Reflection on The Fate of Empires by Sir John Glubb

The Fate of Empires

This is one of those documents that once again motivates me to continue to learn.  The new set of eyes that learning creates brings a sense of peace about the world.  There is less uncertainty which means there is less fear.  Just as there was comfort in knowing that present time is just an instance in the endless cycle of empires, there was extreme anger about the institutions that we entrust to educate ourselves.  I know they are not perfect.  But forcing me to learn and memorize the names and views of senate electoral candidates of Virginia of 1865, does not compare to learning the life cycle of empires.  Honestly there is no contest as to what is more relevant to someone’s life.  This, and other works like Guns, Germs, and Steel, show the importance of knowing history, and also shows the failures of what is being taught.  There is a same phenomena with science classes.  They focus on the concepts and mathematics of it all, but do not discuss how the scientific method is presented in various experiments.  What was the intrinsic error of the experiment?  What questions are answered with this experiment, and what questions remain?  To me, it is more important to learn the why’s and how’s of history rather than the what’s.

The Fate of Empires is a brief essay laying out the life cycle of an empire.  An empire is defined as a super power of their time.  He brings examples ranging from Persia, Ancient China, to the Ottoman Empire.  In fact, all of his evidence is from eras other than our own era, which makes sense when writing something like this.  This read is a basic read, and should be taught to everyone.

The average lifespan of an empire is 250 years.  The life cycle of an empire is broken down into six ages.  They are:

  1. The Age of Pioneers
  2. The Age of Conquest
  3. The Age of Commerce
  4. The Age of Affluence
  5. The Age of Intellectualism
  6. The Age of Decadence

The age of pioneers are the initial surge for a certain country.  In most cases this is done through military means over a bigger civilization.  The main theory as to why this is, is the pioneers envy the life and riches of the great empire that they hope to overthrow.  They are tired of living their lives, which maybe in oppression by the empire.  So, they surge with courage and dedication to change their lives for the better.

Once a nation state is established, the age of conquest takes fruit.  The conquest is to expand their territory to obtain more resources and power.  Once an adequate amount of territories are under control, the age transitions to the age of commerce.  The main purpose of this era is to create more wealth.  The acquisition of wealth usually takes precedence over everything else.  This is the period of time when values start shifting from the self-sacrifice of the initial pioneers to self-interests.  The age of affluence is next.  The rich become more and more separated from the poor, as more wealth is flaunted for people to see.  People enjoy high standards of living, and more and more people are consuming things in excess rather than what they need.  The age of intellectualism is next.  With the necessities of life no worrisome to a good number of people, the next frontier man attempts to explore is that of mother nature.  Civilizations make advancements in science, philosophy, the arts, and literature just to name a few.  The production of universities and schools drastically increase, and the knowledge is more tailored towards specialized knowledge rather than a breadth of knowledge from various subjects.  Finally, where most of the essay is tailored towards, is the age of decadence.

The age of decadence is the decay of the empire.  It is characterized by defensive minded militaries, decaying morals, lost of religion, frivolous consumption of food, entertainment, sex, and the complete focus of individual interests.  When things tend to get rough, it would be thought that the people would work together to fix the problems, but instead there are schisms in the society that make the resolution of dire problems impossible.  With everyone thinking about themselves, they lack the self-sacrifice and courage needed to defend themselves from collapse internally or from the next age of pioneers.

It is pretty obvious that The United States, the world’s super power, is in the last and final stage, the age of decadence.  When just looking at our practices, it becomes clear that our morals have completely collapsed due to actions of various corporations for their increase in profits.  When debating politics, people constantly look at how their interests are affected rather than taking into account the needs of other people.  Sex is the main theme or method of selling products or services, and there are strip clubs and porn sites.  We consume frivolously on drugs, food (obesity), sex, and entertainment.  We worship celebrities rather than a God or religion.  This all points to a society that is on a verge of collapse.  The United States is scheduled to collapse at around 2030.  The 10 generation time scale is an average, so it is not exact.

