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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The logic of empire

The Z-Man has a good post on the inertia of the more traditional elite and their inability to recognize or do anything about the problems that their neo-liberal world order cannot address:
The first time I did any serious reading of the Roman Empire, the thought that was always with me was why they never thought to downsize. The cost of conquering Gaul was relatively low, so it made sense to do it, but the cost of hanging onto it never seemed to make sense. The same was even more obvious with Britania. By the third century, it should have been obvious, at least from our perspective, that the Empire needed to be downsized and re-organized. Yet, that was never a part of the logic of the Empire.

I had a similar thought when reading about the Thirty Years War the first time. The Habsburgs were exhausting themselves trying to preserve something that was probably not worth the effort. Of course, we look at these things in hindsight and from a modern perspective. It seems silly to care about the local religious practices, but important people did care about these things and still do. Still, when I read about the rise and fall of empires, I end up thinking through the alternatives, wondering why they were never considered.

The answer is probably the simplest one. People, even the shrewdest rulers, live and plan within their allotted time on earth. Even the Chinese, who take the very long view of things, act in the moment most of the time. People can think about how their actions will impact their descendants a century from now, but it will never have the same emotional tug as how their contemporaries think of them in the moment. That’s just human nature. Most men will trade the applause of today for being remembered long after he is dead.

That’s probably what we are seeing with the current struggles of Western elites to keep this house of cards together. The “liberal international order” is the perfection of a solution to problems of the long gone past. From the French Revolution through the Cold War, the great challenge in the West was over borders, economics and conflict resolution. After a long bloody series of experiments, the West finally figured out something that worked to keep the peace, maximize material wealth and settle disputes in an orderly fashion.

The trouble is, the current arrangements are not answering the questions of this age. In fact, they appear to be exacerbating the problems that face the West.
This isn't the whole problem, of course. But it does explain some of the mysterious ineptitude and ineffectual handwaving of the governing elites to even begin to do anything about the problems that are so readily apparent to so many people throughout the West.

Unlike the Romans, however, the West is also burdened by hostile interests, some of them foreign, some of them not, which actively want to destroy all three of the pillars of the West, Christianity, the Graeco-Roman legacy, and the European races.

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38 Comments:

Blogger Anchorman March 20, 2018 8:05 PM  

I think it goes back to the old story.

They were so busy tearing down the fence (border), that they never asked/reasoned why it was put up in the first place.

I think they truly have a blind spot for why borders and walls and Christianity and natural laws came to be. They assume they were just constructed by fiat...just because the ruler wanted it to be. There could be no sound, age-old reason that should withstand or out-justify their modern thinking. So, they rip and the fabric.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash March 20, 2018 8:07 PM  

The long term solution always involves someone taking it in the shorts today. That guy has a vote, and frequently the biggest vote, in policy going forward.

Blogger Barry Needham March 20, 2018 8:17 PM  

The Z Man touches on it, but everybody underestimates the amount of inertia in the United States.

When you have ~20%+ of the global GDP, the reserve currency (nobody is going to trust the Chinese or Russians), the Petro Dollar, the largest energy reserves, arguably the only interstellar power, and still the only global super power - it is going to continue for a long time.

Blogger Aeoli March 20, 2018 8:21 PM  

https://youtu.be/UTX7Cxq8aGc

Blogger Ken Prescott March 20, 2018 8:27 PM  

@1 This is usually known as "bad luck."

Blogger Steve March 20, 2018 8:52 PM  

Zman says

A generation from now Merkel will be remembered in the same way people remember Chamberlain.

I'm afraid this ignorant, reflexive Chamberlain-bashing really hits me like a cheetah.

Neville Chamberlain was a talented politician, a true patriot, and a thoroughly decent man.

In domestic affairs he was moderate and sensible. That the Great Depression - which ravaged so many countries across the world - was less painfully felt in Britain was in no small part thanks to Chamberlain's steady hand as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

(Given recent events it's interesting that Chamberlain responded to the Depression by abolishing free trade and instituting tariffs)

In foreign affairs, he sought to avoid war with Germany because that's what every sane person in Britain wanted at the time. We lost nearly a million men in WW1, were still heavily in debt to the United States, and didn't have the manpower or materiel to stop Hitler in 1938 even if Chamberlain had been psychic. (Churchill, of course, wanted war from the start. But Churchill always wanted war, he had a John McCain-like voracity for bloodshed.)

