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When in Rome

You know when you read about the fall of the Roman Empire, about the period when the barbarians marauded over the land and nobody could do anything—and even if they could do something, the legions stayed in the barracks because they were a mercenary crew led by corrupt aristocrats. You know, when everyone was absorbed in absurd religious arguments over Mithras and Christ—about this fashionable new cult everyone’s into these days that says we need to love the poor and the weak. “Look I’m just trying to run my baths here, I don’t want to get into any religious disputes. If you want to accept Christ, that’s fine by me.” “But, brother, you will burn in hell if you don’t accept Our Lord today—it will be hotter than the hottest thermae.” “Okay, get off my toga.” <riot ensues>. Statues were pulled down and temples desecrated—yet the restaurants were, however, excellent; and, indeed, many barbarians would come for the pillage and stay for the restaurants (and the baths—get ’em while they’re hot, because in a hundred years they won’t be).

Anyway, you know all that—and this little graph shows the same thing except today. Britain collapsed in about 1914—empires last for 250 years, and even by the 1880s she was deep into decadence (Oscar Wilde poncing about). So we haven’t really had a government since the early 1900s when Lord Salisbury ran his “Salisbury hotel”—a cabinet stuffed with his relatives—and things functioned, actually, really smoothly (Salisbury’s biography is boring because everything works really well—practically nothing happens; in his spare time the PM ruined an antique table with experiments to develop neon light—by day, run Empire; by night, revolutionise the lighting system—the English aristocracy at their weakest point). As with Rome, the core aristocracy that built the empire has long vanished—been removed from power or, as with Boris Johnson, remains as a decadent self-parody (for the plebs on celebrity quiz shows—the funny guy with the posh accent—and/or in Parliament).

Hence, the barbarian invasions. Someone should do something. The town of Aquila is under attack, a message is sent for the legions to turn out—the message arrives in the imperial bureaucracy, due to elaborate reasons of self-interest, cloaked as the objective interests of the empire, a quarter of a mercenary legion finally turns up when the town has burned to the ground. The Senate declares a successful operation—so successful it amnesties everyone involved—and moves on to the next crisis. People wonder how the empire could have fallen—didn’t people see it? Of course, when you’re tangled up in your career at the Senate, everything you do seems reasonable—and it is reasonable in a system that is corrupt in spirit, actual bags of sesterii passed under the mensa are the least of your worries. Per the above graph, the most barbarians come when the “anti-barbarian party”, the Conservative Party, is in power.

Eventually, per the materialist explanation for why empires collapse, the taxpayers feel that they get so little back for the burden they carry that they would rather divest themselves from the state altogether—they refuse to pay taxes (or avoid them), the state fully collapses, and everything falls down to a primitive level. The decision to collapse at that point is rational: if I pay taxes the minimum I expect from the government is to secure the borders—that is the minimum function of government—and the British government demonstrably does not do that, anymore than the Roman Empire kept out the barbarians.

Sure, at the Forum steps an official says, “The anti-barbarian measures have never been more robust and we have allocated MMM denarii to bolster the legions for the next spring,” even as smoke from a sacked town rises behind him. Eventually, even the densest taxpayers realise they’d rather avoid payment altogether than pay for a state that does nothing to protect them while it rewards indolent loafers and jackanapes. This is when you get *collapse proper*, the actual state ceases to function—Rome empties, shepherds herd their flocks through the colosseum.

So, about one hundred years into collapse, Britain is demonstrably ungoverned. At the highest level, it is the cycle of ages—though there are some malicious forces who “push what is falling” as well; and they maliciously promote incompetent people. The good news is that when the state fully collapses, the barbarians mostly go home—then again, by the time that happens, the question will be whether it is safe to drive from London to Manchester and how much the regional fiefs charge you for passage.


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