Summary of the Fate of Empires

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Sir John Glubb summarizes his own Fate of Empires:

As numerous points of interest have arisen in the course of this essay, I close with a brief summary, to refresh the reader’s mind.

(a) We do not learn from history because our studies are brief and prejudiced.

(b) In a surprising manner, 250 years emerges as the average length of national greatness.

(c) This average has not varied for 3,000 years. Does it represent ten generations?

(d) The stages of the rise and fall of great nations seem to be:

  • The Age of Pioneers (outburst)
  • The Age of Conquests
  • The Age of Commerce
  • The Age of Affluence
  • The Age of Intellect
  • The Age of Decadence.

(e) Decadence is marked by:

  • Defensiveness
  • Pessimism
  • Materialism
  • Frivolity
  • An influx of foreigners
  • The Welfare State
  • A weakening of religion.

(f) Decadence is due to:

  • Too long a period of wealth and power
  • Selfishness
  • Love of money
  • The loss of a sense of duty.

(g) The life histories of great states are amazingly similar, and are due to internal factors.

(h) Their falls are diverse, because they are largely the result of external causes.

(i) History should be taught as the history of the human race, though of course with emphasis on the history of the student’s own country.

IQ Shredders

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Singapore is an IQ shredder, Spandrell has pointed out. How does an IQ Shredder work?

The basic machinery is not difficult to describe, once its profound socio-historical irony is appreciated. The model IQ Shredder is a high-performance capitalistic polity, with a strong neoreactionary bias.

  1. Its level of civilization and social order is such that it is attractive to talented and competent people.
  2. Its immigration policy is unapologetically selective (i.e. first-order eugenic).
  3. It sustains an economic structure that is remarkably effective at extracting productive activity from all available adults.
  4. It is efficiently specialized within a wider commercial network, to which it provides valuable goods and services, and from which it draws economic and demographic resources.

In sum, it skims the human genetic stock, regionally and even globally, in large part due to the exceptional opportunity it provides for the conversion of bio-privileged human capital into economic value. From a strictly capitalistic perspective, genetic quality is comparatively wasted anywhere else. Consequently, spontaneous currents of economic incentive suck in talent, to optimize its exploitation.

If you think this sounds simply horrific, this argument is not for you. You don’t need it. If, on the other hand, it conjures up a vision of terrestrial paradise — as it does for the magnetized migrants it draws in — then you need to follow it carefully. The most advanced models of neoreactionary social order on earth work like this (Hong Kong and Singapore), combining resilient ethnic traditions with super-dynamic techonomic performance, to produce an open yet self-protective, civilized, socially-tranquil, high-growth enclave of outstanding broad-spectrum functionality. The outcome, as Spandrell explains, is genetic incineration:

Mr Lee said: “[China] will make progress but if you look at the per capita they have got, the differences are so wide. We have the advantage of quality control of the people who come in so we have bright Indians, bright Chinese, bright Caucasians so the increase in population means an increase in talent.”

How many bright Indians and bright Chinese are there, Harry? Surely they are not infinite. And what will they do in Singapore? Well, engage in the finance and marketing rat-race and depress their fertility to 0.78, wasting valuable genes just so your property prices don’t go down. Singapore is an IQ shredder.

The most hard-core capitalist response to this is to double-down on the antihumanist accelerationism. This genetic burn-rate is obviously unsustainable, so we need to convert the human species into auto-intelligenic robotized capital is fast as possible, before the whole process goes down in flames. (I don’t expect this suggestion to be well-received in reactionary circles.)

Lying Commies

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

An experiment last year tested Germans’ willingness to lie for personal gain:

Some 250 Berliners were randomly selected to take part in a game where they could win up to €6 ($8).

The game was simple enough. Each participant was asked to throw a die 40 times and record each roll on a piece of paper. A higher overall tally earned a bigger payoff. Before each roll, players had to commit themselves to write down the number that was on either the top or the bottom side of the die. However, they did not have to tell anyone which side they had chosen, which made it easy to cheat by rolling the die first and then pretending that they had selected the side with the highest number.