So why is it, that this cycle exists?  Why is it the same cycle that occurs so frequently in history?  I honestly think it is the corruption and love of money that totally destroys the sustainability of a society.  The acquisition of wealth tailors people to get more, and to only think for themselves.  When individual interests are the priority, nothing gets resolved.  Governments become corrupt, so they accrue more wealth and power.  When the time comes of the new pioneers, they are unable to act.  I also think the self-interests that is created through money distances man from nature.  This separation from nature is literally a contamination that eats away at the required reasoning, morals, and feelings of complete sustainability.  People that are closer to nature are more prone to survival, and are closer to the habitat that we were evolved to be apart of.  Concepts and philosophies of self-sacrifice, and sustainability are needed to survive.  With survival, we are more prone to follow the path at finding who we are, the essence of man, compared to being isolated in cities gorging ourselves with food, drugs, sex, and entertainment.

The flow system of currency is just like any flow system, and a characteristic of a flow system is that it is hierarchical in nature.  That means, whenever there is currency, there are going to be segments that are wide and thick (lots of money), which in turn gets drained by smaller tributaries to facilitate more flow.  This is why there is always a class system with any society.  And that is always going to be there if currency is involved with any economy.  And considering that I think money is the key factor to this cycle of empire life, I think the removal of money should seriously be considered when constructing a new society.

And, as I have stated throughout this blog, I think a good concept that solves this problem is The Resource Based Economy.  Therefore, a Resource Based Economy would create a new cycle or progression of ages throughout its life cycle.

I really hope people start reading on their own, and educate themselves further than the bullshit schools of our day.  Our educational system is a failure.  I’ve read way more relevant and thought provoking works on my own than in any classroom.  I would skip history in high school to read Guns, Germs, and Steel, which should be a central work when evaluating the history of the Earth.  But in the end, I am at ease of all the failures of our society.  It was predetermined when we decided to use a currency with our economy.  And, as usual, a new set of pioneers will take hold and will most likely enact a currency to handle the scarcity of goods and services, which will make the cycle continue.

“The love of money is the root of all evil.” — The Bible



  1. April 28, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    […] Taken from blog post an full article can be found on Reflection on the fate of empires by Brengleman […]


  2. Someone said,

    February 11, 2016 at 10:18 am

    “So why is it, that this cycle exists? Why is it the same cycle that occurs so frequently in history? I honestly think it is the corruption and love of money that totally destroys the sustainability of a society. ”

    You fell into the same trap that Glubb did. The failure to address the basic premise upon which we operate, or were programmed to operate: “Go forth and multiply.” GROWTH. ALL wars are about resources. Empires MUST perpetually expand in order to sustain the perpetual nature of growth: consider that cities are totally unsustainable, that they must always draw in resources from the surrounding countryside and you’ll start to get the picture.

    Perhaps this will help:

    BTW – Glubb’s writing IS extremely valuable. What one sees is that it’s not any ideology (well, other than perpetual growth) or leadership style that is responsible.


    • brengleman said,

      May 4, 2016 at 2:40 am

      Sorry I didn’t get to this sooner. This is a great point! I strongly agree that wars are fought over resources for the most part, and if they aren’t, resources are a high priority of the war. And it makes sense, the high population growth, there needs to be an increase in resources. However how the resources are allocated are very important too. And that’s the premise of what I was saying. All of these civilizations enacted a currency to allocate those resources. The Resource Based Economy uses resources as the currency, meaning, the allocation of resources are direct, there is no intermediary of a currency.


      • paddyacme said,

        December 9, 2016 at 11:26 pm

        Yup, We were taught and wanted to not only believe that a face could launch a thousand ships, but we needed that belief for our shared illusions about right and wrong that taught us that we can take what we think we need.


