07 May 2009
The Fall of Rome v2.0

The Fall of Rome v1.0 went something like this:

1. They created for themselves a welfare state (think: bread and circuses)

2. They went bankrupt

3. Gazillions of barbarians brushed past the army which hadn’t been paid and sacked the place.

It would appear that in the West we have met Condition 1, are about to meet Condition 2 and have the barbarians (I use the term in its literal rather than pejorative sense) for Condition 3 in the form of gazillions of actual and would-be immigrants.

Can anything be done about it?  Well, if the ideas of Mancur Olsen (I believe it’s pronounced Man-Sir) are to be believed, not much.  Now you understand I haven’t actually gone to the effort of actually reading anything Olsen wrote but I am reasonably familiar with his ideas.  Or, at least what I think are his ideas.  If they are not his ideas then there’s a good chance they are my ideas which is even better.  Anyway, his argument (or, at least what I think is his argument) is that over time societies introduce ever more layers of regulation creating ever more interest groups.  These laws and interest groups form a tight web that not only stiffles progress but is highly resistant to change.  The only way it can be changed is through the total collapse of the state as in the case of the Soviet Union or Rome.

It is not difficult to think of examples of the kind of thing he’s getting at.  I sometimes imagine what it would be like to be a reforming Transport Minister.  Let’s say I wanted to liberate the railways.  I might, for instance, want to close down loss-making lines but I would be greeted with howls of protest - not to mention the considerable bureaucratic obstacles in the way.  I might wish to end price control and would get much the same response.  If I wanted, heaven forfend, to allow train operators to own the tracks on which their trains ran, first the UK would have to leave the EU - which would mean repudiating a treaty. Big stuff.

And so on and so forth.  And that is just an area I know about.  It’s bound to be repeated right the way across government.

So, a collapse of the West seems inevitable.  But is it a bad thing?  The Dark Ages do not get a great write up but that’s mainly because they didn’t get any sort of write up (great or otherwise) at the time.  It is possible that it’s inhabitants were experiencing a land of milk and honey.  Certainly, it is one of the complaints that my immigrant colleagues make that the West constantly claims how free it is but you just try building yourself a house…

The litmus test will come when the barbarians try to feed themselves.  Given the complexity of modern agriculture with its technology, financial systems and distribution networks we can only hope they succeed.

Croziervision, bringing joy and light to the world since 2002.

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  1. Joy, no. Light, yes. How is your readership might I be so bold as to ask Mr Crozier?

    Posted by mike on 24 May 2009 at 08:40pm

  2. As to the “Dark Ages”, Rodney Stark is worth a read.  Say, “Victory of Reason” for a start.  Good stuff.

    Posted by Robert Speirs on 01 June 2009 at 06:44pm

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