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.

Would it help?

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Would it even help, Glubb wonders, if we understood the life-cycle of great nations?

It is pleasing to imagine that, from such studies, a regular life-pattern of nations would emerge, including an analysis of the various changes which ultimately lead to decline, decadence and collapse. It is tempting to assume that measures could be adopted to forestall the disastrous effects of excessive wealth and power, and thence of subsequent decadence. Perhaps some means could be devised to prevent the activist Age of Conquests and Commerce deteriorating into the Age of Intellect, producing endless talking but no action.

It is tempting to think so. Perhaps if the pattern of the rise and fall of nations were regularly taught in schools, the general public would come to realise the truth, and would support policies to maintain the spirit of duty and self-sacrifice, and to forestall the accumulation of excessive wealth by one nation, leading to the demoralisation of that nation.

Could not the sense of duty and the initiative needed to give rise to action be retained parallel with intellectual development and the discoveries of natural science?

The answer is doubtful, though we could but try. The weaknesses of human nature, however, are so obvious, that we cannot be too confident of success. Men bursting with courage, energy and self-confidence cannot easily be restrained from subduing their neighbours, and men who see the prospect of wealth open to them will not readily be prevented from pursuing it.

Perhaps it is not in the real interest of humanity that they should be so prevented, for it is in periods of wealth that art, architecture, music, science and literature make the greatest progress.

Moreover, as we have seen where great empires are concerned, their establishment may give rise to wars and tragedies, but their periods of power often bring peace, security and prosperity to vast areas of territory. Our knowledge and our experience (perhaps our basic human intellects) are inadequate to pronounce whether or not the rise and fall of great nations is the best system for the best of all possible worlds.

These doubts, however, need not prevent us from attempting to acquire more
knowledge on the rise and fall of great powers, or from endeavouring, in the light of such knowledge, to improve the moral quality of human life.

Perhaps, in fact, we may reach the conclusion that the successive rise and fall of great nations is inevitable and, indeed, a system divinely ordained. But even this would be an immense gain. For we should know where we stand in relation to our human brothers and sisters. In our present state of mental chaos on the subject, we divide ourselves into nations, parties or communities and fight, hate and vilify one another over developments which may perhaps be divinely ordained and which seem to us, if we take a broader view, completely uncontrollable and inevitable. If we could accept these great movements as beyond our control, there would be no excuse for our hating one another because of them.

However varied, confusing and contradictory the religious history of the world may appear, the noblest and most spiritual of the devotees of all religions seem to reach the conclusion that love is the key to human life. Any expansion of our knowledge which may lead to a reduction in our unjustified hates is therefore surely well worth while.

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.)

Organized, Logical, Respectful of Facts

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

The web has given many superbright, very logical people an outlet for their thoughts and observations, Paleo Retiree notes:

Until 2001 or so, nearly all of the people who were getting their thoughts about culture and politics into mainstream print were English, Arts and History types. But since 2001 we’ve seen a lot of engineers and scientists putting their ideas out there too. And god knows they’re just as bright, if not far more so, than the usual American Studies crowd. Plus: they’re organized, they can think logically, and they’ve got a lot more respect for facts than lib-arts people tend to have.

The arrival on the public-discussion scene of these people, mostly guys, has really shaken up the usual liberal-arts crowd, IMHO. It’s been hard on their collective ego, for one thing. To my mind, the beating that the egos of the traditional opinion-makers have taken helps explain the tone of hysteria that sometimes shows up in discussions of “the end of journalism” or “the end of movie reviewing.” Imagine being a pro movie reviewer, for example, and being forced to wake up to the fact that many people are just as happy to take part in informal online discussions as they are to read reviews. And now imagine waking up the additional fact that some of the people who are using blogs, comments, forums and Amazon viewer-reviews as outlets are in fact just as smart, informed, funny and perceptive as you are.

Plus I’m left wondering how much the arrival of so many engineer-scientist types on the public-discussion scene has driven the growth of the Dark Enlightenment / HBD / Game / Reactionary part of the online world. After all, they do tend to like systems, they aren’t afraid of blunt facts, and they do tend to have more politically conservative views than the usual LibArts crowd does.

The Emerging Pattern

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Glubb studies the emerging pattern of great nations:

In spite of the endless variety and the infinite complications of human life, a general pattern does seem to emerge from these considerations. It reveals many successive empires covering some 3,000 years, as having followed similar stages of development and decline, and as having, to a surprising degree, ‘lived’ lives of very similar length.

The life-expectation of a great nation, it appears, commences with a violent, and usually unforeseen, outburst of energy, and ends in a lowering of moral standards, cynicism, pessimism and frivolity.

