Why do Empires fail?
The 83rd Letter of an Autonomous Thinker

Bangkok, March 6 2007

Dear reader,  China under Genghis Khan, the Ottoman Empire, Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, European Empires under Charles the Great, Charles the Fifth and Napoleon, the Soviet Union and of course the Western colonial Empires.
Most Empires existed less than a century.

But some big countries like China, Russia or the United States exist already for centuries.

Everywhere in the world most power is in the hands of a small elite. The role of the top-elite is of the utmost importance in considering the problem of crumbling Empires, see also Letter 63, The Empire starts to crumble.

The three aforementioned big countries have a unified elite that has strong family-ties even with lower elites in the remotest corners of the country. The top-elite is dynamic, new members (also from local elites) are accepted and some old members have to descend to lower echelons.
Through trusted channels the top-elite has direct knowledge of what happens in the whole country. Different parts of the elite can call upon the central power to stop any danger to the country. (for the importance of Family-ties see also Letter 57 Who belongs to the elite.

In the case of Empires the situation is different.
The top-elite has imposed its power over other parts of the world but is not firmly rooted there. The relation with local elites is businesslike and not built on trusted Family-ties. When necessary for its own profit the top-elite uses violence against lower elites to impose its will.

The crumbling of the Soviet Union is a splendid example. Around 1990 the power of the (Russian) top-elite was so much weakened that local elites could grab power in their homelands. Many new countries came into being. These local elites were not integrated but only tolerated and used by the top-elite.

The US-elite imposes its will on many local elites in the world but there are no trusted bonds. So when American troops cannot anymore be used at liberty by the US top-elite local elites will seek more independence.

In the case of Iraq, the local Iraqi elites are waiting for the American troops to withdraw to get their peace of the cake.

In the case of India it can be expected that the country will fall apart when the power of the top-elite (that is not unified by Family-ties) diminishes f.e. because of an economic crisis.

Also the European Union has a long way to go. It is now dominated by elites from Northwestern Europe - England, Germany, France, the Benelux. These elites have already some trusted Family-ties. That was confirmed by the first results of our study of West-European elites (see also the next Letter and Letter 58, The elite is very old.)
The European Family-ties are still too weak to avoid that the European Union will fall apart in the case of an economic crisis. Most individual countries however will continue to exist as entities though for example the top-elites of Spain or Italy are not as unified as it seems.
I think that our elitist democracy is not yet ripe for an European Union that comprises all European states (and Turkey is still farther away).

Once again our studies prove that elites - and thus inequality - determine the fate of humanity. Alas, because elites cannot even solve the problem of the 18.000 children that every day die because they cannot get the necessary food that is elsewhere abundantly available.

To get a New World where masspeople and elitepeople have equal opportunities it is needed to develop tactics to prevent that any elite will ever usurp most power. To this process my site gives a small contribution.

Yours truly, Joost van Steenis


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84. The growth of an elite
To the index of All Letters