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Niall Ferguson: Empires on the Edge of Chaos

Throughout history the rise and fall of empires isn’t slow or cyclical, as we like to think, but arrhythmic…it mostly happens very, very suddenly. America is a superpower on the edge of chaos, according to economic historian and author Niall Ferguson. U.S. debt levels, he says, and its unwillingness to address the problem, has put it in the same category as other great empires which have collapsed throughout the ages.

Ferguson argues the world is changing. There’s the rise of authoritarian China as a super-power; a Keynesian president leading a weakened United States; the re-emergence of democratic India as a great power; the continued decline of Japan; and the probability of continued global economic instability ahead.

Is the rise and fall of empires cyclical or arrhythmic? How does economic profligacy — whether the result of arrogance or naivety — contribute to the downfall of civilizations? Not to be missed, the address will offer a timely review of primacy, leadership, and the complex factors behind the rise and fall of great powers and civilizations.

9 Comments on "Niall Ferguson: Empires on the Edge of Chaos"

  1. pete on Mon, 2nd Apr 2012 3:29 am 

    superpower change has rarely come without excessive amounts of wars or violence. One of the few exchanges that went reasonably well was Britain to USA.
    Just something to think about.

  2. BillT on Mon, 2nd Apr 2012 3:41 am 

    Britain to the Us was not without wars…

    And it was because we had the resources, natural and other, to do it. Now we are on the weak end of the game and Asia is moving up and will be the power of the 21st century. Wait and see.

  3. DC on Mon, 2nd Apr 2012 6:46 am 

    Only reason Britain to USA went ‘well’ was because the US took Britain on a a junior partner in empire, cut them in on the action as it was, in exchange, the US got to use Britain as a place to store nuclear weapons, establish its electronic listening posts so it could spy on the Russians and EU alike. That and the fact the US was holding pretty much all of Britains war debt probably helped the British decide the horse they were going to hitch their rather rickety wagon to. Otherwise, Britain wold have prob sunk pretty far, would likely have ending up resembling say, Greece a lot sooner than was otherwise the case.

  4. Arthur on Mon, 2nd Apr 2012 9:20 am 

    America got it’s position as global hegemon on the cheap in 1945, by pushing Britain into war with Germany in 1939. The conflict between Germany and Poland was about Danzig and the Corridor and the persecution of Germans by the Poles, who were forced to live in Poland as a consequence of Versailles. The rest are Hollywood lies, like the lie that Germany wanted to conquer ze wurld. There were two parties who really wanted to conquer the world: the USSR and USA. They succesfully combined forces and were able to divide the European loot between them, after which they could go at each others throat, a battle the US won in 1990. Now the US goes for the gold (NWO), but they will fail, where resource depletion will be a major restricting factor for any party who wants to bring the world under control. The globalist system will disintegrate and so will the racial powder keg USA. The grim future will be one of competing ethnic factions.

  5. BillT on Mon, 2nd Apr 2012 12:03 pm 

    As you said, history is written by the winners and is spun to suit their motives. I’m not so sure Russia actually lost. I think they just left the field for a while, maybe a long ‘time out? It appears that they have something necessary for power… export oil and natural gas. Not bad for a ‘loser’ They control Europe’s heat and the price of oil. While the Us is begging for loans, printing Charmin and calling it money, and polluting what’s left of its water for a bit more black gold.

  6. Arthur on Mon, 2nd Apr 2012 12:27 pm 

    Bill, the USSR lost, but indeed Russia has resources and will reemerge as a major power., but not a global hegemon. My gut feeling tells me that this century will be Eurasian, that is EU-Russian alliance, balancing a rising Chinese power, neither of whom has global aspirations. But I am afraid that after the US has disintegrated, a resource starved China could be tempted to take an unprotected Australia, just like oil-starved Japan was forced to invade the Dutch East-Indies, after Roosevelt had imposed his oil-embargo, in order to provoke the attack against Pearl-Harbor, so he finally got his desired war against Germany, via the Japanese backdoor, outmanouvering Congress and the America First movement. It paid out hansomly for America. Europe, Russia, Japan, everybody destroyed, except America, who could define the postwar rules. But meanwhile the rest of the world catched up and grafually we are moving into a very dangerous unstable multipolar world.

  7. Rick on Mon, 2nd Apr 2012 3:40 pm 

    It seems to me, that all empires, even potential future ones, will be a thing of the past once Peak Oil really kicks in.

  8. Beery on Mon, 2nd Apr 2012 4:19 pm 

    Once again, we see renowned hack historian Niall Ferguson taking other people’s ideas and trying to make money off them. It’s a pity he has no ideas of his own – if he did, and if he actually went so far as to research them thoroughly, his books might be a lot less prone to error and a lot more convincing. A little humility might help too.

  9. Arthur on Tue, 3rd Apr 2012 7:26 am 

    I listened to Ferguson up until part 3, utter bore, has nothing interesting to say. He should haved stayed in Britain rather than wasting resources in flying to Sydney. Did Niall ever hear of skype?

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