No Empire, Nation, or Dynasty Has Ever Collapsed Because its Working People Were Self-Indulgent and Lazy

June 17th, 2012

Or at least: In all the reading I’ve done, from Gibbon to Diamond to Acemoglu and Robinson and far beyond, I’ve never come across one.

It’s not hard to find examples where you can at least reasonably attribute decline and fall to lazy, self-indulgent rich people.

Of course, maybe this time is different.

  1. Foppe
    June 17th, 2012 at 12:23 | #1

    The interesting question is: how many empires were driven in the ground using that as an excuse to bleed the population dry? Because I doubt this is the first time it has been used. And although I recall there being at least 1 reactionary roman who warned against “losing contact with the soil”, I imagine that Roman society had more than a few people who made similar arguments to the ones being lobbed at ordinary people currently (while, as Corey Robin notes, there are fairly few reactionaries currently inveighing against moral corruption of the elites, apart from those PNAC warmongers a few years back)..

    (One more recent example might be the Sun King, who left France as destitute as it was when he acceded to the throne, after bleeding it dry for decades in order to finance his pet wars.)

  2. Shawn
    June 18th, 2012 at 12:07 | #2

    “It is the just and important observation of Vegetius, that the infantry was invariably covered with defensive armor, from the foundation of the city to the reign of the emperor Gratian. The relaxation of discipline, and the disuse of exercise, rendered the soldiers less able, and less willing, to support the fatigues of the service; they complained of the weight of the armor, which they seldom wore: and they successively obtained the permission of laying aside both their cuirasses and their helmets. The heavy weapons of their ancestors, the short sword, and the formidable pilum, which had subdued the world, insensibly dropped from their feeble hands.”

    Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 2, Chapter 27.

  3. June 18th, 2012 at 13:43 | #3


    Okay, so lazy soldiers… Hmm.

  4. Arrin
    September 11th, 2012 at 21:01 | #4

    Shawn this is not the whole truth. You have to look at why these soldiers were “relaxing”. They were relaxing because they did not care about what they were supposed to be fight for. The Roman emperor divided the nation into two which weakened the nation as a whole both financially and in their defense from attacking countries. Their military complex was falling apart due to veterans not wanting to or being unable to serve the new regime or they had retired. Many of the youth did not want to join the military due to disloyalty of the corrupt government. Laziness or lack of motivation is often caused by lack of incentives. Many of the soldiers may have been there just to pick up a check and did not feel any sense of loyalty to the republic or give a rats ass about fighting for the corrupt politicians that were buying their seats and being bribed by the wealthy. Physical laziness has never caused the collapse of any nation in fact just the opposite is true, often the most overworked citizens end up rebelling against authorities. There were numerous factors which led to Romes eventual decline physical laziness was not one of them.

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