"A very good case can be made, on moral as well as economic grounds, for a system in which the individual is required to stand on his own feet, not to lean on the state for handouts. Character, resourcefulness, capacity are formed and developed in struggle with obstacles, not in waiting passively for benefits from outside."
~ William Henry Chamberlin, Historian (1897—1969)
In the Ecclesiastical History of Salaminius Hermias Sozomenus, book IX we have this remarkable passage concerning Alaric and the Goth’s siege of Rome in 408 AD:
"…(T)the Western Empire fell prey to disorders, because many tyrants arose. After the death of Stilicho, Alaric, the leader of the Goths, sent an embassy to Honorius to treat of peace; but without avail. He advanced to Rome, and laid siege to it; and by posting a large army of barbarians on the banks of the Tiber, he effectually prevented the transmission of all provisions into the city from Portus. After the siege had lasted some time, and fearful ravages had been made in the city by famine and pestilence, many of the slaves, and most of the barbarians by race within the walls, deserted to Alaric…All persons of good sense were aware that the calamities which this siege entailed upon the Romans were indications of Divine wrath sent to chastise them for their luxury, their debauchery, and their manifold acts of injustice towards each other, as well as towards strangers…"
St. Jerome in his letter LX to Heliodorus echoes the same sentiments concerning the plight of Rome in its final years.
"It is our sins which make the barbarians strong; it is our vices which vanquish Rome’s soldiers: and, as if there were here too little material for carnage, civil wars have made almost greater havoc among us than the swords of foreign foes."
Whether we wish to attribute current events to divine retribution or not, the simple fact is that throughout history man has been his own worst enemy. The short history of mankind can be summed up as a continual trampling of every social and natural law that has proven to benefit man’s existence or aid him in his quest for peace and prosperity.
Recently, I have had an occasion to review the concepts surrounding what is known as the four horseman of the Apocalypse (Revelation 6:2—8) with some friends. Putting aside the religious dogma surrounding these passages I wonder if this text isn’t more of a historical road map of human folly rather than a prophetic utterance.
In the light of its possible historical significance let’s put aside the religious canon of this account in Revelation and examine the testimonial from a strictly chronological perspective.
The narrative begins: "And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer."
The first point of interest in the transcript is the white horse. This certainly is no aberration of political ultraconservativism, but does denote the canard of peaceful intent. In both the French and Russian Revolutions white symbolized support for a system or the principles of a monarchy.
As late as the 20th century, as governments of the European nations emerged from political chaos under strong leaders, even dictatorships, these leaders were often referred to as a man on a white horse. The symbology certainly was not lost on Hitler or many of the fascist rulers prior to WWII.
Without belaboring the point it doesn’t take much to realize that since its founding, America has ordained the president in much the same fashion; the purpose being to legitimize the authority of the state without the need for cumbersome, precise constitutions and mitigating social principles, like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which many hold as divisive.
Ensconced in the saddle of power it is axiomatic that there follows the summary trampling of the rule of law, pursued by the encumbrance of an autocracy through the expedient claims of "necessity" and national priorities, while donning the imperial cloak of "savior," "protector," and guardian of righteousness.
History attests to the fact that once endowed with the crown of power and having tranquilized its citizens with the opiate of national imperatives, the state sets "forth conquering, and to conquer" under the guise of purity, beauty, and virtue.
It is not long before those grandiose state slogans of all the "good" that will come about via the state, give way to the next horseman. "And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword."
History is not silent and reveals that the ideals of purity, and virtue sold by the state are soon replaced by the ugliness, and horror of mass murder; thus mankind is continually treated to acts of self-annihilation.
Of war Rear Admiral Gene R. LaRocque cuts to the core when he said: "I hate it when they say, u2018He gave his life for his country.’ Nobody gives their life for anything. We steal the lives of these kids. We take it away from them. They don’t die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them."
As great an evil as mass carnage is, the American Historian Charles Tilly points to one of equal importance: "Almost any state that makes war finds that it cannot pay for the effort from its accumulated reserves and current revenues. Almost all war-making states borrow extensively, raise taxes, and seize the means of combat — including men — from reluctant citizens who have other uses for their resources."
This leads us to the third horse of John’s apocalyptic vision. "And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand…and I heard a voice…say, A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine."