[...]

The authors found that, on average, those who had East German roots cheated twice as much as those who had grown up in West Germany under capitalism. They also looked at how much time people had spent in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The longer the participants had been exposed to socialism, the greater the likelihood that they would claim improbable numbers of high rolls.

(Hat tip to our Slovenian Guest.)

The Welfare State

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

When the welfare state was first introduced in Britain, it was hailed as a new high-water mark in the history of human development, Glubb notes:

History, however, seems to suggest that the age of decline of a great nation is often a period which shows a tendency to philanthropy and to sympathy for other races. This phase may not be contradictory to the feeling described in the previous paragraph, that the dominant race has the right to rule the world. For the citizens of the great nation enjoy the role of Lady Bountiful. As long as it retains its status of leadership, the imperial people are glad to be generous, even if slightly condescending. The rights of citizenship are generously bestowed on every race, even those formerly subject, and the equality of mankind is proclaimed. The Roman Empire passed through this phase, when equal citizenship was thrown open to all peoples, such provincials even becoming senators and emperors.

The Arab Empire of Baghdad was equally, perhaps even more, generous. During the Age of Conquests, pure-bred Arabs had constituted a ruling class, but in the ninth century the empire was completely cosmopolitan.

State assistance to the young and the poor was equally generous. University students received government grants to cover their expenses while they were receiving higher education. The State likewise offered free medical treatment to the poor. The first free public hospital was opened in Baghdad in the reign of Harun al-Rashid (786-809), and under his son, Mamun, free public hospitals sprang up all over the Arab world from Spain to what is now Pakistan.

The impression that it will always be automatically rich causes the declining empire to spend lavishly on its own benevolence, until such time as the economy collapses, the universities are closed and the hospitals fall into ruin.

It may perhaps be incorrect to picture the welfare state as the high-water mark of human attainment. It may merely prove to be one more regular milestone in the life-story of an ageing and decrepit empire.

The Master Race

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Every empire is ruled by the master race, Glubb notes:

The people of the great nations of the past seem normally to have imagined that their pre-eminence would last for ever. Rome appeared to its citizens to be destined to be for all time the mistress of the world. The Abbasid Khalifs of Baghdad declared that God had appointed them to rule mankind until the day of judgement. Seventy years ago, many people in Britain believed that the empire would endure for ever. Although Hitler failed to achieve his objective, he declared that Germany would rule the world for a thousand years. That sentiments like these could be publicly expressed without evoking derision shows that, in all ages, the regular rise and fall of great nations has passed unperceived. The simplest statistics prove the steady rotation of one nation after another at regular intervals.

The belief that their nation would rule the world forever, naturally encouraged the citizens of the leading nation of any period to attribute their pre-eminence to hereditary virtues. They carried in their blood, they believed, qualities which constituted them a race of supermen, an illusion which inclined them to the employment of cheap foreign labour (or slaves) to perform menial tasks and to engage foreign mercenaries to ?ght their battles or to sail their ships.

These poorer peoples were only too happy to migrate to the wealthy cities of the empire, and thereby, as we have seen, to adulterate the close-knit, homogeneous character of the conquering race. The latter unconsciously assumed that they would always be the leaders of mankind, relaxed their energies, and spent an increasing part of their time in leisure, amusement or sport.

In recent years, the idea has spread widely in the West that ‘progress’ will be automatic without effort, that everyone will continue to grow richer and richer and that every year will show a ‘rise in the standard of living’. We have not drawn from history the obvious conclusion that material success is the result of courage, endurance and hard work — a conclusion nevertheless obvious from the history of the meteoric rise of our own ancestors. This self-assurance of its own superiority seems to go hand-in-hand with the luxury resulting from wealth, in undermining the character of the dominant race.

