TRADE DISRUPTION CAUSES COLLAPSE
In the 12-28-06 posting at SurvivalBlog a link was given for an article by Olden Scott Card. I believe the link was titled “How We Can Collapse”. The article was very good and I was very jealous since it was so well done. Of course some of us get paid well to write which adds a different motivation than love of craft. Not that I would call my mad scribblings a craft, but I do enjoy it. Anyway, this is an article everyone should read. Very well done. I can’t even really do it justice here but I’ll give it a shot anyway.
All the traditional causes given for Rome’s collapse were what led up to trade being suspended. And when trade was disrupted, collapse happened. The decline of Rome was from a variety of events. Inflation, Republic replaced by dictatorship, mass welfare. Decline in conquered land and slaves. Disincentive to produce rather than consume. We are seeing it all now. But when the civil wars started that started the troops fighting each other rather than protecting the borders the barbarians moved in and sacked the area, cutting off trade. Without trade a lot of areas couldn’t even feed themselves. Syria had soil good for little other than olive trees. But it was such good quality that she could import all the food that couldn’t be grown locally. After trade was cut off the population declined quickly due to lack of food.
Now of course the article was much better at describing what happened. You really need to read it unless you are repulsed by economics, history and politics. That seems to be today’s common response. Perhaps I am alone in loving social studies. If you don’t want to read it, just consider the following. Trade is what allows us to eat. Without trade we starve. Even in farm country there is a need for trade to supply the tools needed for growing food. Unless you are an Amish farmer or a organic gardener you can’t supply your own food without fertilizer, irrigated water, seeds, a tractor, etc. For those of us not on a farm or a homestead advanced along the self-sufficiency route, we all need trade to live. We depend on oil from Texas or Saudi Arabia to get us to work and someone in the farm belt buying the good or service we produce for some food at dinnertime.
In the last century or so it has been the rapid adoption of petroleum to all aspects of life that has allowed us to not only expand trade on a truly global scale but also allowed us to forget the old labor intensive ways of trades and crafts. We are all dependant on a factory somewhere to give us anything and everything we need. Even our meat and produce is from largely automated mechanized operations. Without open and free trade we can’t produce the first thing we need in order to survive. The above mentioned article gave the example of pottery. Trade was widespread and everyone could afford professionally made pottery. After trade collapsed the areas that had once had a factory ( for lack of a better term applied to the time ) now had misshapen, poorly glazed pots made from clay from the local river by amateurs. With commerce dead the former equipment couldn’t even continue to run. Think about that in your plans.
Each area is forced to provide all its own food and defense after trade collapses. And there are far from ample areas where this is feasible outside of a pathetic attempt. Such were the Dark Ages. Peasants were forced to till marginal soil and often were malnourished due to poor harvests that had to be shared with the king and his soldiers. Without that protection no crops at all were feasible. It’s just like a liquor store. Without cops there it would be out of business in one night. Of course if you don’t pay taxes you get shutdown also, but in theory the government takes less than bandits.
Before, Roman soldiers guarded the borders to protect the merchants and farmers from barbarians. After the soldiers got involved in political infighting the borders were left open. Without a guarantee of safe unhindered trade ( other than marginal protection money ) no one will risk their investment. Trade dies. That is why a little government is better than none unless individuals have the weapons to protect themselves ( and you wonder why government hates guns ). Our investment of a half a trillion bucks a year is the price we pay for world trade. Our military might currently be misused in stealing oil but it is still needed to keep world trade going or we all starve. No one else could police the oceans and dominate all other armies. Of course that era might be coming to an end, especially if the dollar’s dominance slips for good. But it worked good for awhile. We had better hope it doesn’t end soon, for all our sakes.
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