Could Western civilization be on the verge of collapse? It’s probably not imminent – but it could happen. Excerpt:
The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter. Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group. Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse.
Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end. Regardless of how well things are going in the present moment, the situation can always change. Putting aside species-ending events like an asteroid strike, nuclear winter or deadly pandemic, history tells us that it’s usually a plethora of factors that contribute to collapse. What are they, and which, if any, have already begun to surface? It should come as no surprise that humanity is currently on an unsustainable and uncertain path – but just how close are we to reaching the point of no return?
While it’s impossible to predict the future with certainty, mathematics, science and history can provide hints about the prospects of Western societies for long-term continuation.
The BBC article here points out the similarity of events today with the times of the fall of the Roman Republic, and that’s a fair comparison; but they (not surprisingly) get a few things wrong. For example:
Meanwhile, a widening gap between rich and poor within those already vulnerable Western nations will push society toward further instability from the inside. “By 2050, the US and UK will have evolved into two-class societies where a small elite lives a good life and there is declining well-being for the majority,” Randers says. “What will collapse is equity.”
This widening gap in and of itself means little or nothing, except that it provides fat paydays for those in the business of promoting the politics of envy. What matters is how that lower portion is living. One of the things unique to Western civilization, at least the portion that still has more or less free markets, is that the it has produced the richest poor people in world history. In the United States, for example, there is little or no abject poverty, only relative poverty. “Poor” people in the U.S. have air conditioning, microwave ovens, cellular phones, automobiles and cable or satellite television – luxuries unheard of among the well-to-do only a generation ago. And while this is the case, the gap between rich and poor really doesn’t matter a damn.
One more thing the BBC misses, and it’s a doozie; the BBC doesn’t mention the most virulently anti-freedom, anti-prosperity, anti-Western force afoot in the world today, that being fundamentalist Islam.
It’s amazing that the Beeb overlooks this – or maybe not, given their European location and the fact that Europe is well on its way to being assimilated into the Islamic world. Maybe there is some self-preservation in play, although it’s more likely that it’s just run-of-the-mill political correctness. But fundamentalist Muslims are the greatest existential threat the West faces today, especially for the slow-breeding Europeans. Demographics, as they say, is destiny, and the destiny of ethnic Europeans appears to be to fail through apathy.
The article concludes:
“The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Homer-Dixon says.
The biggest challenge will be dealing with the one thing – the one deadly, dangerous, civilization-destroying thing – that the BBC fails to even mention.
Absent that, Western civilization will go the way of the dodo.