The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival

Posted by LionelHutz 5 years, 6 months ago to History
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A stimulating 26 page essay you will certainly find areas of agreement and disagreement with. Worth a read.

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  • Posted by Zenphamy 5 years, 6 months ago
    Lionel, thanks for the posting. This is truly worth a read and even much future thought. As an example: "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."

    And, "...that, although Rome ruled the world, women ruled Rome. In the tenth century, a similar tendency was observable in the Arab Empire, the women demanding admission to the professions hitherto monopolised by men. ‘What,’ wrote the contemporary historian, Ibn Bessam, ‘have the professions of clerk, tax-collector or preacher to do with women? These occupations have always been limited to men alone.’ Many women practised law, while others obtained posts as university professors. There was an agitation for the appointment of female judges, which, however, does not appear to have succeeded.
    Soon after this period, government and public order collapsed, and foreign invaders overran the country. The resulting increase in confusion and violence made it unsafe for women to move unescorted in the streets, with the result that this feminist movement collapsed.
    The disorders following the military take- over in 861, and the loss of the empire, had played havoc with the economy. At such a moment, it might have been expected that everyone would redouble their efforts to save the country from bankruptcy, but nothing of the kind occurred. Instead, at this moment of declining trade and financial stringency, the people of Baghdad introduced a five-day week.
    When I first read these contemporary descriptions of tenth-century Baghdad, I could scarcely believe my eyes. I told myself that this must be a joke! The descriptions might have been taken out of The Times today. The resemblance of all the details was especially breathtaking—the break-up of the empire, the abandonment of sexual morality, the ‘pop’ singers with their guitars, the entry of women into the professions, the five-day…"

    I could quote the entire essay for the similarities to our current situations and the many public discussions and arguments that we're surrounded with today.
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  • Posted by Lucky 5 years, 6 months ago
    Yes worth a read. Good arguments but weak conclusions especially in the chart giving the ages of empires on page 2.
    No mention of Byzantium, Inca, China, Egypt, and more.
    Selective start and finish dates. Why finish Spain at 1750 not at for example the defeat in Cuba in the next century. Why start Britain at 1700 not at 1066?

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  • Posted by $ jlc 5 years, 6 months ago
    I finally got a chance to read (well, skim) this document. I really like his perspective that history = history of humans and not the propaganda of a particular country. I also totally agree that history, from this initial startpoint can provide worthwhile insights on the life cycles of nations.

    I think the author had his thumb on the scales for the life spans of the empires he cites and I do not agree with his specific conclusions. His basic premise is very valuable, though.

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  • Posted by illucio 5 years, 6 months ago
    I love to read, especially extensively. More than I love to write even, and that´s the truth. But I can only refer to the title here, and say that empires always fall into the category of centralization of power and, ultimately; a dictatorship. History shows us that this is the case. So you have the brilliance of the Catholic Church, that beat the Romans from the inside and, well; became "the man" after suffering his impositions for centuries. Power corrupts, undoubtebly. So, well; what´s the alternative?

    I´m convinced that organization is crucial, and anarchy is not the way to go. But when there is no conflict, when there is no "clear and present danger"; we tend to fall off the grid and despise it, or on the contrary create an enemy in order to have a "common" cause. Bush´s "war on terror" was a strategic road in that direction, just another example of course. Hence, with that excuse; civil rights in the US went out the window. "It´s ok to spy on your neighbor, just in case he´s doing something wrong" is McCarthyism all over again, except now all you need is technology to do so.

    Me? I love freedom. Of speech, of market, of enterprise, etc. But when "fear" steps in, everything´s "up in the air" again. Meanwhile, communist China is taking over the world and USA has only the bigger stick to level the situation now. "The best way to combat injustice is through education". And, well; media is forming zombies by the millions nowadays....
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  • Posted by Kittyhawk 5 years, 6 months ago
    From page 12: "Thus we see that the cultivation of the human intellect seems to be a magnificent
    ideal, but only on condition that it does not
    weaken unselfishness and human dedication
    to service."