If the present writer were a millionaire, he would try to establish in some university or other a department dedicated solely to the study of the rhythm of the rise and fall of powerful nations throughout the world. History goes back only some 3,000 years, because before that period writing was not sufficiently widespread to allow of the survival of detailed records. But within that period, the number of empires available for study is very great.

At the commencement of this essay, the names of eleven such empires were listed, but these included only the Middle East and the modern nations of the West. India, China and Southern America were not included, because the writer knows nothing about them. A school founded to study the rise and fall of empires would probably find at least twenty-four great powers available for dissection and analysis.

The task would not be an easy one, if indeed the net were cast so wide as to cover virtually all the world’s great nations in 3,000 years. The knowledge of language alone, to enable detailed investigations to be pursued, would present a formidable obstacle.

Only one in five white Britons votes for Labour

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Only one in five white Britons votes for Labour:

The divide between London’s white and ethnic minority voters will be laid bare in a shocking study this week.

The research into London’s recent European election result shows two thirds of white British voters backed either the Tories or Ukip.

It goes on to reveal that two thirds of non-white voters supported Labour, which received the backing of just one in five white British voters.

The analysis suggests that the migration of ethnic minority voters to the capital’s inner suburbs is behind recent Labour victories there.

But it also comes amid debate among senior Labour voices over how to respond to the rise of Ukip support among white working class voters.

The analysis highlights that there are now almost as many non-white as there are white British voters in London.

(Hat tip to HBD Chick.)

Can Classic Moral Stories Promote Honesty in Children?

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Classic moral stories have been used for centuries to teach children the virtue of honesty, but there hasn’t been any scientific evidence that they work — until now:

This study compared the effectiveness of four classic moral stories in promoting honesty in 3- to 7-year-olds. Surprisingly, the stories of “Pinocchio” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” failed to reduce lying in children. In contrast, the apocryphal story of “George Washington and the Cherry Tree” significantly increased truth telling. Further results suggest that the reason for the difference in honesty-promoting effectiveness between the “George Washington” story and the other stories was that the former emphasizes the positive consequences of honesty, whereas the latter focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty. When the “George Washington” story was altered to focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty, it too failed to promote honesty in children.

(Hat tip to Tyler Cowen.)

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.)

Small Nations

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Glubb discusses the rise of small nations:

The word ‘empires’ has been used in this essay to signify nations which achieve the status of great powers, or super-powers, in the jargon of today—nations which have dominated the international scene for two or three centuries. At any given time, however, there are also smaller states which are more or less self-contained. Do these live the same ‘lives’ as the great nations, and pass through the same phases?

It seems impossible to generalise on this issue. In general, decadence is the outcome of too long a period of wealth and power. If the small country has not shared in the wealth and power, it will not share in the decadence.

Ecological Imperialism

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Environmental history‘s popularity derives from progressive political concerns. This is unfortunate, T. Greer notes:

There are few fields whose findings have such a clear and wide ranging impact on every other aspect of human civilization. The rise and fall of dynasties, the great deeds of armies and generals, the wealth and poverty of nations, and the daily life of men and women across human history were molded by the ecological setting in which they occurred.

A book I often recommend to those who doubt that environmental history is essential to making sense of human civilization is Alfred Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900. Over the last three decades a torrent of books and articles have been written to explain why the West was able to rise above ‘the rest’ and establish global supremacy. While of the same vein as these works, the question that animates Ecological Imperialism is slightly different: why were Europeans so successful at reproducing European society (and completely displacing the previous inhabitants) of some locales but unable to accomplish this same feat in other locations? Why were white settlers in North America, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa fantastically more successful than their fellow colonists in Brazil, Mozambique, Panama, or New Guinea?

The answer, says Crosby, is ecology. European expansion was not just a movement of peoples, but of entire environments. For settlers to survive and thrive they must be able to secure food, construct buildings, and move about from place to place. European civilization allowed Europeans to do this on a scale new to human history, but the successes of Western civilization cannot be separated from the environment from which they sprang. Its great cities, armies, and ships were ultimately built upon a unique suite of European flora and fauna. When transplanted far from their homeland these alien organisms do better in some lands than in others. Places where climate and local disease prove hostile to European biota, like central Africa, are places where Western imperialists could only establish an ephemeral presence. Places like Brazil or Mexico, less deadly to European life but unsuitable for large-scale colonization without adopting indigenous crops and farming techniques, produced creole cultures that mixed European and Amerindian traditions. In Australia, New Zealand, North America, and the South African coastline the only environmental constraint European settlers faced was distance. The geography, climate, and ecology of these places were perfect for European biota, allowing them to displace native life without conscious effort.