Germany was treated abominably at Versailles and had legitimate grievances, so by any rational metric "appeasement" seemed sensible at the time, and it was popular at the time. Chamberlain returned from Munich to be thronged by cheering crowds.

Sadly, as we later found out, Mr Hitler was a liar and a lunatic. That's not Chamberlain's fault. But Chamberlain wasn't foolishly betting everything on Hitler's good faith - he began the process of rearming almost as soon as he became Prime Minister. It was his investment in the RAF that allowed us to fend off the Luftwaffe.

Angela Merkel is no Neville Chamberlain. She is, like Hitler, another German lunatic blinded by inhuman ideology and dragging the whole of Europe into miserable conflict.

If we had some Neville Chamberlains around today instead of the current crop of British and European leaders the world would be a much happier and more civilised place.

Blogger Lazarus March 20, 2018 9:43 PM  

In thinking about responding to this post, I searched "illogic and empire" and "will to power" and read a lot of stuff, but eventually I settled on the old adage “When you are up to your ass in alligators it’s difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp”

Momentum of events have a life of their own.

Blogger tz March 20, 2018 9:57 PM  

I don't remember much of "AD" except the vestal virgins leaving before the "comedy" of Casear bashed by Jews.

Blogger Noah B The Savage Gardener March 20, 2018 10:09 PM  

@6 Chamberlain's great mistake was that he declared war on Germany and then did basically nothing to carry out the war for eight months. He, along with the French, squandered the opportunity to attack when Germany was supremely vulnerable in the West.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine March 20, 2018 10:36 PM  

The sayings about "reach exceeding grasp" are just about the most fundamental way to say what's wrong with empires.

If you want to go into more detail, you need to recognize the merchant classes and well connected families that profit the most from eternal conquest, by sucking up all the spoils at one point or another during the processing, and spreading their economic dragnets further.

It's a means of blood spending blood -- in the more distant past, often that of their own close family members even -- for power, wealth and fame.

Zman's just describing the "pleasure of the present at the price of the future" aspect of evil temptations. He's also being (in my opinion) far too kind to the perpetrators, equating them with traditions that have failed to adapt.

If we're looking at the pendulums of societal norms, these were never effective traditions to begin with, rather mere backswings of the pendulums.

Blogger Jack Amok March 20, 2018 10:47 PM  

In foreign affairs, he sought to avoid war with Germany...

And that Cuban vagineer in Florida sought to build a bridge that wouldn't fall down and crush people.

Neither one of them succeeded, did they?

Blogger Jack Amok March 20, 2018 11:20 PM  

(but Steve, I agree Chamberlain was an honorable man doing what he thought right. He was also a damn fool who cost England greatly, but maybe he was the best that could be elected at the time).

Regarding elites giving up their empires... you have to remember that leaders only get so far on charisma. At some point, the effective followers expect rewards. Our current elites owe a lot to a bunch of people they don't necessarily want to cross. There's no riding off into the sunset, unless they're riding towards an unmarked grave. Or a tragic bench press accident.

How many Roman emperors died peacefully in bed?


Blogger Lazarus March 20, 2018 11:41 PM  

Given that various empires were identified in Daniel's prophesy, what choice did they have?

Blogger The Stygian March 20, 2018 11:42 PM  

I disagree. Chamberlain was a douche. He rolled over faster than a tree at a lumberjack contest. He had a chance to look evil in the eye and not blink. Instead, he dabbed on some vagisil and went back home. I agree the Treaty on Versailles was a joke and a travesty of justice. Your assessment of Merkel is spot on. A globalist elite puppet who wants to take the German people out of the upcoming modern crusade to protect the world again from Islam.

Blogger The CronoLink March 21, 2018 12:05 AM  

I seems to me like hubris and pride. "Downsize? Surely you jest! We would never dare to walk back! To fall down! To be lesser! No, our path, our destiny, is to be great, to reach the top, to move forward towards victory after victory!" For them, to let go would be tantamount to incompetence, defeat and shame, so to downsize is clearly unthinkable.

Blogger Thomas Howard March 21, 2018 12:32 AM  

In my experience, in so far as individuals are concerned, the fear of loss has far greater motivational force than the hope of future gain. Actually Walter Mischel should get some credit for that proof.

Blogger pyrrhus March 21, 2018 12:55 AM  

Chamberlain's great mistake was that he declared war on Germany and then did basically nothing to carry out the war for eight months. He, along with the French, squandered the opportunity to attack when Germany was supremely vulnerable in the West.