  3. May 3, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Thanks for a thought provoking essay. I think money cannot be totally expunged from human transactions/engagements, otherwise we will be back at the quibbling over systems of governance (socialist or capitalist as we know it). If we compare currency to a flow, I think the greatest challenge is to ensure that the channels along the flow are tamed to reflect what is near equity, even though I agree that the time the flow is taking a life of its own to construct itself is a period that the multitude are usually not aware of. However with the benefit of a hindsight, nations that will rise tomorrow could gain a lot from this ‘awareness’. Certainly the advice is not for the current hegemon as it is almost agreed that it is in its twilight. And since the six ‘age’ seem in themselves to be ‘natural’ (as they have more to do with human nature), the best any civilization can do is to mitigate the ‘effectual-causes’ of the decline and increase the life span of an empire beyond the 250 years some have allotted to it

    Liked by 1 person

    • brengleman said,

      May 4, 2016 at 2:35 am

      Well I disagree that we need a currency. I think The Resource Based Economy is just one of probably many theoretical economical systems that don’t require a currency. I very well could be wrong, but I don’t have access to the economical journals that I crave to read. I think if you take money as a flow system, the entire system would flow more efficiently if everyone had some sort of spending power. So for example, a progressive tax system, it’s basically a tax on money velocity which is why I like it. Tax the people that aren’t spending money more, and tax the people that are actually spending money less. This increases the overall flow of the economy and thus decreases the rate of inflation. It’s a balance of money supply, interest rates, inflation, and policy. I honestly think if people that were broke were given more money, it would benefit everybody, which people don’t see.

      I completely agree if nations were to see this essay at the very beginning, they could change the outcome of the cycle. Who knows, maybe they would be able to do it with a currency.

      I would argue though that the cycle will exist, based upon human nature and money. That’s the central point of this essay. I don’t think human nature can really change, unless there is such a vastly different society that there are different values amongst the people. I’m not sure if that can be done with a simple currency based economy.

      That would be a good strategy. Mitigating the known negative components of the life cycle of the empire. However, hopefully the new empire can read Sir John’s work.

      Thanks for reading my essay! I’m glad it got you thinking along these lines. I wish more people would read John’s work, because I think it is extremely important.


  4. Cody said,

    November 22, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    I mostly agree, but I disagree with the idea that introducing money into an economy predetermines its failure.

    I believe that capitalism can work. It simply needs to be regulated.

    For example. I love the tacos I get at a local family restraunt. They’re AMAZING. If word gets out and these locals are eventually able to expand their taco business to every state in the country and overseas…then I certainly bless them in their endeavor. That’s how capitalism should work.

    The problem arises when the family eventually sells the business, and it becomes “Tacos incorporated”, or whatever name you’d prefer. Tacos inc. has no relationship to the original ideas that founded the business. It only has a profit motive. So when they discover that they can make 5 more cents a taco by switching to an ingredient that gives their customers salmonella, they’ll do some simple math.

    They’ll calculate how much they would have to pay in a lawsuit for giving their customers salmonella. Then, they’ll calculate how much they’ll save by switching to the salmonella-causing ingredient. If it’s cheaper to just give their customers salmonella and pay the penalies later, then that’s what they’ll do. This is NOT how capitalism is supposed to work, and there’s a name for it: predatory capitalism.

    The world-wide economic system we have set up is one of predatory capitalism. And the people are sick of it. This is why Brexit happened, why Trump is the president-elect in America, why France is becoming the right-wing authoritarian state that it is, etc. Because people around the world are sick of the establishment.

    Some countries have it figured out; Denmark and Iceland come to mind. I agree with almost everything you said, but I do believe that a system of government that’s non-oppressive and sustainable forever is quite possible.


    • naris said,

      November 24, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Capitalism inevitably turns to “predatory” capitalism with the profit motive being THE motive even above morality and ethics. Your example shows how money corrupts the entire civilization. And the countries you specified are more socialist than anything else.


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