Empires often collapse from the outside and work in, which is one way to think of the American empire’s most recent failure in Afghanistan. From Ross Douthat of the New York Times via zerohedge.com:
A meme artist’s conception of of America’s retreat from Afghanistan.
In one of the more arresting videos that circulated after the fall of Kabul, a journalist follows a collection of Taliban fighters into a hangar containing abandoned, disabled U.S. helicopters. Except that the fighters don’t look like our idea of the Taliban: In their gear and guns and helmets (presumably pilfered), they look exactly like the American soldiers their long insurgency defeated.
As someone swiftly pointed out on Twitter, the hangar scene had a strong end-of-the-Roman Empire vibe, with the Taliban fighters standing for the Visigoths or Vandals who adopted bits and pieces of Roman culture even as they overthrew the empire. For a moment, it offered a glimpse of what a world after the American imperium might look like: Not the disappearance of all our pomps and works, any more than Roman culture suddenly disappeared in 476 A.D., but a world of people confusedly playacting American-ness in the ruins of our major exports, the military base and the shopping mall.
But the glimpse provided in the video isn’t necessarily a foretaste of true imperial collapse. In other ways, our failure in Afghanistan more closely resembles Roman failures that took place far from Rome itself — the defeats that Roman generals suffered in the Mesopotamian deserts or the German forests, when the empire’s reach outstripped its grasp.
Or at least that’s how I suspect it will be seen in the cold light of hindsight, when some future Edward Gibbon sets out to tell the story of the American imperium in full.
Posted in Collapse, Debt, Economics, Economy, Foreign Policy, Governments, History, Imperialism, Politics, Propaganda
Tagged American empire, Periphery, Roman Empire
You can tell a lot about the quality of a country by the quality of its currency. From Doug Casey at internationalman.com:
International Man: How instrumental do you think the debasement of their currency was to the eventual fall of the Roman Empire? How did it affect their culture?
Doug Casey: In ancient pre-industrial societies—just like today—you became wealthy by producing more than you consume and saving the difference.
One of the best things about money is that it allows an individual to set aside capital, the product of his labor, in a form that retains value. A farmer, for instance, can’t save fruit from year to year, nor can a baker save bread. Sound money is critical for lasting gains in wealth and economic progress. Sound money is why wealthy societies become dominant, and a reason other societies are poor and ripe for conquest and domination.
Rome provides a meaningful long-term template. The Roman government, in search of revenue, started debasing the denarius under Nero in the 1st century, taking it from 90% silver to 75%. As late as the reign of Marcus Aurelius, which ended in 180, the denarius was still about 75% silver. By the end of the 3rd century, it was pot metal that was simply plated with silver. The 3rd century was notable for numerous coups, civil wars, assassinations, and secessions. There are plenty of reasons political chaos goes hand in hand with economic chaos; they reinforce each other.
Roman coins weren’t worth saving by the middle of the 3rd century, and the collapse of the currency was a major cause of the collapse of the empire. In some ways, sound money was even more important in ancient times than it is today because they didn’t have sophisticated banking, financial markets, credit, accounting, or ways of measuring the rate of currency depreciation. Physical cash was king.
There was a vigorous European cancel culture about fifteen centuries ago, a predecessor to our own. From Pablo Escobar at zerohedge.com:
If we need a date when the West started to go seriously wrong, let’s start with Rome in the early 5th century…
In 2020, we saw the enshrinement of techno-feudalism – one of the overarching themes of my latest book, Raging Twenties.
In lightning speed, the techno-feudalism virus is metastasizing into an even more lethal, wilderness of mirrors variant, where cancel culture is enforced by Big Tech all across the spectrum, science is routinely debased as fake news in social media, and the average citizen is discombobulated to the point of lobotomy.
Giorgio Agamben has defined it as a new totalitarianism.
Top political analyst Alastair Crooke has attempted a sharp breakdown of the broader configuration.
Geopolitically, the Hegemon would even resort to 5G war to maintain its primacy, while seeking moral legitimization via the woke revolution, duly exported to its Western satrapies.
The woke revolution is a culture war – in symbiosis with Big Tech and Big Business – that has smashed the real thing: class war. The atomized working classes, struggling to barely survive, have been left to wallow in anomie.
The great panacea, actually the ultimate “opportunity” offered by Covid-19, is the Great Reset advanced by Herr Schwab of Davos: essentially the replacement of a dwindling manufacturing base by automation, in tandem with a reset of the financial system.
Immigration has already transformed the US far more than it has Europe. From Ann Coulter at anncoulter.com:
Can we have a quick reality check and acknowledge that what is happening to America is a million times worse than what’s happening in Europe and is of much greater consequence?
Conservatives regularly point to the mass migration afflicting Europe as if it’s the Ghost of Christmas Future for America. Since waves of Third World migrants began sweeping into the European Union, we’ve seen terrorism, knifings, rape gangs and riots popping up all over the birthplace of Western civilization. Sweden has gone from a country where rape was essentially nonexistent to the Rape Capital of the World.
