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Corruption Repeats Itself

07/27/2011

Image credit: flickr user nautical2k

In A Short History of Progress, which I reviewed here, Ronald Wright identifies a characteristic shared by all historical civilizations that have collapsed.

In the decades before its downfall, every society experiences a widening economic gap between the rich and the poor. The wealthy elite are the only ones with the means and the influence to address their civilization’s growing problems, and in a handful of cases, they do. But generally they just use their power to amass more wealth, using whatever means available–debt, taxation, force, etc. Sustaining the gap between themselves and the poor is what allows the elite to prosper despite mounting crises.

And as civilizational ruin creeps closer, the rich start spending more and more. Consider the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, which was built up over a millennium and a half but whose tallest towers were constructed in its final century. These are the towers that survive today.

Speaking of towers, did you know there are currently several under construction that will knock several buildings off the world’s tallest top ten?

Did you hear about the wedding they had recently, which cost the British economy several billion?

How about that summit they threw in Toronto last year?

Like any period in history, we  have a class of elites today with an enormous amount of influence. And they’re behaving very much like elites do when the society they preside over is about to collapse.

They’re doing very well for themselves. They recently very handily acquired a couple trillion in taxpayer-funded ‘bailouts’. And as I mentioned Monday,  they’ve been conducting some highly sketchy foreclosures for pocket change.

Boris Fyodorov, the late finance minister of Russia, often pointed out that the powerful benefit greatly from confusion and chaos. It makes it a lot easier to take things from others.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Raven Warren permalink
    08/10/2011 4:16 PM

    I’m really enjoying the length of your recent posts. When I don’t have a lot of time to check in each day, having a short interesting post to read by you is nice :)

  2. 08/10/2011 4:31 PM

    Thanks doll! Glad you like.

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  1. skeptical political inquiry – September 29, 2011 | Ruseweek

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