Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Decline and Fall in Four Simple Steps

One of our commenters, Homophobic Horse, left a link in the comments in the Baron’s recent post, “Are Muslim Paedophiles Incurable?”

The blog is called “Mediocracy” and it defines its title this way:

‘mediocracy’ is a condition in which culture is subordinated to pseudo-egalitarian ideology. Symptoms include: dumbing, jargonism, infantilisation, vacuity, phony democratisation and authoritarianism. A key weapon of the mediocratic agenda is the Orwellian redefinition of words and ideas.

The author, Fabian Tassano, is a British academic. Given his views, either his work life is very tough or his hide is made of rhinoceros. For an academic to hold such views in the US would be tantamount to career suicide.

Does British academe tolerate its iconoclastic members with more amiability than universities do here in the US?

Oh, wait. Here’s his self-description from his profile:

Fabian Tassano was Lecturer in Economics at Balliol College Oxford, before working as a senior economist in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ London office, and is the author of two philosophical books, “Mediocracy” and “The Power of Life or Death”. He is currently not in receipt of a university salary, pending the return of meaningful ideology-free content to academic economics, philosophy, physics etc. He is not holding his breath. Meanwhile, he and his colleagues at Oxford Forum are working to establish an independent college cum publishing house with the same standards as those of academia when it was still free of gobbledygook and left wing bias. His blog postings are mostly personal opinions, and should not be taken to represent his academic writing.

What a cool guy.

Even cooler is his table, Decline and Fall, which you can see beyond the fold.
- - - - - - - - -
Decline and Fall

Notice there are four phases in Decline. Or maybe three phases of Decline, and the fourth represents the Fall.

What makes this table interesting is the comparison between personal behavior and the larger economic behavior of the polis. This is one of my favorite topics; while I might argue a few points of similarity, on the whole this is an excellent way to frame the problems of declining, deviant cultures. By now, all of Western nations fit into one or the other of these categories.

I could argue that he didn’t cover the queerest construction of all, Stage Five: the failed state, as evidenced by, say, Palestine or Somalia. But what coherence can you bring to a discussion about the “economics” of a behavioral sink? The PoorPalestinians get by with a little help from their useful idiot friends. The Somalis resort to pursuits like piracy; hardly the basis of a rational economy. Besides, they never rose up, so there was no real Decline.

As for the US, I think we are in between Phase One and Two, with some contradictions to go along with our decline. For example, Dr. Tassano mentions “unhealthy eating” in Stage 2. Yes, many Americans are overweight. But the opposite of that, which is equally unhealthy, is being obsessed with eating correctly. One’s diet morphs into a fundamentalist religion where food becomes the road to immortality. Visit a vegetarian health food store sometime and take a deep breath of the pervasive sanctimony.

Unfortunately, we have at least one characteristic of Stage 3: appallingly awful education.

This is a most instructive delineation of systemic decline. Can you think of other cultural or economic behaviors that can go into any of the groups?

Do you have a way to outline those cultures that never even made it to a position from which to fall? For example, how could the PoorPals be any worse off than they are already?

I recommend looking at other pages on Dr. Tassano's blog. Also, if you click on his profile you can see other blog associations.


Who Struck John said...

I'm dubious of some portions of his list. One need only look at the economic history of the US in the 19th century (a century replete with stock market bubbles, financial panics, and depressions -- the highlights include panics and depressions in 1819-1823, 1837-43, 1857-59, the gold bubble of 1869, panic & depression of 1873-1879, and panic in 1893) to conclude that items in stages 2 and 3 under the banking column have been with us for a very long time indeed. While they are certainly items that are symptomatic of a decline, they are not necessarily predictive of one.

Panday said...


Haven't you and Baron watched the film "Idiocracy" yet?

spackle said...

"One’s diet morphs into a fundamentalist religion where food becomes the road to immortality. Visit a vegetarian health food store sometime and take a deep breath of the pervasive sanctimony."

Good lord do I know what you are talking about. I was recently looking for a new apartment and saw this nugget in the classifieds. "No cooking of meat allowed." God forbid you are a smoker! You might as well pitch a tent somewhere because you will not find a place to live.