The Great Powers of the twentieth century were built on the nineteenth century foundation of far greater freedom of science and capitalism which vastly increased human material creativity, efficiency, and wealth. Though there were many local variations, the Great Powers were built by central governments using those foundation assets to pursue national and global goals of imperial aggrandizement by building vast bureaucratic systems to mobilize moral, political, financial and military power. These growing bureaucratic states were able to continue growing and amassing wealth and all other forms of power for roughly a century, though at decreasing rates as the inevitable suffocation of creativity and efficiency by bureaucracy grew steadily. In the last several decades, however, the suffocating effects of bureaucracy have grown more rapidly than the real economies. This led the ever more power-inebriated and hubris-blinded governments and their ever more vast imperial corporations to use the ancient borrowing, currency inflation and credit-weakening methods to continue growing in the short run, though more in official statistics than in reality. These methods inevitably eroded the incentives of the real economies over the long run and finally began to produce Great Financial Bubbles and Crashes that could be overcome in the short run by using more of the same methods that destroyed the long run prospects of real creativity and growth. In recent decades these massively centralized, bureaucratized and inflated states have become totally corrupt at the top and “trickle down” corruptions of all forms on the lower depths of society. This in turn has generated soaring distrust, cynicism, loathing of politics and government and corporations, social fragmentation and disintegration, and soaring conflicts ranging from incivility and massive disruptions by “demos” to civil wars over drugs, gangs, and much else.
The Soviet System was the most centralized of the Great Powers, so it moved through this entire cycle of take-off of government powers to the great crash far faster than the others have done. The entire Soviet Empire sped through the cycle in roughly one lifetime of seventy years (from the time of Stalin's New Economic Policy). The other “communist” systems were generally less centralized and bureaucratized, but have all crashed or been held up and increasingly engulfed by the growth of the more free “underground” economies displacing them, as is most obvious in China. The European “democratic socialist” models of centralization and bureaucratization slowed down at an accelerating rate over decades, then a few decades ago began to stagnate at an accelerating rate, though Britain partially “freed up” some segments of the economy and began using more cautious inflationary policies to grow a bit more.
The U.S. began centralizing later and did so at a slower pace, with up periods during its growing wars. The U.S. is only now finishing up the massive centralization of corporate production in huge bureaucracies, education in huge education factories trying to meet the Testing Plans of bureaucratic central planners, and so on. The U.S. also controls the global currency and has used that vast power to borrow and inflate at rapidly accelerating rates without suffering massive consumer price inflation at home (partly because of manipulating the official statistics on inflation, but more by “exporting inflation” to nations using the dollar, buying dollars to keep it high to aid their own exports to the U.S., and so on).
But by the 1980’s and 1990’s America was a highly socialized, centralized, bureaucratized state with vast overt and secret police armies, an immense prison industry for anyone violating the drug import and pricing dictates, and so on. Almost all informed, intelligent Americans quickly became aware that their society had become highly corrupt at the top, though few would admit to themselves that this was now total, so they became more corrupt themselves to get ahead, while distrust and loathing of the politicians and government soared.
All of the Great Powers became Caesarist and imperialist. The politicians were lured by the lust for power, wealth and glory into ever more militaristic and exploitative policies. Hubris induced blindness and power-lust sociopathy combined with the vast centralized control of huge economies and societies to produce a Century of Warfare and domination ever more terrible for mankind. The U.S. succumbed early to these vast temptations because American power was so vast, but they hid it very carefully behind the moralistic front of Wilsonian cant about building freedom and democracy by invading more and more societies and annihilating more and more nations. However, it was only with the fall of the Soviet Empire which had been the main competition of the U.S. in the Great Game of the Century of War, the endless struggle for total global power, that the U.S. rulers felt an explosion of power lust and hubris. This led within one decade to the Blatant Imperialism of Bush II’s Permanent World War and the new explosion of centralization, bureaucratization, police powers, and military conquest by the U.S. The Bush Junta vastly increased its Wilsonian agitprop of “freedom and democracy” aimed at the ignorant lower half of Americans, especially the fundamentalists, but very few intelligent Americans and almost no one abroad believed this ridiculous Wilsonian rant.
Caesarism in Rome totally destroyed the Republic, though the external forms were kept in place and massively displayed to deceive the ignorant plebians. But Augustus and later Emperors were able with immense conflict, bloodshed, sweat and toil to build a Great Empire by conquest, plunder and taxation. It went through the same kind of dynastic cycle the Soviets and other highly centralized and bureaucratic states have done (most notably over and over again in imperial China). But it did so more slowly and with more ups and downs. And when the final Crash came over a few centuries it marred all of Western life for many centuries in the Age of Darkness.
Caesarism in America was in partial bloom in the little age of JFK hubris, more in reaction to his humiliating defeats by Khrushchev and the Soviets and Castro than out of power lust alone. This led to the insane sinking into the vast quagmire of Vietnam and total U.S. defeat on a far vaster scale than the Bay of Pigs.