At the time of John’s vision a denarius was the average Roman worker’s daily pay while the ancient quarts (Greek choinix) are nearly equal to 1/8th our peck. This would make the dry weight of a quart of wheat equal too 1 7/8 pounds or three quarts of barley equal too 4 pounds. The analogy portends a bleak future since in the ancient world these amounts were barely able to feed two adults for one day.
Certainly I am not suggesting the perilous condition we find our economy in today is due strictly to the American government’s ludicrous wars. There are far too many who can track the decay of the American economy better and more accurately than I, but I am equally sure that not one would leave war out of their analysis.
What I find of interest is the net effect that the failed U.S. economic and foreign polices are having on grain supplies and the price of grain, in particular wheat.
Prices have risen due to the world’s stocks of wheat being at a 30-year low, with export holdings down 29%. U.S. exports are up 54% over 2007 and with ten weeks left in the marketing year, supplies of wheat are deteriorating.
As import demands continue to explode, the world’s need for wheat (up 10 MMT over 2006/07) continues to drive prices sky ward. To bring relief some importers have begun removing import restrictions and are even beginning to subsidize consumption. In the mean time the Ukraine, Russia, and Argentina, whose supplies of grain are running low, are beginning to impose export restrictions.
In the U.S., winter wheat plantings are below expectations, with the exceptions of an increase in planting of Soft White (SW) in the Pacific NW along with Soft Red Winter (SRW) in the Midwest. However, Hard Red Winter (HRW) fell from last year due to entering dormancy under extremely dry conditions.
Of course there is the prolonged Federal government’s pressure for Biofuel production which continues to steal land from wheat production and place it into corn.
As the exchange rate of the dollar continue a free fall and fuel prices rise, ocean freight rates have reached records highs. Analysts are also reporting that at the beginning of the 2008/09 market season wheat stocks will be at "bin bottom"; some have even suggested that in 2008 the U.S. for the first time in its history could become an IMPORTER of wheat.
But the prophet had one more bit of information for us. "I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth."
FAMINE is not a chapter heading from a dusty old history book dealing with the Roman Empire in the 3rd century AD; it describes the real human condition as a reflection of the world’s grain markets. However, it also might be the end result of state crimes that have taken men and women away from production and placed them on killing fields with massive borrowing to finance human carnage.
If famine comes to America, it will be the result of Stalinist bureaucrats who criminally refuse to allow land to be placed in production, pay farmers not to produce, and suck up to multinational agri-businesses; all the while lining their pockets with blood money for instituting regulations which force the small farmers off the their property and out of business.
The present outlook says it isn’t going to take much more to create severe food problems worldwide.
2007/08 global production of wheat was hurt by weather problems and weather will be a major factor again this year. The recent Arkansas flooding has damaged a large portion of that state’s annual production of 28.7 million bushels of wheat.
Consumption this year will continue to exceed production and with wheat stocks already tight they are expected to shrink even further. At present, the world’s grain stocks-to-use ratio stands at a historic low of 18%.
As wheat supplies continue to shrink so will exports, with some nations eventually shutting off exports all together. Canada, EU-27, Argentina, Black Sea and Australia have already reduced the amount of wheat they will allow to be exported.
Even with increased plantings around the world don’t expect supplies of wheat to substantially increase. U.S. exports are nearly tapped out and this has put further pressure on the world’s market.
The US population may not face famine but prices very well could reach unimaginable heights and world-wide social unrest does not bode well for U.S./world relations.
The ancient saying is that "hungry men are dangerous men" and indeed, hungry populations spell trouble for world leaders.
The absolute folly of unwavering devotion to the Roman Empire was a lesson learned by the citizens of Rome the hard way. It is a foregone conclusion that those who support U.S. imperialism will have to learn it in much the same manner. I also suspect that the evils that befall man are far less the result of divine retribution as they are of man’s undying, unthinking devotion to that malignant cancer, the state, of which Albert Jay Nock correctly said: "It can not even be said that the State has ever shown any disposition to suppress crime, but only to safeguard its own monopoly of crime."
Given the recent crop of criminals seeking the presidency I am not the least bit worried that the future holds any change for the better. On the contrary, none of them portend well for one quarter of the world’s population.
Tim Case [send him mail] is a 30-year student of the ancient histories who agrees with the first-century stoic Epictetus on this one point: u201COnly the educated are free.u201D