Years ago, Doug Casey stated, “When empires die, they do so with surprising speed.”
At the time, that comment raised eyebrows, yet he was quite correct in his observation.
Ernest Hemingway made a similar comment when a character in his novel The Sun Also Rises was asked how he went bankrupt. The answer was, “Gradually, then suddenly.”
Again, this sounds cryptic, yet it’s accurate.
Any empire, at its peak, is all-powerful, but the fragility of an empire that’s in decline is hard to grasp, as the visuals tend not to reveal what’s soon to come.
Great countries are built upon traditional values – industriousness, self-reliance, honour, etc. But empires are distinctly different. Although it may seem to be a moot point, an empire is a great country whose traditional values have led it to become unusually prosperous. There are many countries, both large and small, that are “great” in their formative values, but only a few become empires.
Yes, the prosperity is brought about through traditional values, but a great country becomes an empire only when its prosperity is sufficient to allow it to branch out – to invade other lands – to plunder their assets and subjugate their peoples.
We tend to grasp, through hindsight, that this is what made the Roman Empire possible. And we accept that the Spanish Empire was created through its invasion of the Americas and the plundering of pre-Columbian gold.
And we understand that the tiny island of Britain achieved its empire by covering the world with colonies that it had taken by force.
In every case, the pattern was the same – expand, conquer, plunder, dominate.
As a British subject, my childhood understanding was that previous empires had come about through nefarious pursuits, but I was encouraged to believe that the British empire was somehow different – that my forefathers sailed the seven seas to liberate distant populations. That, of course, was nonsense.
The British empire is now long over, and the current empire is the United States. Around 1900, the then-great country of the US sought to achieve empire and, at that time, its president, Teddy Roosevelt, was insatiable in his desire to conquer foreign lands, both near (Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Puerto Rico, Cuba) and far (Hawaii, Philippines, Japan).
The results of his efforts were mostly successful, and although the countries taken were not called colonies, they were certainly intended to be vassal states. And there can be no question the US government’s methods were no kinder than that of the Huns. Some locations, like Hawaii, went fairly peacefully, whilst others, like the Philippines, required brutal slaughter on a grand scale.
And such tactics change the nature of a “great” country. Yes, it does allow it to become even greater, in terms of domination, but it ceases to be great in terms of its values.
In most cases, this plants the seeds of empirical collapse. The empire, even as it’s growing, is rotting from within, with deteriorating principles and morality – the very traits that created it.
This, in turn, causes the empire to develop a habit of subjugation – even over its friends and allies abroad – those countries that got on board to take part in the prosperity. While, to some extent, these loyalties by other nations are genuine, they are treated as lesser nations, eventually causing resentment of the empire.
As such, in the latter days of the empire, ally nations become toadies. Their hatred for the empire is palpable, but they maintain their obeisance, grudgingly.
Empires are built upon monetary prosperity. We can understand that an empire, in its heyday, attracts all and sundry to its shores. It builds up the ability to dictate to others since the whole world hopes to gain favour. But, towards the end of the empirical period, it’s resented by all those who were once genuine allies.
In its latter days, an empire becomes hollowed out. It’s burdened with a costly and top-heavy government. The middle class is expected to provide largess to the masses through bread & circuses, providing fealty for the political class. Traditional values are largely gone, and “everyone seeks to live off everyone else.”
At this point, the empire is a mere superstructure – one that’s becoming increasingly unsound. Importantly, the prosperity that made empire possible is replaced by the illusion of prosperity – debt.
Concurrently, the political class becomes increasingly tyrannical in order to hold the collapsing edifice together. In the final stages, tyrannical efforts increase in both frequency and magnitude in order to maintain the subjugation of the masses for as long as possible.
It may be beneficial for the reader to read this last line again, as this development is the most recognizable symptom of the final stage prior to the collapse of empire.
This final period is not only difficult to cope with, it’s highly confusing for those living within a dying empire.
The edifice still stands. With each election, the electorate hopes that somehow, a champion will spring forth and “put everything back the way it was.”
But it’s important to note that, historically, this never occurs. Whilst the average citizen hopes in vain for his political leaders to “wake up” and stop all the nonsense, he fails to grasp that, to the political leader, the most important pursuit is power. He cares not a whit for the well-being of the populace.
The political class has no intention of relinquishing even a small amount of power for the good of the people he was elected to represent.
Historically, in every instance, every empire has collapsed from within. Once the apple is truly rotten, it cannot be un-rotted.
And so, if we’ve been observant in the recent years and decades, we’ll acknowledge that the present empire has already passed its sell-by date. Its political structure is wholly corrupted on both sides of the aisle; the economy is doomed due to unpayable debt; the population has become unproductive, and it’s now in the process of alienating its former friends through increasingly desperate measures.
And here, we return to our opening paragraphs.
In its final stage prior to collapse, the empire sells out its toadies and is therefore no longer of any benefit to them. Suddenly, the empire becomes a liability. And, at this point, those who have had to tolerate the indignity of being toadies look forward to a fall, even a partial one, by the empire.
At present, the US empire maintains an illusion of dominance, but it cannot withstand a test. A defeat in warfare, a collapse in finance, the loss of the petrodollar or the reserve currency, or any one of a host of triggers that are now looming would be sufficient to drop the US to one knee overnight. All that’s needed is for one of the triggers to be pulled.
It matters little what the event will be; it’s sufficient to understand that we are now drawing quite near and that the event is unavoidable.
Historically, when an empire dies, all the notes suddenly come due.
The political class of any empire arrogantly depends upon allies to do as they’re told, yet, when a decisive blow is dealt to the empire, those who had once been loyal allies are now as ready to abandon the empire as rats would abandon a sinking ship.
When this happens, the crutches that the empire has been counting on to hold it up pull away quickly. The collapse will have occurred “gradually, then suddenly.”
Once this is understood, the question for the reader becomes where he wishes to be when the edifice falls; whether he has prepared an alternative situation that will increase the likelihood that he will survive the debacle with his skin on.
Reprinted with permission from International Man.