The vast military build-up of the Reagan years unleashed power lust and hubris even in the lingering shadow and dread of the Vietnam defeat. I said at the time in “A Grand Moral Strategy for America” that was the path to Caesarism. While believing the Soviet System was beginning to implode, I did not realize how total the rot was and supported the Reagan build-up as a way of pressuring the Soviets into ruinous counter build-ups that would help to destroy them sooner. Had I realized how rapidly they were imploding by the time I wrote The Myth of the Welfare State in the middle 1980’s, I would have opposed further U.S. build-ups and centralization of wealth and power because of the obvious explosion of hubris and Caesarism that was producing at the top. Bush I’s invasion of Panama completely convinced me of the grave dangers we now faced. Clinton’s secret wars in the Muslim World and the vast attack on the Serbians, America’s oldest and most loyal ally in that whole region, convinced me further. Bush II’s run for the imperial powers, financed by a vast cabal of the imperial corporations, led me to believe that the corporatist, military and police state powers — Fascism — were taking over America completely, while he publicly began espousing wild-eyed Wilsonian cant to hide the truth from the ignorant plebians. The attacks on the U.S. were an obvious “blowback” for what the U.S. has done in the Muslim World for over fifty years, especially the beginning of direct garrisoning of Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil states. Bush immediately seized it as a moralistic pretext for total and blatant Caesarism. In the past four years the U.S. has annihilated two nations, secretly invaded many around the world, and quietly garrisoned the entire Persian Gulf and a growing number of states in Central Asia and elsewhere.
This vast explosion of American Caesarism will probably lead to terrible defeats for the U.S. Empire and extreme “Reforms” at home. The Central Plan of Cheney, Wolfowitz, et al., was for the U.S. to win easy victories, use the wealth from those in the oil states (gained by taxing the Big Oil imperial corporations and by currency powers of the dollar and the purchase of U.S. equities and securities and political pay-offs by the Opec Monopolists now captive of the U.S. military) to build the Empire into The Global American Empire. They had forgotten the great dangers to this strategy of the guerilla armies that would oppose it, or, more likely, they were now totally blinded by hubris and believed they could do anything and everything. They also completely failed to realize how extreme the world reaction against this blatant imperialism would be and how totally the intelligent Americans would see through the vast cloud of Wilsonian propaganda and come to loathe the perpetrators of these Big Lies.
The American Global Empire was intended to solve the growing Great Financial and Economic Crisis of the U.S., the so-called “overstretch.” The massive growth of the guerilla movements and armies in the Muslim World and the growing defeat by them in Afghanistan and Iraq are now vastly exacerbating the Great Financial and Economic Crisis. The U.S. Empire was already in grave peril because of the stagnating effects of a century of rapid growth of centralization, bureaucratization, debt, credit risk, suffocation of creativity and efficiency, decline of growth and all the effects of these. Now the failing Caesarist Plan is vastly accelerating the growth of all of those problems.
All of these major dimensions of America’s Great Global Crisis are now interdependent with each other, each amplifying the others. The Great Global Crisis is thus growing very rapidly now.
It is conceivable that the U.S. will suffer some minor crash and pull back from all of these disastrous policies and stabilize its Empire at a lower position of global power. I doubt it can be done. The problems are so interdependent and extreme now that it seems pretty clear that the System is totally corrupt — “rotten” — at the top, very much like the Soviet System by the 1980’s. Small crises and crashes are likely to accelerate into a Great Crash that can only be dealt with by getting out of The System in some way.
I used to think we could limp along from one bubble to another for decades. We have been doing that since the 1980’s, but I now expect the Great Reckoning, the Great Crash, is getting quite near. There are many possible triggers out there waiting to be pulled, from a cut-off of oil supplies in the Persian Gulf to dirty bomb attacks on our cities to a Real Estate Crash precipitating a general Financial Crash to…
In the 1980’s I argued in many published works that the U.S. cooperating with the world, especially with Europe, might have a chance of reversing this ever more rapid rush into a Great Crisis that would eventually produce a Great Crash, protracted depression and massive conflicts. The American people and the corrupt leaders, aided and abetted by many of those in other once-great powers, blindly rushed ever faster into the vortex of the growing crisis. I believe we are now in a Great Crisis that cannot be resolved by any means within the System and must run its course to a Great Crash followed by massive conflicts and protracted suffering. We are now lurching wildly from one crisis to another, all within the general context of a Great moral, political, financial and military Crisis. As this Great Crisis grows ever worse, many attempts to Reform the System will be made, but will fail. Not being blinded by hubris, I know I could be wrong and that no one can predict in any detail the specific course of the Crisis or the Crash. I always support any Real Reform that seems to have any hope of being tried — and hope it will prove me totally wrong. All of these attempts at Reform have been killed by the totally corrupt rulers of the Fascist Global System that now engulfs us. None have even been tried. The Central Planners of Money have been wildly, desperately “pump-priming” global economies with vast increases in the money supplies and destruction of real creditworthiness to stop the plunge of our major economies and the Great
Crash that would produce. We are lurching from one Big Bubble to another. There is no sign of light at the end of this tunnel.
In a time of Great Troubles, as ancients called these periods of rapid plunge into Great Crises in their days, reasonable people try to insulate themselves as much as possible from the System, they are very cautious, watching for signs of danger to run for higher ground or any possibly safe island. They remain liquid and ready to run. They avoid getting caught up in the awful power struggles that lead to destruction for the vast majority of the cannon fodder and bureaucratic flaks who serve the war lords and sophistic politicians. They build and tend their Taoist Gardens and try to live fulfilling lives as untouched by the Empires as possible. I retreated into my Garden long ago and only wish it were a more Secret Garden.
December 19, 2005