No, Chamberlain's great mistake was in declaring war on Germany when England had nothing to gain, and a great deal to lose from such a war. Just as in WW1...

Blogger tublecane March 21, 2018 1:34 AM  

@6-He's talking about the way Chamberlain is remembered, which isn't the actual Chamberlain.

The Chamberlain Myth, as it might be call, is that he traded honor for peace and got war anyway. But of course Britain did not act honorably in WWII. It went to war allegedly for the sake of Poland, yet only fought half of the countries that invaded it, and had to team up with the Evil Empire, sacrifice their own empire, and give up foreign policy independence to the U.S. to do it.

For which trouble they got all that death and destruction, plus Beveridge socialism and 50 years of Cold War.

Ah, but they could pretend it was all-or-nothing, which makes decisions easier. Despite the fact that Germany didn't want war.

Blogger Moritz Krämer March 21, 2018 2:33 AM  

#3 The military supremacy is gonna last for maybe the next ten years, approx as long as the EU. Also, crypto can challenge the USD soon, especially once people see the debt-to-GDP ration. Most East Asian cultures care enough about their children to educate them on such matters. DJT may make the military supremacy last longer, but as we've seen, he doesn't care to balance the budget.

Anonymous Anonymous March 21, 2018 2:46 AM  

The problem with downsizing an empire is that it's not obvious that reduced maintenance costs will compensate for the loss of tax revenue from abandoned provinces. It also makes the empire look weak, encouraging enemies to have a go at downsizing it further. Then there's the problem of resettling people who want to stay inside the Empire.

The Roman Empire eventually did downsize, and kept the wealthier, more defensible eastern portion of the Empire going for another thousand years. The British downsized their empire to a few tiny islands, and are now giving away their homeland to their former subjects.

Blogger Bob Loblaw March 21, 2018 3:55 AM  

Conquering your neighbors made a lot more sense when you could sell them afterwards.

Blogger Uncle John's Band March 21, 2018 5:09 AM  

"but as we've seen, he doesn't care to balance the budget."

Who are "we", oh seer?

It is impossible to observe the cultural and political insanity over the last year and a half and conclude anything about Trump's beliefs on long-term budget issues. You may be ignorant, but "as we've seen", you're definitely a liar.

Blogger Daniel Paul Grech Pereira March 21, 2018 6:26 AM  

All our problems will be solved once we start grown human flesh in a lab to gett over the taboo of eating people.

Blogger Desillusionerad March 21, 2018 6:33 AM  

There is no US politician that's interested in balancing the budget.
That's not a dem rep issue, that's a bad political culture issue.

Blogger Steve March 21, 2018 6:48 AM  

Chamberlain was a douche. He rolled over faster than a tree at a lumberjack contest. He had a chance to look evil in the eye and not blink.

This is the power of hindsight. We now know Hitler was fundamentally untrustworthy and in a hurry to get his country into war. In 1938 that wasn't obvious at all to the British.

Chamberlain, of course, didn't see evil in Herr Hitler's eyes. Real life is rarely that dramatic. He saw a 5ft 9 WW1 vet who was democratically elected by a large, powerful, and highly cultured European nation. Who had legitimate grievances and who professed a desire for peace and amity.

And Britain's negotiating position was weak. The entire British Army numbered about 200,000 men spread across the Empire. We could only commit two under-strength divisions to a European war. The Army said it wasn't ready for another war, and that Chamberlain should buy time. There was literally nothing we could do in 1938 to stop Hitler taking Czechoslovakia other than talk, and the British public didn't want to get its sons killed fighting for the sake of a foreign country that had only existed for about 19 years.

But of course Britain did not act honorably in WWII. It went to war allegedly for the sake of Poland, yet only fought half of the countries that invaded it, and had to team up with the Evil Empire, sacrifice their own empire, and give up foreign policy independence to the U.S. to do it.

Nonsense. We simply had neither the capability or the desire to continue fighting the war after 1945.

What was Britain - which was bankrupt and lost half a million men to fighting - supposed to do against the 10 million strong Red Army? The Americans had no desire to continue the war, our colonial allies had no interest in continued sacrifice, and Western Europe was a smoking pile of rubble with millions of starving refugees desperately trying to survive.

We didn't go to war for the sake of Poland. We went to war after Poland was the final provocation by a Nazi regime which had continually betrayed every international agreement it made, continually attacked its neighbours, continually built a massive war machine in defiance of its obligations, and was by then very clearly a menace we would be forced to confront.

