Review: Decline and Fall – The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Complexity & Catastrophe, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Politics, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

John Michael Greer

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Primer, July 8, 2015

I come at this book with something most readers do not have, over 2,000 non-fiction book reviews here at Amazon, and I mention it only because there are some negative reviews that I think are lacking in the larger context one gets from very broad reading. From my perspective, this book is an extraordinary primer and the author is gifted — truly gifted as a teacher and an explainer of complex ideas in simpler captivating terms.

There are many other books that go into greater detail on specifics, and I will begin by listing just four of them:

High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years To Solve Them
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change
Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History
Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (Spectre)

There are hundreds more. For me this book’s quality is to be found it its blend of narrative, explanation of complex ideas, and provocation for the reader on the subject of “what is to be done.” In other words, if you do not have the time or money for buying and reading all those other books, this one book is as good a starting point as any I have found and I recommend it without reservation.

Early on the author intrigues me with his discussion of how industrial wealth tends to concentrate while agricultural wealth is more easily maintained in distributed fashion — his overview of competing models of political economy and how the victory of the North in the US Civil War was a victory for artificially high prices for industrial goods against imposed low prices for agricultural goods — and how this began the destruction of the labor-consumer class in the middle — is one I find useful.

His overview of US imperialism and particularly the Spanish American War that we contrived in order to take half of Mexico and capture the Philippines and Cuba, is a fresh take on a topic that has been covered by many others. Below are just three books I consider important in this domains.

The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier

I do not agree with those reviewers who are critical of his discussion of anaclyclosis and the cycle of democracy from monarch to junta to elite to crisis and collapse. I found it a very useful and well-presented overview of a complex subject — my own essay on Democracy Lost — and over 100 book reviews here at Amazon — can be accessed at Tiny URL forward slash Steele-Reform. In that larger reading context I find the author utterly brilliant and most able to showcasing the essence of history and its relevance to our future.

The second half of the book I find riveting. The authors discussion of the break-down of US democracy which used to be community and caucus based, with literate citizens actively engaged from the grassroots on up; his discussion of the power that states still have in the event of a federal collapse (including the power to mobilize a 100% militai and to call an Article V Constitutional Convention), and his analysis of how the US Government may be on the verge of collapse for a loss of legitimacy while the US economy is now hollow and on the verge of collapse as well, are all important to any citizen.

His discussion of the US military — which has occupied much of my life — and the possibility that a major US military failure could trigger the implosion of the US Government and a public revolution to restore democracy — is most worthwhile. He “gets” the naked Emperor that is our US military, and I say this having just published in CounterPunch a scatching indictment, “National Military Strategy – Dishonest Platitudes.”

I agree with his conclusions — that government is supposed to be the guarantor of the commons — he makes positive reference to Elinor Ostrom’s book Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions) — and that localization and decentralization — to include the decentralization of education — and the end of the welfare state (with local means-driven charities resurgent) are essential to our getting through the near future.

He does not touch on secession or self-determination by the bio-region, but this is implicit in the book and my many reviews of books in this area may be of interest to readers, search for Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Self-Determination & Secession. I myself consider the departure of Hawaii and Vermont to be date certain, with Alaska, Texas, and the West Coast up in the air — I agree with the author’s view that the Southwest, the region we stole from Mexico, is now for all practical purposes a twilight zone subject to political and economic re-ordering in the future.

The one area I do not completely understand centers on the author’s view that in facing collapse, we may not be able to make the migration from fossil flues to renewables, and we may not be able to avoid a severe depression that puts many communities back into subsistence living in which people have to work very hard, all day every day, to achieve basic provisioning — shelter, water, food. Certainly one reason I favor an Electoral Reform Act of 2015 and the election of an honest government in 2016 is because I see that we are in a period of transition — the old paradigm is dead and the new paradigm is emergent, but we lack for political and economic and social leaders willing to articulate the urgency of investing in decrentralized free energy, water desalination, aquaponics, zero-energy shelter, and so on.

I plan to read and review the author’s own Twilight’s Last Gleaming next, and I am very interested as well is his book The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered

Best wishes to all,
Robert David STEELE Vivas

Vote and/or Comment on Review
Vote and/or Comment on Review

Opt in for free daily update from this free blog. Separately The Steele Report ($11/mo) offers weekly text report and live webinar exclusive to paid subscribers, who can also ask questions of Robert. Or donate to ask questions directly of Robert.