28 April 2013

Noah’s Castle

I suspect my impression of what a collapse of society looks like is heavily influenced by the 1970s TV series Noah’s Castle, which I saw when I was a child.
As I recall, the plot was that this chap saw that things were all going wrong, and moved out to the country and stocked his cellar up with food. The point of the story was the moral dilemma of whether he would keep his stores for his own whiny ungrateful kids or open them up to the hungry mob at his gates.
The purported dilemma seemed almost as inane to me thirty-odd years ago as it does today, but the image of the wild horde begging for the tinned spam in the basement stuck with me.
That’s my excuse, anyway, because looking at the idea now, it’s not all that convincing. Firstly, whether you feel like giving away your hoard is a minor question compared to whether you can hang onto it. Second, if it really did get to the stage where the existing food distribution mechanisms broke down, or food became too expensive for the masses, we would be looking at a minimum of hundreds of thousands starving. Third, drastic changes in government would happen before that, so reactionaries who waited for actual anarchy before acting as I recommended recently would be leaving it too late.
So the question is, what are the stages of the collapse of the state? At what point can a reactionary leader claim to be restoring order rather than opposing order?
I plan to write a few posts looking at the likeliest possibilities, but first there are a couple of other lines to rule out.
Simple state bankruptcy is not the answer. States can and do run out of money, without losing control. As we have seen in Cyprus, the state can simply confiscate what it needs taxation no longer suffices. Running out of money could very well contribute to a failure of the state, but in itself it does not constitute a failure.
A foreign invasion obviously is a failure, but that’s not a likely scenario for Britain, so that can be ruled out.
My current theory is that democracy probably goes first. Once the progressives have abandoned or bypassed democracy, even as a temporary expedient, it becomes possible for reactionaries to claim that since the rulers’ position is no longer justified democratically, there is no reason for the people who caused the crisis to remain in power.
I will expand on this later.

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