The Pageant of Empire

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

The striking features in the pageant of empire are, according to Glubb:

(a) the extraordinary exactitude with which these stages have followed one another, in empire after empire, over centuries or even millennia; and

(b) the fact that the successive changes seem to represent mere changes in popular fashion — new fads and fancies which sweep away public opinion without logical reason. At first, popular enthusiasm is devoted to military glory, then to the accumulation of wealth and later to the acquisition of academic fame.

Why could not all these legitimate, and indeed beneficent, activities be carried on simultaneously, each of them in due moderation? Yet this never seemed to happen.

The Age of Intellect

Friday, July 4th, 2014

After the Age of Affluence comes The Age of Intellect, Glubb says:

We have now, perhaps arbitrarily, divided the life-story of our great nation into four ages. The Age of the Pioneers (or the Outburst), the Age of Conquests, the Age of Commerce, and the Age of Affluence. The great wealth of the nation is no longer needed to supply the mere necessities, or even the luxuries of life. Ample funds are available also for the pursuit of knowledge.

The merchant princes of the Age of Commerce seek fame and praise, not only by endowing works of art or patronising music and literature. They also found and endow colleges and universities. It is remarkable with what regularity this phase follows on that of wealth, in empire after empire, divided by many centuries.

In the eleventh century, the former Arab Empire, then in complete political decline, was ruled by the Seljuk sultan, Malik Shah. The Arabs, no longer soldiers, were still the intellectual leaders of the world. During the reign of Malik Shah, the building of universities and colleges became a passion. Whereas a small number of universities in the great cities had sufficed the years of Arab glory, now a university sprang up in every town.

In our own lifetime, we have witnessed the same phenomenon in the U.S.A. and Britain. When these nations were at the height of their glory, Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge seemed to meet their needs. Now almost every city has its university.

The ambition of the young, once engaged in the pursuit of adventure and military glory, and then in the desire for the accumulation of wealth, now turns to the acquisition of academic honours.

It is useful here to take note that almost all the pursuits followed with such passion throughout the ages were in themselves good. The manly cult of hardihood, frankness and truthfulness, which characterised the Age of Conquests, produced many really splendid heroes.

The opening up of natural resources, and the peaceful accumulation of wealth, which marked the age of commercialism, appeared to introduce new triumphs in civilisation, in culture and in the arts. In the same way, the vast expansion of the field of knowledge achieved by the Age of Intellect seemed to mark a new high-water mark of human progress. We cannot say that any of these changes were ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Defensiveness

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Another outward change which invariably marks the transition from the Age of Conquests to the Age of Affluence, Glubb suggests, is the spread of defensiveness:

The nation, immensely rich, is no longer interested in glory or duty, but is only anxious to retain its wealth and its luxury. It is a period of defensiveness, from the Great Wall of China, to Hadrian’s Wall on the Scottish Border, to the Maginot Line in France in 1939.

Money being in better supply than courage, subsidies instead of weapons are employed to buy off enemies. To justify this departure from ancient tradition, the human mind easily devises its own justi?cation. Military readiness, or aggressiveness, is denounced as primitive and immoral. Civilised peoples are too proud to fight. The conquest of one nation by another is declared to be immoral. Empires are wicked. This intellectual device enables us to suppress our feeling of inferiority, when we read of the heroism of our ancestors, and then ruefully contemplate our position today. ‘It is not that we are afraid to fight,’ we say, ‘but we should consider it immoral.’ This even enables us to assume an attitude of moral superiority.

The weakness of pacifism is that there are still many peoples in the world who are aggressive. 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.

When to be prepared to use force and when to give way is a perpetual human problem, which can only be solved, as best we can, in each successive situation as it arises. In fact, however, history seems to indicate that great nations do not normally disarm from motives of conscience, but owing to the weakening of a sense of duty in the citizens, and the increase in selfishness and the desire for wealth and ease.

