Every empire goes through what appears to be an inevitable series of conditions which accompany its rise to dominance and then its fall to ashes. This has proven especially true for the 3 key modern empires: the British, the American and the Soviet Union.
So, what are the signs of a rising or falling empire? They all seem to progress in 12 repeating steps:
1. Escape From Tyranny Through Revolution Or Civil War
Every empire begins from the ashes of either a civil war or revolution which results from the unacceptable societal, economic or political conditions preceeding it. In America, we had the Revolutionary War, which was brought about as the colonists sought to escape religious persecution. It could also be an economically-inspired uprising such as the worker’s rebellion in the Soviet Union, leading the rise of the “utopian” Marxist state.
2. Dawn Of The Age Of Idealism, Hope And A New Political Doctrine
In the United States, the American Revolution led to the writing of the Constitution, probably the greatest document ever written. In the Soviet Union, by comparison, Karl Marx’ “Das Kapital”, outlined the ideal worker’s state where everyone was to contribute according to their abilities and receive according to their needs. In Britain, it was Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” from “The Wealth Of Nations”.
Das Kapital sounds great in theory….terrible in practice.
3. Rise Of Economic And Military Power
The adoption of complete laissez-faire capitalism, combined with a new frontier of rich, unexploited resources ushered in the American rise to power. By World War I, the United States was a major economic and military power.
By World War II, America stood alone as the sole nuclear power. The Soviet Union, which never quite achieved economic power as a result of its centrally-controlled economy, nonetheless became a huge military power and soon joined America as the 2nd atomic-ready nation. Prior to the United States’ rise to number 1, Britain ruled the skies of Europe with its Royal Air Force.
4. Political Stability
In the early growth stages of an empire, the vast majority of the population is nationalistic and usually quite devoted to the political system created to address the inequities that characterized the prior system. It could be the rejection of a class system in the Soviet Union, or the rejection of restricted personal freedoms which led to the creation of our Bill Of Rights. Either way, the new political system is highly embraced and thought to be the ultimate answer to a perceived notion of fairness.
5. Gradual Social Decay
Before you know it, other constituencies want to join the party. In America, there have been the suffragettes demanding gender equality or the civil rights movement which sought racial equality.
In Britain, the various splinter groups of the oppressive Catholic church sought religious equality. In the Soviet Union, religious persecution led to huge emigration of Jews to ultimately form Israel.
6. Restriction Of Freedoms
As the Empire grows and progresses, certain groups start to feel left out, especially as the new economic order benefits some more, even much more, than others. Those groups feeling left behind, will begin to form a political majority and learn how to use the new political system to take resources from others.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during his administration, fundamentally changed the political system and destroyed the Constitution with the New Deal. In it, freedom-destroying institutions such as Social Security were created, a juggernaut that was set in motion for which we are now paying a dear price. In addition, Roosevelt changed the Supreme Court in such a way that the Constitution was rendered invalid by the ultimate law-making body. That beautiful document, sadly, will never recover.
7. Quantum Economic Or Military Change
In order to become an Empire, any country must, at least lead either an economic or military revolution, but preferably both. In the United States, the “assembly line” led to our own “manufacturing revolution”. The advent of nukes, led a military revolution. But, that wasn’t all.
This country also led the “high-tech” revolution begun with computer technology and carrying through Al Gore’s invention: the internet. The Soviet Union, because of its inefficient economic system, had to resort to a massive military buildup which resulted from its fear of Adolph Hitler’s Germany. The Brits controlled a global trading empire with interests in virtually every continent.
8 Rise Of Colonialism
Every Empire, as it gets more powerful, with the population still supporting it, will seek to protect or expand its reach.
The Soviet Union annexed the East Bloc creating the Warsaw Pact, including East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. The English presence was felt in far away places such as India, Australia, South Africa, Rhodesia, New Zealand, Canada, Scotland and Ireland. The United States created NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in response to the Soviet Bloc. During the aftermath of World War II, the entire planet fell into “spheres of influence”, a code word for which military power you were aligned with: The Soviet Union’s or America’s.
9. Asset And Monetary Inflation
Every military buildup proves a huge boom to the economy and is supported politically. Politicians refuse to acknowledge the “law of diminishing returns” since they will buy arms and expand forces until increased expenditures begin to create economic distortions. The population will increasingly question the government’s resource allocation decisions. Remember “Guns And Butter”? New thinking political doctrine held that you could spend lavishly on both domestic welfare programs AND have an unlimited defense budget. It was wrong.
Politicians learn that they can remain in office by promising everything, regardless of truth. They all arrive at the perfect solution: PRINT MONEY! What debt? Let’s pay our bills in paper we just created.
10. Economic Decay
The growing burden of providing escalating social programs and military expenditures will start to affect the economy in an irreversible fashion. Budgets, that were formerly routinely balanced, will now start to have increasing deficits. Of course, deficit spending will be defended and, for a long period of time, money creation will seem to lead to great wealth.
The result of monetary solutions is that they lead to increasing inflation and ultimately destructive asset bubbles. The currency will lose value. The process will repeat as deficits get greater, money creation increases, inflation gets higher and the economy gets weaker. The process repeats.
11. Societal And Political Decay
As economic distress begins to be noticed, various interests begin to align. A united society becomes divided along gender, racial, demographic and economic lines. Each views the others with contempt and seeks to use the political system to combat the others.
Eventually, the combat turns to other forms of protest such as violence and civil unrest. The political authorities, in order to stem the violence, will restrict personal freedoms, perhaps even creating an internal security force such as the Department Of Homeland Security. Adolf Hitler had such a department. They knew it later by a different name: The Gestapo.
12. Escape From Tyranny Through Revolution Or Civil War
Yes, you can assume it’s coming to a theatre or drive-in near you.