and local or provincial movements appear demanding secession or independence. Some day this phenomenon will doubtless appear in the now apparently monolithic and authoritarian Soviet empire. It is amazing for how long such provincial sentiments can survive. Historical examples of this phenomenon are scarcely needed. The idle and captious Roman mob, with its endless appetite for free distributions of food—bread and games—is notorious, and utterly different from that stern Roman spirit which we associate with the wars of the early republic. In Baghdad, in the golden days of Harun al-Rashid, Arabs were a minority in the imperial capital. Istanbul, in the great days of Ottoman rule, was peopled by inhabitants remarkably few of whom were descendants of Turkish conquerors. In New York, descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers are few and far between. This interesting phenomenon is largely limited to great cities. The original conquering race is often to be found in relative purity in rural districts and on far frontiers. It is the wealth of the great cities which draws the immigrants. As, with the growth of industry, cities nowadays achieve an ever greater preponderance over the countryside, so will the influence of foreigners increasingly dominate old empires.”
In short, the multicultural societies created by the money elite, in building their empires, typically implode, carrying within themselves the seeds of their own destruction.
Today, all of these forces and more are at work undermining the West, and the time of collapse will be much less than 250 years due to problem overload: http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/society-could-collapse-within-a-decade-mathematical-historian-predicts/news-story/6de2e69055a4e7b9f465edff1e550583. Professor Peter Turchin, author of Ages of Discord, (Beresta Books, 2016), sees societal collapse occurring in the 2020s, just due to political turmoil, which is one important horseman in a whole cavalry of the apocalypse.
While we like to think that we can save everything by just working harder, writing more, and telling the salt of the earth to email their politicians, it is most likely that from the perspective that Glubb analysed things, the West’s number may be up. We may only be able to duct tape the cracks in the great dam for so long. It is an uncomfortable topic for conservatives, who above all else, like their comfort. But it is that very comfort, that softness that arises from over-civilisation, which is the key factor in social entropy, and impending collapse.