High Noon

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Empires pass through a High Noon, Glubb finds:

That which we may call the High Noon of the nation covers the period of transition from the Age of Conquests to the Age of Affluence: the age of Augustus in Rome, that of Harun al-Rashid in Baghdad, of Sulaiman the Magnificent in the Ottoman Empire, or of Queen Victoria in Britain. Perhaps we might add the age of Woodrow Wilson in the United States.

All these periods reveal the same characteristics. The immense wealth accumulated in the nation dazzles the onlookers. Enough of the ancient virtues of courage, energy and patriotism survive to enable the state successfully to defend its frontiers. But, beneath the surface, greed for money is gradually replacing duty and public service. Indeed the change might be summarised as being from service to selfishness.

The Age of Affluence

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

An Age of Affluence precedes an empire’s decline, Glubb finds:

There does not appear to be any doubt that money is the agent which causes the decline of this strong, brave and self-confident people. The decline in courage, enterprise and a sense of duty is, however, gradual.

The first direction in which wealth injures the nation is a moral one. Money replaces honour and adventure as the objective of the best young men. Moreover, men do not normally seek to make money for their country or their community, but for themselves. Gradually, and almost imperceptibly, the Age of Affluence silences the voice of duty. The object of the young and the ambitious is no longer fame, honour or service, but cash.

Education undergoes the same gradual transformation. No longer do schools aim at producing brave patriots ready to serve their country. Parents and students alike seek the educational qualifications which will command the highest salaries. The Arab moralist, Ghazali (1058–1111), complains in these very same words of the lowering of objectives in the declining Arab world of his time. Students, he says, no longer attend college to acquire learning and virtue, but to obtain those qualifications which will enable them to grow rich. The same situation is everywhere evident among us in the West today.

Art and Luxury

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The Age of Commerce is an age of art and luxury, Glubb explains:

The wealth which seems, almost without effort, to pour into the country enables the commercial classes to grow immensely rich. How to spend all this money becomes a problem to the wealthy business community. Art, architecture and luxury ?nd rich patrons. Splendid municipal buildings and wide streets lend dignity and beauty to the wealthy areas of great cities. The rich merchants build themselves palaces, and money is invested in communications, highways, bridges, railways or hotels, according to the varied patterns of the ages.

The ?rst half of the Age of Commerce appears to be peculiarly splendid. The ancient virtues of courage, patriotism and devotion to duty are still in evidence. The nation is proud, united and full of self-con?dence. Boys are still required, ?rst of all, to be manly — to ride, to shoot straight and to tell the truth. (It is remarkable what emphasis is placed, at this stage, on the manly virtue of truthfulness, for lying is cowardice — the fear of facing up to the situation.)

Boys’ schools are intentionally rough. Frugal eating, hard living, breaking the ice to have a bath and similar customs are aimed at producing a strong, hardy and fearless breed of men. Duty is the word constantly drummed into the heads of young people.

The Age of Commerce is also marked by great enterprise in the exploration for new forms of wealth. Daring initiative is shown in the search for pro?table enterprises in far corners of the earth, perpetuating to some degree the adventurous courage of the Age of Conquests.

Sea Power

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

One of the more benevolent ways in which a super-power can promote both peace and commerce is by its command of the sea, Sir John Glubb notes:

From Waterloo to 1914, the British Navy commanded the seas of the world. Britain grew rich, but she also made the Seas safe for the commerce of all nations, and prevented major wars for 100 years.

Curiously enough, the question of sea power was never clearly distinguished, in British politics during the last ?fty years, from the question of imperial rule over other countries. In fact, the two subjects are entirely distinct. Sea power does not offend small countries, as does military occupation. If Britain had maintained her navy, with a few naval bases overseas in isolated islands, and had given independence to colonies which asked for it, the world might well be a more stable place today. In fact, however, the navy was swept away in the popular outcry against imperialism.

