Empires (Like the U.S.) Fall When Corruption Becomes Rampant

Widespread corruption destroys empires.

By way of example, corruption was one of the main causes of the collapse of the Roman Empire:

The Praetorian Guard—the emperor’s personal bodyguards—assassinated and installed new sovereigns at will, and once even auctioned the spot off to the highest bidder [and see this]. The political rot also extended to the Roman Senate, which failed to temper the excesses of the emperors due to its own widespread corruption and incompetence. As the situation worsened, civic pride waned and many Roman citizens lost trust in their leadership.

The Ottoman Empire started its decline when the sale of offices, bribery and corruption became widespreadIndeed:

Most historians point to “degenerate Sultans, incompetent Grand Viziers, debilitated and ill-equipped armies, corrupt officials, avaricious speculators, grasping enemies, and treacherous friends.

The Yuan Empire (led by the Mongols) also collapsed due to corruption:

The decline of the [the Yuan empire] was a result of a number of factors, these being incompetent and rivaling leaders, corruption, revolts, decadence, factional struggles, assassinations, external attacks, and disease.


Toward the end, corruption and the persecution became so severe that Muslim generals joined Han Chinese in rebelling against the Mongols.

Former history professor at the University of Alabama Larry Clayton notes:

The [Roman] republic evolved into an empire and the empire grew corrupt from its own tremendous power. There arose, like mushrooms after a long rain, self-indulgent vices driven by pride and power. An oft quoted observation noted:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” wrote the English essayist and historian Lord Acton in 1887.

Long after the Roman Empire disappeared, other empires, notably the ones of France, England, and Spain began with the conquest and settlement of the New World. By the end of the nineteenth century, European nations had created economic, military and commercial empires across much of the globe.

Watching the rise and fall of empires is like watching a predictable ballet or opera, or even a Hollywood movie, all with distinct beginnings, middles, and ends, marked by triumph after triumph, crisis after crisis, and then the resolution of it all at the end. The curtain drops. The lights come on. The European empires lasted until the Second World War, and then crashed.


We come full circle to our question, “why do empires fall?” An empire falls when it becomes so self-important that it loses touch with the values that produced it. They begin to think they are destiny of the world.

There is a glowing sense of power that is irresistible, and those who get to the controls lose touch with the ancient virtues that gave their people their value and worth.

Indeed, an ancient Chinese principle holds that empires collapse when:

Corruption becomes rampant in the imperial court, and the empire begins to enter decline and instability.

(Indeed, Bastiat showed that corruption at the top leads to lawlessness among the people.)

As we’ve exhaustively documented, corruption is rampant in the the U.S. today.

In addition, widespread corruption leads to runaway inequality. Specifically, one of the biggest causes of runaway inequality is that the big banks are manipulating every market, and committing massive crimes.  Fraud disproportionately benefits the big banks, makes boom-bust cycles more severe, and otherwise harms the economy … all of which increase inequality and warp the market. These actions artificially redistribute wealth from honest, hard-working people to a handful of crooks.  And corrupt government officials have aided and abetted this.

Runaway inequality – in turn – leads to the fall of empires … through unrest or revolution.

Indeed, inequality was .   In fact, inequality in America today is twice as bad as in ancient Rome , worse than it was in in Tsarist Russia, Gilded Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republics in Latin America, and worse than experienced by slaves in 1774 colonial America.

Institutional corruption is also leading to a lack of trust … which is collapsing the economy.

Spending $5 trillion dollars on imperial wars of adventure which make us less safe than ever is also destroying the economy … and America’s prestige.

And throwing trillions more at banks which committed massive and systemic fraud is killing the economy … and the belief in a free market in the U.S.

Indeed, the U.S.A. is following the pattern of ALL past empires as they declined:

  • They financialize their economy … going from manufacturing to speculation
  • They incur very high levels of debt
  • They overreach in costly military adventures
  • They become arrogant and lazy
  • They collapse soon after their peak

No wonder the American Empire is starting to collapse …

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  • Carl_Herman

    Strongly and sharply stated, GW; thank you.

    • Don Robertson

      Yes, and your terse iteration of the facts about this article point succinctly toward the truth so many America-haters fail to comprehend.

      The overwhelmingly vast proportion of the world’s population live under regimes where such published (or even spoken) criticism would result in either a death sentence or a long prison term where the fool that did such a thing would be fed rotten food in an unheated cell until he died from the elements.

      The notion of societal (and Empire) collapse is relative, like the notions of wealth and freedom. You Washington’s Blog guys have been demonstrating this for years, Carl. Our empire is still very subject to change that results from the freedoms we have that are reinforced by the extravagant wealth all of us enjoy and too many take for granted as Americans.

      The relativity of these concepts that are your wares here on this quite literally free media cannot be overstated. Yes, there has been a slow erosion of our freedoms. Vigilance is indeed important. But few here recognize the depth of the vigilance required, or even the depths of what has been lost.

      In closing, I will point out, the typical fool, a category into which I put lots of alternative media writers, Carl, wears blinders when it comes to both the erosion of our freedoms and the extent of our freedoms.