Blogger Miguel March 21, 2018 9:36 AM  

The last part of the post best explains the decline, in my opinion. T
Did the Romans have a (((Frankfurt School))) attacking them from within?

Anonymous Anonymous March 21, 2018 10:09 AM  

I think it is a completely wrong argument. You cannot expect elites to be patriots. You cannot expect Romans as a collective actor acted in the collective interests of Romans as a whole. In reality their elites acted in their own individual interest and downsizing is never the interest of a manager.

And our own elites are selling us out for immigrant votes.

Miguel's view, namely that elites would be patriotistic if not for teh joos is a common illusion on the alt right.

In reality elites have always felt very little in common with their folk. There is the class difference. There is also that elites always marry far more internationally and become mixed. So not have ethnic commonality with the folk. And they grew up isolated from them.

No, when you have actually good elites that is because their interests are aligned with that of the people, not that they are patriots.

I think with people like Miguel the issue is that they would really really like to believe elites are normally patriotistic so they need a (((scapegoat))).

Blogger James March 21, 2018 11:42 AM  

One of Z's blind spots is that he writes and thinks like an academician. He is a big believer in the random events of history, a belief in unseen and non-human evolutionary factors that propel events, not deliberate manipulation. He eschews those things that can be considered "conspiracy theories" because, well, because it just shouldn't be true. He doesn't seem to grasp the truth of the quote attributed to FDR, "In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” Another insider, Joseph Kennedy, pointed out that, "There are no accidents in politics.", a paraphrasing of abolitionist minister Theodore Parker, who said in 1848, “They called him (John Tyler) an accident; but there are no accidents in politics.” When you realize that Lucifer lives and that he walks the world like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, you have the source of evil that seeks to destroy Creation with a very definite plan. Z would find such a statement the height of ignorance.

Blogger justaguy March 21, 2018 11:53 AM  

I think that Z-mann missed the point. The issue is progressivism or whatever you want to call the statist ideology. Those with this ideology do plan longer than they live and this ideology- based on untrue Utopian ideals has been slowly destroying society in favor of creating a new one since the it gain significant traction in the late 1800s. Civilization is slowly caving to its creep and declining as it does so.

Blogger James March 21, 2018 12:14 PM  

Steve wrote:

But of course Britain did not act honorably in WWII. It went to war allegedly for the sake of Poland, yet only fought half of the countries that invaded it, and had to team up with the Evil Empire, sacrifice their own empire, and give up foreign policy independence to the U.S. to do it.

Nonsense.


Please explain what was “nonsense” about what tublecane said. Ah, nonsense. Such a British phrase. Like “rubbish”. It allows you to deprecate someone’s opinion without admitting if it is true or not. Let’s differentiate between “Britain” and the “British financial entity and their government lackeys” for the sake of England’s fragile ego. Britain did not act honorably in WWII, and have not done so in a history full of dishonorable actions. In fact, such actions have given them the sobriquet “Perfidious Albion”. Regardless of what their actual reasoning was, they used the Agreement of Mutual Assistance between the United Kingdom and Poland (8/25/1939) to declare war on Germany, conveniently ignoring that the same pact obligated them to declare war on the USSR if they invaded Poland.

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/blbk19.asp

They did not. In fact, they eventually allied with the USSR to defeat Germany, a decision that turned over Eastern Europe to the communist government after 1945. Oh, did you notice the coincidence that they signed this pact 6 days before Germany invaded? How prescient! Why, almost like they already knew it would happen.

You can justify surrendering the British Empire, but how can you consider it “nonsense”, when that was the result of what they did? You can also deny that they gave up their own foreign policy independence to the US, but this is exactly what happened. See the Suez Canal Crisis if you have any doubts.

Blogger Noah B The Savage Gardener March 21, 2018 12:42 PM  

@25 We didn't go to war for the sake of Poland. We went to war after Poland was the final provocation by a Nazi regime which had continually betrayed every international agreement it made, continually attacked its neighbours, continually built a massive war machine in defiance of its obligations, and was by then very clearly a menace we would be forced to confront.

In that case Chamberlain had no justification whatsoever for declaring a war and then not fighting it. He was simply a fool.

Blogger Steve March 21, 2018 1:22 PM  

James - I suggest you ask a Polish person what they think of the relative behaviours of Britain, Nazi Germany and the USSR during the war. They'll set you straight.

We ultimately couldn't save Poland as an independent state, but we bloody well tried! Communist occupation was brutal. I'm not convinced letting the Nazis implement Generalplan Ost, which called for the "removal" of 85% of their population, was better.