The displacement was complete and utter. American readers may be surprised to find out how much of America’s ‘natural and wild’ wilderness is made of European aliens of recent import. Sparrows, starlings, house flies, honeybees, garden snails, earthworms, common rats, white clovers, dandelions, Kentucky blue-grass, stinging nettles, knot-grass, broadleaf plantains, Bermuda grass, periwinkles, mayweed, ground ivy, knapweed, milk thistles and almost every type of grass you can find east of the Mississippi originated in Europe and came to the United States in the two centuries after 1650. And that is just a small sample of the hundreds of plants and animals that came to America along with the Europeans. What started as a few alien weeds accidentally carried across the sea grew to dominate entire ecosystems. By 1940 an ecological survey in Southern California could report that “63% of herbaceous vegetation in the grassland types, 66% in the woodland, and 54% in the chaparral” were naturalized plants.

The expansion of European biota across the land was not simply a consequence of European migration. In most cases it was an essential precursor to large-scale European immigration itself. European colonization of New Zealand’s South Island is a case in point. The first settlers in New Zealand did not believe that sheep could ever prosper there, for both islands, being carpeted by ferns or covered with dense forest, had no grass to speak of and nothing sheep could survive on. Initial attempts to remedy the situation by introducing flowering plants to New Zealand failed. The plants would grow but could not reproduce: New Zealand had no insect species adapted to pollinate them! It was not until settlers brought honeybees to the islands that the situation changed, leading to an explosion of European plants across both islands. The new grasses and clovers were perfect feed for English sheep, and it was not long before the sheep had reached such numbers that they became one of New Zealand’s chief exports and an economic pull for more migrants.

Ecological Imperialism does sound comically left-wing, doesn’t it?

Inadequacy of our Historical Studies

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Sir John Glubb laments the inadequacy of our historical studies:

In fact, the modern nations of the West have derived only limited value from their historical studies, because they have never made them big enough. For history to have meaning, as we have already stated, it must be the history of the human race.

Far from achieving such an ideal, our historical studies are largely limited to the history of our own country during the lifetime of the present nation. Thus the time-factor is too short to allow the longer rhythms of the rise and fall of nations even to be noticed. As the television director indicated, it never even crosses our minds that longer periods could be of any interest.

When we read the history of our own nation, we find the actions of our ancestors described as glorious, while those of other peoples are depicted as mean, tyrannical or cowardly. Thus our history is (intentionally) not based on facts. We are emotionally unwilling to accept that our forbears might have been mean or cowardly.

Alternatively, there are ‘political’ schools of history, slanted to discredit the actions of our past leaders, in order to support modern political movements. In all these cases, history is not an attempt to ascertain the truth, but a system of propaganda, devoted to the furtherance of modern projects, or the gratification of national vanity.

Men can scarcely be blamed for not learning from the history they are taught. There is nothing to learn from it, because it is not true.

A Woman Wants It All

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Spandrell recently found “a very neat paper on sex relations” — Women’s Mating Strategies, published in Evolutionary Anthropology — and decided “to pull an Isegoria and silently quote some pieces of the paper over several posts” — starting with this:

What does a woman want? The traditional evolutionist’s answer to Freud’s famous query is that a woman’s extensive investment in each child implies that she can maximize her fitness by restricting her sexual activity to one or at most a few high-quality males. Because acquiring resources for her offspring is of paramount importance, a woman will try to attract wealthy, high-status men who are willing and able to help her. She must be coy and choosy, limiting her attentions to men worthy of her and emphasizing her chastity so as not to threaten the paternity confidence of her mate.

The lady has been getting more complicated of late, however. As Sarah Hrdy predicted, we now have evidence that women, like other female primates, are also competitive, randy creatures. Women have been seen competing with their rivals using both physical aggression and more subtle derogation of competitors. While they are still sometimes coy and chaste, women have also been described recently as sexy and sometimes promiscuous creatures, manipulating fatherhood by the timing of orgasm, and using their sexuality to garner resources from men.

The real answer to Freud’s query, of course, is that a woman wants it all: a man with the resources and inclination to invest, and with genes that make him attractive to other women so that her sons will inherit his success. Her strategies for attaining these somewhat conflicting aims, and her success in doing so, are shaped by her own resources and options and by conflicts of interest with men and other women.

A Variety of Falls

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Great nations demonstrate a variety of falls, Glubb finds:

It has been shown that, normally, the rise and fall of great nations are due to internal reasons alone. Ten generations of human beings suffice to transform the hardy and enterprising pioneer into the captious citizen of the welfare state. But whereas the life histories of great nations show an unexpected uniformity, the nature of their falls depends largely on outside circumstances and thus shows a high degree of diversity.