      I make this conceptual note for the history-impaired, -murder in the U.S. was once legal. I make this notation to prove a point about the fallacy of the moral progress of the so-called progressives of the alternative media who think they are so stinking high and mighty.

      The highest known statement of morality is this. The moral imperative of life is to live a life that detracts not at all from the lives available to those who will follow us into this world.

      In other words, don’t screw it up. It’s a fine moral guidepost, perhaps as fine as such moral guideposts get.

      During the early years of our Republic, when men felt other men were evil and acting immorally, these morally outraged men exercised their right to murder such men.

      These murders were called duels. The elimination of duels as a remedy to act against immorality in our society has in all probability not improved the collective moral character one iota.

      We all know of such immoral men. But don’t think because you write about these immoral men, your alternative media efforts are any where near as effective a deterrent as the threat of a challenge to a duel would be against the immoral conduct of such men.

      And here in this country, such threats are increasingly being uttered. The empire your speak of, is no where near collapse. It is self-correcting to some degree.

      • Don Robertson

        For instance: Could the Fukushima nuclear power plants be given regulatory approval today? Definitely not. See? There is some self correction, if it now comes too late.

        As the power of technology and finance grows, the inherent gamble of the pragmatic way, is increasingly perilous. It has become so perilous in fact, pragmatism should be equated, literally synonymous with immorality. Pragmatism is way too big a moral gamble in far too many instances.

        This is what everyone is talking about, even if they don’t know it. How stupid are today’s pragmatists to think they have the right to experiment using the world as a crucible to the great detriment of our world, and then, when their experiment blows up, it blows up on all of us.

        To enforce our a priori moral ethics, the company owners, the designers, the regulatory permit granters, the financiers, the college professors who taught all these people they have the right to destroy the world, especially the scientists that were involved with Fukushima, and even the fathers, mothers, sons and siblings of these scoundrels should be chased through the streets and quite literally flayed alive when caught. Their skins should be tacked to a public board for hundreds of years of display.

        The movie implies we should feel sorry for the creator of Frankenstein. That is a lie.

        Think of the crimes against all humanity these pragmatists have put into motion. The depth of these crimes that are going completely unpunished is the greatest atrocity ever committed by our leaders who lie about progress and an improved civilization. And the great and growing number of these crimes are continuing almost unabated at the threshold of their ongoing inception.

        Next week, and the week after, it will again something horrific foul-up created by these immoral pragmatists that seek fame and fortune, while they continue to destroy the world piecemeal.

        Give us all back some dignity. Let us take back our freedom to dispense with these immoral men. This is the only war that matters. For in the long-predicted end, what else will matter?

        • Don Robertson

          You see, Carl, the crimes that have happened surrounding and leading up to Fukushima are far and away morally worse than anything one can understand about what happened during the holocaust, even exponentially so. At least, when the holocaust was over, it came to an end.

          Fukushima is going to last forever. There is no moral parallel in history, unless it is the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments. And even this moral medical atrocity pales in comparison to the events leading up to Fukushima.

          And worse moral atrocities are showing up on the near term horizon.

        • walterallenhaxton

          In the USA they don’t care if they are in earthquake zones. There are many along the Mississippi river which is a major fault zone. They should be dismantled there and be replaced with coal or natural gas plants.

      • Nmeofthestate


        • Don Robertson

          Another delusional dope-smoking idiot tosses his feces against the wall to see if it sticks.

          Such is the alternative media. Hooray for morons.

  • nobody

    ‘Starting to collapse’? I spoke of this (not to the extent of this author) more than 20 years ago.
    I keep things simple.
    It is as simple as the food chain. Just as humans consume just about anything and everything that doesn’t eat them first, those in power consume the resources of the rest of humanity. It is not sustainable. The only reason today is not generally referenced as the ‘greatest depression’ is the fact that we have ‘food stamps’ instead of ‘food lines’. (we have both, actually)
    Most people choose to ignore reality, until it affects them directly… and some will ignore it to their grave.
    The article is good, but it leaves out many things.

  • Virginia Simson

    Love the work that went into this. Nice set of links.

  • Harold Benson

    I feel vindicated. I’ve been writing letters to our local newspaper and telling my friends that corrupt politicians are the “elephant in the room”. We can add to that corrupt big business.

  • Nexusfast123

    The US is facing a Seneca Cliff – Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote that “increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.”

  • Bruce

    Together with invasion (illegal immigration) and spectacles (‘Murican IDOL, et al)!

  • Matty032

    You forget Washington’s Blog, they have another one, waiting in the wings, ready to take its place.

  • William556

    Much of this was also mentioned in the book “When Nations Die.” It looks at 10 common signs of decline and collapse in nations, to include moral and ethical failings. This article does mention that many of those nations moved away from the ideals that made them great, and the US is certainly doing that.

  • Brockland A.T.

    Domestic assassinations aren’t skyrocketing, so by that measure collapse is still a bit far off.