    I doubt many Objectivists would agree that unselfishness and service to others are what make a country great. I certainly disagree.
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  • Posted by khalling 5 years, 6 months ago
    Very interesting. Some thoughts
    In discussing the Age Of Intellect, I find many of his arguments to be false. His emphasis on patriotism and duty as virtues that are in decline in this period of an empire and therefore, the lack precipitating the decline does not bear out. The nationalism of Germany and the loyalty and honor /duty of japanese culture had no positive effect on their nations prevailing in WWII. In fact I would say those qualities, not based in reason, directly affected their decline as nations.
    As well, the US does not exactly fit his model. I did find the discussion of cultures' influence over other cultures having unique strengths interesting. I think in part that is due to the governing. The less influential a government is over a given society, the broader the range of expertise, given the govt 's ability to protect property rights and defend against invaders. I am also with Lucky that dates and empires seem to be arbitrarily drawn, as the author suggests, but I would say specifically chosen to best illustrate his thesis, so he 's ignoring important data that may not support his thesis.
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  • Posted by scojohnson 5 years, 6 months ago
    It was interesting, but I couldn't help seeing a ghosted inference to "see America - you're next" kind of a thing. I agree with all other comments, selective memory or something... seems to be a thesis of sorts, but the holes would make it non-defendable.

    I think the glaring inaccuracy would be the "motive" for expansion - as all previous empires mentioned expanded for control of land, people, and wealth, whereas the United States has primarily expanded around the world to promote freedom and to protect our commercial interests. We've never "occupied" lands and taken their resources (Ok, well we basically did that to the Indians)... In the case of Mexico, after we invaded and planted a flag in Mexico City, we paid off their insurmountable (for them) national debt and returned most of it to the Mexican people (although we kept Texas & California). Our involvement in the Middle East really starts with the Shah of Iran, that ended badly, and then we were ensuring the free-flow of oil (for our own economy/world prices - even though we don't get much from there), now, we are just involved for the rather difficult task of nation-building to eventually / hopefully stabilize the region, but Africa will be next anyway. The point is, we don't plant a flag and rule people - so our expansion has been more sustainable. We have bases throughout the world, but as a percentage of our national treasure annually and our population, its peanuts. We spend the vast sums of our treasure on our own people (that is what is bankrupting us). When it comes down to it, as a policy, America engages around the world militarily kind of out of a hope that we will some day not need to. As a national conscious, we really want to just be left alone and live peacefully, and we engage to that effect. We destroy cities and then give the people money and material and know-how to rebuild them. We're terrified of fighting an invasion on our streets, so we engage dramatically everywhere else "bringing the battle to the enemy". If 9/11 hadn't happened, we would still be rather fat and happy here at home and I suspect Russia would still be struggling. We took care of many of their woes out of fears stemming from 9/11.

    He fails to mention the key difference of a government by and for the people, versus a despot. If we abolished our government in the United States, how would we make it more perfect? Reforms are needed, but we have it pretty good compared to the rest of the world...

    He talks about defensiveness, but doesn't really understand or discuss the technological superiority that the US empire has today. There really isn't any foe on the high seas that can challenge a US warship. There might be a suicide bomber, that type of thing as we have seen before, but China for example has about 30 years of naval development and procedures and practice ahead of them before they could really challenge us in a single engagement, assuming we did nothing the next 30 years. You can build an aircraft carrier, but that doesn't mean you have the nuclear reactors to keep it at sea, the logistics to feed a crew of thousands, or the pilots that can take off and land from it, or the aircraft that can handle the landing gear cycle punishment of bouncing a 30 ton jet onto the deck at 150 mph and falling out of the sky onto a surface that moves up & down about 20 feet.

    I can see us deciding to slowly disengage from the world, but we kind of tried that to an extent under Clinton and the first months of GW Bush, but we were re-awakened very suddenly and are now actively engaged throughout the world. Again, or our wealth technological levels are really unmatched, so we were able to rather immediately occupy much of the world as needed for our efforts.

    We have one other advancement, we are the world's reserve currency. We can print as much money as we need. All other previous empires needed gold. Much harder to come-by... obviously...
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