It’s sweet of Americans to be so concerned about Europe, but maybe they should look at their own country. On account of a mass immigration policy imposed on us by our government, the United States has undergone a transformation unprecedented in all of world history.
From 1620 to 1970, the U.S. was demographically stable — not to be confused with “a nation of immigrants.” The country was about 85% to 90% white, almost entirely British, German, French and Dutch, and 10% to 15% African American. (The American Indian population, technically in their own nations, steadily plummeted — an example of how vast numbers of new people can displace the old, both accidentally and on purpose.)
In a generation, the white majority has nearly disappeared, while the black percentage has remained about the same, with more than 90% of African Americans still native-born. White Americans are one border surge away from becoming a minority in their own country.
If the EU is so essential, why do so many European nations that are not part of it do so much better than so many that are? From Ferghane Azihari at mises.org:
A certain nostalgic view of the Roman Empire has helped to push the idea the European Union is essential to the prosperity and success of Europe. But a closer look at the continent invalidates the link between prosperity and affiliation to Brussels’ Europe. Among the richest European countries are the countries outside the Union. This is the case in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Nor is there a link between the wealth of a country and its membership in large political groups at the global level. In addition to the regions already mentioned, many places combine smallness and wealth, as shown by Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Unfortunately for the proponents of a political Europe, the historical rise of the European civilization also illustrates the opposite of the imperial narrative. The American historian David Landes recalled in 1998 that the fall of the Roman Empire was a happy event for the Old Continent. These affirmations support the work of the sociologist Jean Baechler, who, three decades earlier, wrote that the expansion of European trade was favored by the anarchy inherited from the feudal order.
This incisive essay is more relevant now that it was when it was first published in 1952. From Garet Garrett at lewrockwell.com:
We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night. The precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say, “You now are entering Imperium.” Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: “Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.” And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: “No U Turns.”
If you say there were no frightening omens, that is true. The political foundations did not quake; the graves of the Fathers did not fly open; the Constitution did not tear itself up. If you say people did not will it, that also is true. But if you say therefore it has not happened, then you have been so long bemused by words that your mind will not believe what the eye can see, even as in the jungle the terrified primitive, on meeting the lion, importunes magic by saying to himself, “He is not there.” That a republic may vanish is an elementary schoolbook fact.
The Roman Republic passed into the Roman Empire, and yet never could a Roman citizen have said, “That was yesterday.” Nor is the historian, with all the advantages of perspective, able to place that momentous event at any exact point on the dial of time. The Republic had a long unhappy twilight. It is agreed that the Empire began with Augustus Caesar. Several before him had played emperor and were destroyed.
The first who might have been called emperor in fact was Julius Caesar, who pretended not to want the crown and once publicly declined it. Whether he feared more the displeasure of the Roman populace or the daggers of the republicans is unknown. In his dreams he may have been seeing a bloodstained toga. His murder soon afterward was a desperate act of the dying republican tradition, and perfectly futile. His heir was Octavian, and it was a very bloody business, yet neither did Octavian call himself emperor.
To continue reading: The Republic Becomes the Empire
All empires eventually self-destruct, and the US empire will be no exception. From Jeff Thomas at internationalman.com:
Empires are built through the creation or acquisition of wealth. The Roman Empire came about through the productivity of its people and its subsequent acquisition of wealth from those that it invaded. The Spanish Empire began with productivity and expanded through the use of its large armada of ships, looting the New World of its gold. The British Empire began through localized productivity and grew through its creation of colonies worldwide—colonies that it exploited, bringing the wealth back to England to make it the wealthiest country in the world.
In the Victorian Age, we Brits were proud to say, “There will always be an England,” and “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” So, where did we go wrong? Why are we no longer the world’s foremost empire? Why have we lost not only the majority of our colonies, but also the majority of our wealth?
Well, first, let’s take a peek back at the other aforementioned empires and see how they fared. Rome was arguably the greatest empire the world has ever seen. Industrious Romans organized large armies that went to other parts of the world, subjugating them and seizing the wealth that they had built up over generations. And as long as there were further conquerable lands just over the next hill, this approach was very effective. However, once Rome faced diminishing returns on new lands to conquer, it became evident that those lands it had conquered had to be maintained and defended, even though there was little further wealth that could be confiscated.
The conquered lands needed costly militaries and bureaucracies in place to keep them subjugated but were no longer paying for themselves. The “colonies” were running at a loss. Meanwhile, Rome itself had become very spoiled. Its politicians kept promising more in the way of “bread and circuses” to the voters, in order to maintain their political office. So, the coffers were being drained by both the colonies and at home. Finally, in a bid to keep from losing their power, Roman leaders entered into highly expensive wars. This was the final economic crippler and the empire self-destructed.
To continue reading: An Empire Self-Destructs