For fans of the HBO TV Series Game of Thrones, truth is often stranger than fiction. Below is a video showing the progression of various historical empires over the course of human history, some of which would make the Lannisters envious.
This raises points of interest..
Firstly, it shows just how myopic our own perceptions can be over the course of a lifetime. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, the Western European Empires, while rather grand at their peak are eclipsed by some past Empires still.
Notice the speed with which both the Mongol and the Umayyad Empires took large swathes of land as historical superpowers collapsed. This was most certainly a “barbarians at the gates” moment for our ancestors.
How the Economy and Economic Development fits in..
What isn’t pictured here is the ever-shifting economic center of gravity which migrates with shifting capital flows regardless of borders, and irrespective of governments. While the methodology of the measure can be debated, it is widely accepted that economic development generally tends to equilibrate between “underdeveloped” and “overdeveloped” regions of the world.
The economic center of gravity, in essence, represents the real productive output of the underlying civilizations. As economic development increases, wealth is accumulated until it becomes bounded by underlying economic fundamentals, at which point new opportunities present elsewhere and capital flows to find yield.
UK (and European) Industry to an extent are on the wrong side of this dynamic in our lifetime. Productive capacity has migrated East, probably propagated in part by the internet and better information flows, but also expedited by globalization. Of course, the sad case of the British Steel Industry is all part of this equation.
At times like these, just maintaining wealth becomes a challenge for the average individual, let alone capturing yield. Maintaining high-quality educational standards and a real skill base is also difficult as high value people migrate toward opportunity. This has been dubbed colloquially as “brain drain” by the media.
While the Chinese Financial Economy appears to be a house of cards on the surface, they have a good portion of the underlying global productivity. The East has significant growing pains to reach Western levels, but it’s unlikely the West will see that productive output come flying back like a boomerang any time soon.
Unfortunately for average Europeans given the way the political scene is progressing we might not need to wait for the next season of Game of Thrones, rather we might just need to cook some popcorn and look out of the window.
It should be noted that in times of extreme difficulty, doing the smart thing becomes absolutely critical to society’s survival. We shouldn’t sacrifice our moral integrity as a civilization for greed and personal gain, but neither should we sacrifice intelligent and economically prudent policies for a instant gratification, or to experiment with hopeless moral crusades.
I would posit that we owe the world nothing, besides holding the torch of knowledge aloft, and not allowing it to be extinguished. We produced unprecedented technological advances over the last 300 years, an achievement which was the culmination of billions of hours of hard graft by scientists and engineers. Indeed, if not for many of the values embodied by the Western societies over the period in question, the entire world would not be as wealthy as it is today.
The road to renewed prosperity is going to be long and fraught with peril. We will need personal courage, ingenuity and hard work to climb back to the top and we mustn’t lose sight of the values which brought humanity as a whole so far over that time period.