The alternative to Britain's resistance to Germany was that one of two genocidal totalitarian regimes would rule all of Europe. What happened in 1945 is probably the least worst of the feasible options.

Noah - what do you think Chamberlain should've done differently between September 1939 and May 1940?

Blogger James March 21, 2018 1:41 PM  

Steve wrote:James - I suggest you ask a Polish person what they think of the relative behaviours of Britain, Nazi Germany and the USSR during the war. They'll set you straight.

I asked you specific questions. You avoided them. Your need to convince yourself of the nobility of your country is cute. Shame you don’t have the balls to do anything about what’s happening to your own country. And Polish historians are some of the most vocal in Britain’s sacrificing Polish sovereignty. Apparently, they think that you pulled a G. W. Bush and told Hitler you wouldn’t do anything about a German invasion.

Steve wrote:

We ultimately couldn't save Poland as an independent state, but we bloody well tried!


Actually, you didn’t. Nor did your country. Name one thing Britain did in the war to attempt to save Poland as an independent state. Poland was more useful to you as a casus belli. There independence was lost before you even set foot on the battlefield.

Steve wrote:

The alternative to Britain's resistance to Germany was that one of two genocidal totalitarian regimes would rule all of Europe.


Amazing! That’s exactly what happened! It’s a little disingenuous to claim that you sacrificed your own country to stop a totalitarian regime from conquering some European countries when that’s what occurred anyway. Playing “what might have been” is a fool’s game. Let’s play “what really happened”, OK?

Blogger Noah B The Savage Gardener March 21, 2018 1:51 PM  

@32
Option 1: Don't declare a war you're not ready to fight. Foreseeing the likelihood of war, begin a military buildup. (this is my favorite)
Option 2: After declaring war, commit to the fight immediately.

Blogger Noah B The Savage Gardener March 21, 2018 1:57 PM  

Also, Steve, Chamberlain should have immediately lifted all restrictions against the ownership of firearms. That step alone would have neutralized the threat of a German invasion.

Blogger Steve March 21, 2018 2:01 PM  

James - because butthurt Wehraboos are the best Wehraboos.

Name one thing Britain did in the war to attempt to save Poland as an independent state.

We gave them millions of pounds, took in a lot of their people as refugees, and beat the crap out of Nazi Germany, at the cost of half a million British lives. You're welcome.

Amazing! That’s exactly what happened!

Are you daft? We liberated half of Europe.

Noah - are you aware of what Chamberlain actually did to build up the armed forces, or what he had on hand in 1939?

Blogger Noah B The Savage Gardener March 21, 2018 2:13 PM  

The time for a military buildup isn't AFTER declaring war. How is that not obvious?

Blogger James March 21, 2018 4:13 PM  

Steve wrote:James - because butthurt Wehraboos are the best Wehraboos.

And you would seem to be an expert at butthurt.

Name one thing Britain did in the war to attempt to save Poland as an independent state.

Steve wrote:
We gave them millions of pounds, took in a lot of their people as refugees, and beat the crap out of Nazi Germany, at the cost of half a million British lives. You're welcome.


Oh, I see, you did all that to save Poland as an independent state when they were no longer an independent state and remained so until the fall of the USSR in 1989. Funny, because I think the rest of the world thinks you did it to survive a war your government helped to start, not to save Poland. And what millions of pounds did you give to this independent state of Poland? You mean the figurehead government you imported to London? Millions of pounds to that government? Millions? And were you giving away pounds or dollars the Americans were giving and lending to you? Any military support you gave to the resistance was so they could help you by tying down German soldiers. You weren’t giving it to the “independent state of Poland”. And those half-a-million British lives weren’t given to the “independent state of Poland”. They were a by-product of getting your people into another war. I bet you thought those British soldiers that died in WWI were given to “make the world safe for democracy”.

Amazing! That’s exactly what happened!

Steve wrote:

Are you daft? We liberated half of Europe.


You might ask the Swedes, the Germans, the French, the Italians, the Dutch, and the Belgians how lucky they were to be liberated. Especially now that their way of life is being destroyed by a totalitarian state that makes it a crime to criticize those that have invaded them. Oh, and you didn’t liberate jack. You needed the American Army, Army Air Corp, Navy, and the American taxpayer to help you survive. You HELPED to bring the war to an end. A war your financial system and government started. You also needed the help of the totalitarian state from the East to help end the war so that they could “liberate” the other half of Europe. The half that existed under a totalitarian state for the next 45 years.

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