The lessons of history would suggest that civilisations move in cycles. You can track that back quite far – the Babylonians, the Sumerians, followed by the Egyptians, the Romans, China. We’re obviously in a very upward cycle right now, and hopefully that remains the case. But it may not.
I am fascinated with cycles, and if you are too then I imagine you are probably already familiar with a man named Edward Dewey. Dewey was the Chief Economic Analyst of the Department of Commerce during the Hoover administration, and became interested in cycles when President Hoover tasked him to figure out the cause of the Great Depression. Through The Foundation for the Study of Cycles Dewey amassed enormous amounts of data, and produced quite a bit of interesting research. On this occasion I will be sharing with you some graphs and quotes from his book Cycles: The Science of Prediction. Let’s start with the Spanish Empire:
The phenomenon of increasing intensity of depression — as an economy approaches the upper level, or asymptote, of its trend — is shown suggestively in the history of the Spanish Empire, one of the earliest social organisms for which we have any useful statistical record. E. J. Hamilton, in his study American Treasure and the Price Revolution in Spain, has provided us with elaborately detailed estimates of Spain’s total imports, valued in standard pesos, from 1503 to 1660. On the basis of this data, Harold T. Davis has constructed an index of Spanish trade for this period which is charted in Fig. 4, together with a trend line which has been added by the authors. The period includes most of the great growth and expansion of the Spanish Empire. Of particular interest is the series of deep depressions that begin to appear after the trend line begins to reach maturity.
Lets compare that with some “Patterns in Growth of Biological Organisms”:
Now lets take a gander at the populations of a few different countries:
France and Germany really make me go, “hmmmmmmmm…..!” Here is the United States:
These are of course projections (Milton Friedman calls them pseudoscience), and don’t exactly match our current population figures, but they paint a picture of how the population of a nation (or the nation itself) might have a life cycle just like an organism. Consider some of Dewey’s commentary:
We now know enough about trend lines to realize that old ones merge into the take-off of new ones only when fundamental, even revolutionary, changes have occurred in the environment and its organization, and perpetuate themselves….
Remember Pearl’s (fruit fly) bottle. Imagine for a moment that we Americans are the (fruit flies). We are reaching the upper asymptote of our (population growth) curve. The invention of a few new gadgets by industry — indeed, the invention of a whole new industry itself — is a force in no way adequate to change the relationships in our bottle. We must have a whole new bottle.
The progressives, the Cathedral–whatever you wish to call them, understand the above to a certain degree. This is one reason they are flooding Western Europe with immigrants, and attempting to do the same in the United States. They are pigs who have gotten fat off a corrupt system, and as the organism that feeds that system reaches late maturity it needs life support. But this will only slow down the inevitable: the death of an aging diseased organism and the decrepit, stagnating parasite along with it. Or maybe it’s just silly conspiratorial thinking…who can be sure!
Maybe there are alternatives though. Some of these alternatives might include introducing a novel economy, space travel, seasteading, and artificial intelligence. Joseph P. Farrell provides insight into what the solution to the problems that plague the Western world might be:
In other words, we now find the economic inevitability behind the strategy outlined in chapter one; the global elite, in order to maintain any sort of “sustainable growth” — to use one of their favorite catch phrases — must either expand humanity’s “bottle” into outer space in a significant way, or perpetuate regional imbalances and conflicts and wars and the economic growth for some that this inevitably brings, or they must admit the growth of a revolutionary technology which completely changes the nature of the relationships inside the bottle itself. Failing this, they must export and then re-import manufacturing and technology from one region to another, and lower population, in a never-ending shell game, if the bottle-expanders of outer space and radically new technologies are not pursued. In short, the only real way to alter the inevitability of a cycle is to make the bottle an open system, and any open system invariably challenges the very basis of their power, unless, of course, the pursuit of revolutionary technology is one they can monopolize and employ to secure their hegemony.
What does all this have to do with Peter Thiel? I submit to you that this one of the esoteric meanings of Zero To One. “1 to n” buys us time, but only so much time. Enough time for those who are fat and happy off the current order to secure their escape, and continue gorging themselves until the inevitable happens. “0 to 1” is the blueprint for how we completely change “the nature of the relationships inside the bottle itself.” It’s how we tap into the “topological metaphor of the physical medium”, as Farrell would say. It’s vertical progress that leads to more liberty; rather than the trajectory of global slavery horizontal progress is hurling us toward.
Maybe Trump will tap into this self-sustaining equilibrium. After all, he has a saint at one hand, and a devil at that other.