The Pros and Cons of Empires

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Sir John Glubb weighs the pros and cons of empires:

In discussing the life-story of the typical empire, we have digressed into a discussion of whether empires are useful or injurious to mankind. We seem to have discovered that empires have certain advantages, particularly in the field of commerce, and in the establishment of peace and security in vast areas of the globe. Perhaps we should also include the spread of varied cultures to many races. The present infatuation for independence for ever smaller and smaller units will eventually doubtless be succeeded by new international empires.

The present attempts to create a European community may be regarded as a practical endeavour to constitute a new super-power, in spite of the fragmentation resulting from the craze for independence. If it succeeds, some of the local independencies will have to be sacrificed. If it fails, the same result may be attained by military conquest, or by the partition of Europe between rival super-powers. The inescapable conclusion seems, however, to be that larger territorial units are a benefit to commerce and to public stability, whether the broader territory be achieved by voluntary association or by military action.

Commercial Expansion

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

The conquest of vast areas of land and their subjection to one government automatically acts as a stimulant to commerce, Sir John Glubb says:

Both merchants and goods can be exchanged over considerable distances. Moreover, if the empire be an extensive one, it will include a great variety of climates, producing extremely varied products, which the different areas will wish to exchange with one another.

The speed of modern methods of transportation tends to create in us the impression that far-?ung commerce is a modern development, but this is not the case. Objects made in Ireland, Scandinavia and China have been found in the graves or the ruins of the Middle East, dating from 1,000 years before Christ. The means of transport were slower, but, when a great empire was in control, commerce was freed from the innumerable shackles imposed upon it today by passports, import permits, customs, boycotts and political interference.

The Roman Empire extended from Britain to Syria and Egypt, a distance, in a direct line, of perhaps 2,700 miles. A Roman of?cial, transferred from Britain to Syria, might spend six months on the journey. Yet, throughout the whole distance, he would be travelling in the same country, with the same of?cial language, the same laws, the same currency and the same administrative system. Today, some twenty independent countries separate Britain from Syria, each with its own government, its own laws, politics, customs fees, passports and currencies, making commercial cooperation almost impossible. And this process of disintegration is still continuing. Even within the small areas of the modern European nations, provincial movements demanding secession or devolution tend further to splinter the continent.

The present fashion for ‘independence’ has produced great numbers of tiny states in the world, some of them consisting of only one city or of a small island. This system is an insuperable obstacle to trade and cooperation. The present European Economic Community is an attempt to secure commercial cooperation among small independent states over a large area, but the plan meets with many dif?culties, due to the mutual jealousies of so many nations.

Even savage and militaristic empires promoted commerce, whether or not they
intended to do so. The Mongols were some of the most brutal military conquerors in history, massacring the entire populations of cities. Yet, in the thirteenth century, when their empire extended from Peking to Hungary, the caravan trade between China and Europe achieved a remarkable degree of prosperity — the whole journey was in the territory of one government.

In the eighth and ninth centuries, the caliphs of Baghdad achieved fabulous wealth owing to the immense extent of their territories, which constituted a single trade bloc. The empire of the caliphs is now divided into some twenty-?ve separate ‘nations’.

The City of Industry

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

The City of Industry is a 12-square mile suburb of Los Angeles with just 219 residents — but more than 2,500 businesses, providing 80,000 jobs:

It was incorporated on June 18, 1957 to prevent surrounding cities from annexing industrial land for tax revenue.

[...]

The City of Industry has no business taxes and is primarily funded through retail sales tax from shopping centers located within the city limits, and property tax on parcels within the City. The city has the highest property tax rate in Los Angeles County, at 1.92%.

Intriguing.

Naturally, this does not please Victor Valle, professor of ethnic studies at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, whose Genealogies of Power in Southern California describes it as “the gritty crossroads of the global trade revolution that is transforming Southern California factories into warehouses, and adjacent working class communities into economic and environmental sacrifice zones choking on cheap goods and carcinogenic diesel exhaust.”