Please see the disclaimer.
If you want to build the perfect society, how would you do it?
That question seems hard to answer, harder than its inverse: how would you destroy a society?
So let’s look at the latter question and see if that will answer the former.
Causes of the Fall of Civilizations
The Fall of Civilizations Podcast is an excellent documentary channel masquerading as a podcast.
It is, in fact, great as a podcast as well; the video portion is not essential.
One thing the podcaster, Paul Cooper, says is that every civilization falls in a different way, so let’s see a small list of general reasons that civilizations fall:
- Being conquered.
- Bad economy.
- Loss of confidence of the people.
- Some combination of the previous reasons.
The people losing confidence leads to collapse because if they do, they will either leave, work around the system, or bring it down themselves to rebuild a better version.
As it happens, number 4 is the most common, though the exact cocktail is, as Paul says, different in every case.
I read the pamphlet “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival,” by Sir John Glubb, before I saw any of the Fall of Civilizations Podcast, and it clarified so many things that I had always wondered about history.
The thesis of “The Fate of Empires” is that empires have a cycle, a cycle of rise and fall in about 250 years or 10 generations.
Sir John Glubb uses the term “empire,” not society. However, in this context, by “society,” I mean a more complex kind of civilization, which is directly analogous to empires, at least for this blog post.
While the actual averages could be debated, I don’t think the general gist of the thesis can be. There is no empire that has gone farther than about 250-300 years.
Some have gone far shorter, for extraordinary reasons, such as the Aztec Empire falling because of the arrival of the ambitious and murderous Hernán Cortés.
Paul Cooper says that history doesn’t repeat itself, and in once sense, he is correct. But in the general sense that the same cycles of history do not repeat, he is absolutely wrong.
Why is that such a hard rule? Why is it practically a rule of history?
That is what I want to investigate in this post.
“The Fate of Empires” offers a tantalizing glimpse as to what the root cause is:
The works of the contemporary historians of Baghdad in the early tenth century are still available. They deeply deplored the degeneracy of the times in which they lived, emphasising particularly the indifference to religion, the increasing materialism and the laxity of sexual morals. They lamented also the corruption of the officials of the government and the fact that politicians always seemed to amass large fortunes while they were in office.
So it is corruption and lossening sexual standards? Not quite; it’s the loss of virtue and religion.
The root cause of any civilizational collapse is the loss of any one virtue in enough of the people.
That’s it. That’s all. It’s that simple.
And yet, that seems too simple!
Regardless, that is the single root cause, for as George Mason, one of the Founding Fathers, said,
As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities.
– George Mason, quoted by James Madison in his notes taken during the Constitutional Convention.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World concurs, especially regarding the losses of virtue that destroy the nuclear family of a father and a mother:
Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
If you still don’t believe me, then continue reading, and I will tell you how the loss of some single virtues will destroy a civilization.
What can happen when chastity is lost?
Several things, actually:
- Marriage becomes less important.
- Fidelity in marriage is not observed.
- Homosexuality becomes accepted.
There are many others, but this is sufficient because it can be easily that all of those results will eventually lead to the degradation of the nuclear family.
And since the family is the “fundamental unit of society,”, the foundation of society, if it fails, society will fail with it.
Say the loss of honesty happens. What happens next?
More and more people attempt to support themselves by dishonest work. They make themselves economic parasites. As they sap more and more from the economy, honest people find it hard to make a living and either leave, or become economic parasites themselves out of desperation.
End result: the economy loses a lot of its value because less value is being produced. That leads to a bad economy and eventually to collapse.
With the loss of generosity comes greed, and greed brings the same results as the loss of honesty.
I’m going to separate integrity from honesty. In this case, let’s assume it is about telling the truth rather than honesty in business.
In that case, the loss of integrity destroys the justice system because people will say whatever they need to say to get their way.
And with the justice system destroyed, the people lose confidence, leading to collapse.
If people lose knowledge, they lose the ability to maintain the things that their predecessors built. This leads to the degradation of those things, and once some of those things are crucial, their loss leads to collapse.
Without courage, a society is easily conquered, either by an outside force, or by fear itself. If it’s fear itself, the freedom is destroyed, which destroys the economy, which leads to collapse.
The loss of wisdom leads to the society losing its purpose or direction. If the leaders of the society don’t know how to maintain the society, which is what wisdom would give them, then the society cannot be maintained. It also leads the people to lose confidence.
The loss of patience leads to the natural desire for immediate gratification to be gratified, and it also leads to a sense of entitlement.
Both of these leads to greed, which we have already talked about.
A loss of industry leads to a bad economy, since if people do not support, themselves, they become economic parasites.
A loss of humility leads to a loss of progress, and without progress, the society begins to decay, leading to a loss of knowledge, which I have already talked about.
A loss of kindness leads to animosit, which leads to infighting, which leads to loss of direction, which can lead to either civil war, bad economy, or both. And it will certainly lead to the loss of confidence.
A loss of creativity leads to a loss of innovation. That, in turn, makes the society not competitive globally. It means that progress halts and regression kicks in. Eventually, it leads to economic collapse.
The loss of frugality leads to a spending of money beyond what can be paid back. This leads to individual economic collapse for individuals, and debt for governments can lead to society-wide economic collapse.
Every citizen of a society has responsibilities.
This is probably the most important part of this post, so I will say it again: every citizen of a society has responsibilities.
Such responsibilities include:
- Serving in the military in wartime.
- Paying taxes.
- Adding as much value to the economy as possible.
