It is said that the great Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566), was taught the following aphorism by his mother, and that he repeated it often in subsequent years:
To hold a land you need an army. To keep an army you must share out property. To have property you must have prosperous people. Only by just laws can you distribute the wealth. Only by laws can the people be protected. Land, army, property, laws. If one of these lacks, all four will soon lack. If all four lack, the land is lost. The Sultana was describing the effects of a positive societal feedback loop and contrasting them with the effects of a negative feedback loop. The empire became great under Suleiman and subsequently began to decline. One after the other, property, laws, and army lacked, and as a result of social, economic, political, and military entropy, the land was lost. But it took four hundred years.
The Western world became great by adopting the political principles of freedom, economic policies encouraging wealth creation, an independent judicial system, and a powerful military force. The land under its control was vastly expanded, in all continents. By the dawn of the twentieth century it was triumphant everywhere.
It then began to engage in a series of fratricidal civil wars: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, which occupied most of the twentieth century. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Western civilization, based on liberty and the market economy, again appeared triumphant everywhere, having vanquished fascism, Nazism, and communism.
Four years before the outbreak of the first world war, in his bestselling book, The Great Illusion (1910), British author Norman Angeli declared that the possibility of generalized war among the great powers was rendered impossible as a result of their economic interdependence. Following the end of the Cold War, American academic Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the universal triumph of democracy and the market economy in his equally famous (and fatuous) work, The End of History and the Last Man (1992).
Then "history," ignoring Fukuyama, began again with the destruction of the twin towers in 2001, followed by the onset of the Great Recession in 2008. Since then, the Sultana's negative feedback loop has been in full bloom and the forces of civilization have gone into retreat. How was this possible? How did the entire monumental structure of the West, based on Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman value...