The Roman Republic, as we have seen, was followed by the empire, which became a super-state, in which all the natives of the Mediterranean basin, regardless of race, possessed equal rights. The name of Rome, originally a city-state, passed from it to an equalitarian international empire.

This empire broke in half, the western half being overrun by northern barbarians, the eastern half forming the East Roman or Byzantine Empire.

The vast Arab Empire broke up in the ninth century into many fragments, of which one former colony, Moslem Spain, ran its own 250-year course as an independent empire. The homelands of Syria and Iraq, however, were conquered by successive waves of Turks to whom they remained subject for 1,000 years.

The Mameluke Empire of Egypt and Syria, on the other hand, was conquered in one campaign by the Ottomans, the native population merely suffering a change of masters.

The Spanish Empire (1500-1750) endured for the conventional 250 years, terminated only by the loss of its colonies. The homeland of Spain fell, indeed, from its high estate of a super-power, but remained as an independent nation until today.

Romanov Russia (1682-1916) ran the normal course, but was succeeded by the Soviet Union.

It is unnecessary to labour the point, which we may attempt to summarise briefly. Any regime which attains great wealth and power seems with remarkable regularity to decay and fall apart in some ten generations. The ultimate fate of its component parts, however, does not depend on its internal nature, but on the other organisations which appear at the time of its collapse and succeed in devouring its heritage. Thus the lives of great powers are surprisingly uniform, but the results of their falls are completely diverse.

John Quincy Adams on Gaza

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Lynn C. Rees has redacted with extreme prejudice James Monroe’s 1818 State of the Nation speech to address Israel and Gaza, rather than the young United States and Spanish Florida:

Our relations with Spain the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) remain nearly in the state in which they were at the close of the last session. The convention of 1802 Oslo Accords of 1991 and 1995, providing for the adjustment of a certain portion of the claims of our citizens for injuries sustained by spoliation, and so long suspended by the Spanish PA Government has at length been ratified by it, but no arrangement has yet been made for the payment of another portion of like claims, not less extensive or well founded, or for other classes of claims, or for the settlement of boundaries. These subjects have again been brought under consideration in both countries, but no agreement has been entered into respecting them.

In the mean time events have occurred which clearly prove the ill effect of the policy which that Government has so long pursued on the friendly relations of the two countries, which it is presumed is at least of as much importance to Spain the PLA as to the United States Israel to maintain. A state of things has existed in the Floridas Gaza Strip the tendency of which has been obvious to all who have paid the slightest attention to the progress of affairs in that quarter. Throughout the whole of those Provinces to which the Spanish Palestinian title extends the Government of Spain the PLA has scarcely been felt. Its authority has been confined almost exclusively to the walls of Pensacola and St. Augustine the West Bank, within which only small garrisons have been maintained. Adventurers from every country, fugitives from justice, and absconding slaves have found an asylum there. Several tribes of Indians Islamists, strong in the number of their warriors terrorists, remarkable for their ferocity, and whose settlements extend to our limits, inhabit those Provinces.

These different hordes of people, connected together, disregarding on the one side the authority of Spain the PA, and protected on the other by an imaginary line which separates Florida the Gaza Strip from the United States Israel, have violated our laws prohibiting the introduction of slaves, have practiced various frauds on our revenue, and committed every kind of outrage on our peaceable citizens which their proximity to us enabled them to perpetrate.

Human Diversity

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Generalisations are always dangerous, Glubb says, because human beings are all different:

The variety in human life is endless. If this be the case with individuals, it is much more so with nations and cultures. No two societies, no two peoples, no two cultures are exactly the same. In these circumstances, it will be easy for critics to find many objections to what has been said, and to point out exceptions to the generalisations.

There is some value in comparing the lives of nations to those of individuals. No two persons in the world are identical. Moreover their lives are often affected by accidents or by illness, making the divergences even more obvious. Yet, in fact, we can generalise about human life from many different aspects. The characteristics of childhood, adolescence, youth, middle and old age are well known. Some adolescents, it is true, are prematurely wise and serious. Some persons in middle age still seem to he young. But such exceptions do not invalidate the general character of human life from the cradle to the grave.

I venture to submit that the lives of nations follow a similar pattern. Superficially, all seem to be completely different. Some years ago, a suggestion was submitted to a certain television corporation that a series of talks on Arab history would form an interesting sequence. The proposal was immediately vetoed by the director of programmes with the remark, “What earthly interest could the history of medieval Arabs have for the general public today?”

Yet, in fact, the history of the Arab imperial age — from conquest through commercialism, to affluence, intellectualism, science and decadence — is an exact precursor of British imperial history and lasted almost exactly the same time.

If British historians, a century ago, had devoted serious study to the Arab Empire, they could have foreseen almost everything that has happened in Britain down to 1976.