Those are not all, but those are the important ones. And when people shirk their responsibilities, the society will eventually collapse.
- If military service is not given in wartime, the society is conquered.
- Without voting, demagogues and tyrants get in office.
- Without paying taxes, the government has to borrow, leading to debt and economic collapse.
- And economic parasites bring about economic collapse.
In fact, the phrase “bread and circuses” was used to decry this shirking of responsibility, which tyrants will take advantage of.
The Cascading Loss of Virtues
Of course, the loss of virtue doesn’t directly explain why each empire/society falls differently, but it does explain part of it.
When a society loses one virtue, it’s likely to lose another and another until the loss cascades to all virtues. The order in which they are lost, the speed, and the time between virtues completes the first part of the collapse cocktail.
The other half of the cocktail is the external forces on the society. This is why each of them are different.
And no, external forces are not the reason for collapse, for a society that is under stress from outside can withstand enormous pressures if the people, especially the leaders, will but make virtue a part of their everyday lives.
About to be conquered? You certainly want courage, and it will not be enough in only a few isolated cases.
Detractors will probably point to the fall of the Aztec empire as evidence that courage is not enough, but that’s wrong because the Spanish needed help from the empire’s vassal states to conquer.
The same thing happened in Peru, by the way.
Oh, and we need to take into account the fact that disease really is what conquered the natives in the Americas.
About the only places where a strong society was conquered by another is when the conquered society just did not have the population to resist.
But what is supposed to prevent the loss of virtue? The answer is easy: religion.
I recently got attacked on Twitter for this, but regardless of the attacks, yet it is true, and I intend to show why.
Say you don’t believe in God, yet you are virtuous. What could make you abandon virtue?
Maybe it’s the fact that if others lose their virtue, you will find yourself out-competed, so in order to eat, you need to abandon your virtue. Or maybe you know that there are people who are trying to destroy the society, and in order to defeat them, you need to abandon your own virtue.
In those cases, what do you do? You don’t believe that mankind is accountable to God because you don’t believe in Him, so obviously, those evil people have to be stopped and punished in this life, right?
So to ensure that those enemies of society are stopped, you abandon your virtue.
Or say that you are called to be a witness against someone you don’t like, someone who you think is guilty, but don’t know it. If you don’t believe in God, and know that no one will ever know if you give false testimony, why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you abandon the virtue of honesty if you don’t believe in a God that would hold you accountable in the next life?
Congrats! You are now part of the problem.
But if you believe in God, and that all mankind is accountable to Him, it’s easier to refuse to abandon your virtue and allow Him to help you and to either stop society’s enemies or to ensure that justice is served in the next life.
In other words, without God, without religion, you can have virtue, but there is nothing stopping you from abandoning it. That is the whole point of religion: supporting virtue.
President George Washington said:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports….
And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion….Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of the religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.
– President George Washington, quoted in The Annals of America by Adler et al.
The key is that morality cannot be maintained without religion!
This is why the USSR tried to subvert the United States by ridiculing religion. And unfortunately, that subversion worked; it outlasted the USSR itself.
The loss of virtue does not have to be a death sentence for a society because the loss of any virtue takes time to make a society decay. If the loss is caught fast enough, the damage can be contained and eventually reversed.
But if left long enough, the loss of the virtue will become contagious and infect the entire society, barring a few extraordinary individuals.
The United States of America
Can we reverse the decay in the United States of America?
No, I don’t think so. At this point, the USA has killed 10 times more babies, through abortion, than Hitler killed Jews. And that will bring the judgment of God on this country, as mentioned earlier.
But beyond that, the US has several problems:
- Debt (which leads to economic collapse). Debt came from greed.
- Crumbling infrastructure and lack of resources to maintain it. This came from loss of frugality, wisdom, and knowledge.
- Breakdown of the family. This came from a loss of chastity and integrity.
- Abortion. This is caused by the same things that caused the breakdown of the family.
- Corruption. This came from loss of integrity, industry, frugality, and honesty.
- Excessive regulation. This restricts honest people from competing and favors the dishonest who buy corrupt politicians. Because of that, creativity is stifled, and the US cannot innovate anymore. This comes from fear, the lack of courage, as well as:
- Pandering to special interests. This destroys economic value and comes from greed and corruption.
- Selective enforcement of laws. This comes from corruption and politicans being power-hungry.
- At least half of the people have lost confidence in the system, specifically elections. This came from corruption of politicians.
- Debased currency that is still being debased. This comes from corruption and greed, usually of politicians who want to concentrate wealth.
You can see the truth of number 6 by the fact that NASA was overtaken by private companies. In fact, when I went to the Kennedy Space Center, I was struck by how much NASA leans on its history, almost as though it’s trying to relive its glory days.
And that makes sense because NASA’s glory days are, in fact, behind it.
In other words, the United States has not only lost virtue, it has lost the ability to achieve.
The US cannot be saved anymore. In fact, I don’t pray for the nation anymore because I believe that I cannot recommend this nation to God anymore.
Zion, the Phoenix
Instead, I pray for the arrival of Zion.
You see, the United States will collapse at some point. We will probably see the rise of at least one dictator, if not multiple. I think that one will even gain the popular approval of the people.
But such evil men cannot last long, for God’s might arm will be stretched forth to cleanse this nation from its sins.
Until that happens, those who wish for better must wait. But when it happens, we will be given the opportunity to build a better society instead.
So let’s get back to the original question: how do we build a perfect society?
Easy: build it on a foundation of morality, all virtues, and religion.