Is The West in financial collapse?

Is The West in financial collapse? I might not be an LSE educated economist, but it seems obvious to me that my side of the planet is facing some pretty serious economic challenges. Across Europe and America, inequality is rising, as are housing prices and unemployment. Bank rates remain at ludicrously low levels (even being negative in some countries). Secession movements are threatening the stability and security our region, and social anger seems to be growing across the spectrum.

Among the struggling countries of Europe, Italy has more than it’s fair share of problem. Corruption, sky high unemployment (particularly youth unemployment) and a failing currency union. In addition to these, the country is also facing another serious problem in the form of the secession movement in Veneto (or as English speakers know it – Venice). Several years ago, the region launched a secession movement which continues to affect the country to this day. Despite being half Italian, I haven’t really been paying too much attention to the movement, but have a love of the city thanks to it’s history as a centre of commerce.

It’s not secret to those that know me that I have a long-standing interest in empires and commerce. There’s something about the fearless mind-set of entrepreneurship and trade that appeals to me. Sadly, many empires fail to last, often collapsing due to corruption, waste and mismanagement. As one empire falls, another rises to take it’s place, in a never ending cycle of creative destruction. But what if this didn’t have to happen? What if an empire could survive forever?

In my opinion, the city of Venice is a fantastic example of a collapsed empire which clings to its past. Once an independent city-state and centre of shipping between the Mediterranean, Orient and Europe, the city was the capital of the Republic of Venice, and a one-time imperial power. By the late 13th century, the city was the most prosperous in Europe, but this was not to last.

Following several expensive wars and the death of 200,000 citizens thanks to the Black Death, the city began a gradual but irreversible decline, losing it’s power as a trade centre and prominence in the global system of commerce and trade.

As I write this, the description of Venice doesn’t actually seem too dissimilar to countries like Britain and America either. Like a grown man in skinny jeans, these countries have been drained of their modern-day relevance. For example, instead of thriving on business, trade and innovation, the economy of many of these countries is now largely dependent on tourism and hand-outs.

As manufacturing and industry flee the West, those of us lucky enough to be employed are paying for the problems of the rest of through ever increasing taxation. Needless to say, many are getting a little fed up of supporting the poorer regions with little in return; and many of those being ’supported’ are a little fed up of being left behind.

Some Governments are facing these challenges by becoming ever more authoritarian, whilst others pursue policies of decentralisation in an attempt to give regular citizens more control over every day affairs. But like many empires of the past, I fear that the West in financial collapse; the question is, can it be reversed?

This might seem like a bit of a doom-mongering thought – after all, most of my posts are pretty optimistic, but I’ve always believed in being realistic when assessing threats. The rise and fall of an empire might seem like a pretty catastrophic event, especially if you live in it, but what if you were prepared for it?

None of us are infinitely lucky. We will all face rainy days, tough decisions and challenges on our path through life. As the saying goes \”but for the Grace of God, there go we\”. So what steps can we take to try to avoid falling on hard times, and ensure that our stability to be a platform to help those around us who are less fortunate?

6 steps to avoiding personal decline

1. Stop living in the past. Empires rise for many reasons. They usually fall due to complacency and corruption. They focus on their past successes and become arrogant in their confidence that the good times will never end. They stop providing prosperity for their citizens, and they lose sight of the value they’re adding.

What value are you bringing to the table? You might have had the greatest job in the world 5 years ago, but what matters is what is happening today. Too many people spend their time living on past successes and thinking that the world owes them a living. Taking pride in the work you do is a good thing, but vain pride is not. Work hard, be honest, and focus on what you’re doing today – not what happened in the past.

2. Stop hiding behind excuses. The world is a tough place. A strong leader will face up to the challenges of life and tackle them as best they can. Sadly, many successful empires eventually become led by cowards and fools who are quick with their excuses and slow to accept responsibility.

You’ll find liars, cheats, thieves and a whole host of people who want to set you back in life. It doesn’t take much to see that the world can be a pretty nasty place; but the question is, what are you going to do about it? If you always focus on what’s going wrong and why you can’t do things, you’ll find that you never achieve anything. Instead, focus on what you can control. Take responsibility, keep yourself honest and you’ll be ready to protect what’s yours.

3. Develop a flexible mental attitude. If you accept that there are going to be challenges to face, you’ll be prepared to take whatever action is necessary to face them. Being prepared to deal with setbacks, uncertainty and a lack of control will keep you well placed to succeed no matter what. Far too many empires are led by individuals who become dogmatic in their thinking. Rather than accepting that the ’other side’ might have a point, they’d rather blow up a negotiation than admit they’re wrong. Rather than accept they’re not perfect and don’t know everything, some leaders charge head first into situations over which they have no control – taking their followers with them to disaster.

Don’t be afraid to look at situations in a new way. When the situation changes, you need to be ready to change with it stay on top. You might feel fear, or doubt, but you need to be ready to put them aside to ensure you keep moving forward.

4. Build your financial security. Don’t worry about paying the bill today – we can pay it tomorrow. Don’t worry about investing in infrastructure, or healthcare, or education, we’d rather skim money and waste it; there will always be more. So many empires have been brought low by leaders that stole, wasted money and allowed gross corruption and incompetence to take hold. In the good times, this can almost be ignored, but one day, the tables turn, and suddenly, they find themselves with an army that hasn’t been paid, a populace which hasn’t been educated, and an empire which looks more like an ancient ruin than a utopia.

If you lost your job tomorrow, how would you survive? Developing an income stream that will continue to pay out in the bad times, and a financial cushion to help keep you afloat are essential securing your ’empire’ against the bad times and allow you to face down the challenges coming at you. It might be tempting to spend that money on a night out, but if you invest it instead, it will be there to support you when you need it.

5. Build strong relationships and alliance. A single stick is easily broken, but a bundle of branches is stronger. Ensuring that you have strong relationship and alliances will help you to survive against external threats. When the wolves are circling, being able to call for help is essential. Keep your eyes open for those around you, and be ready to step in for them. Together, we are strong, but divided we are weak.

Are you prepared?

No empire lasts forever. In Britain, the loss of our manufacturing base, worship of the past and increasingly large North-South divide are all signs of social collapse.

In America, the strength of the vision ’the freest country on earth’ is spread far and wide. Despite insanely regular gun deaths from their own citizens, economic inequality and a disastrous central government, most Americans still believe in the concept of ’American Exceptionalism’.

In Europe, manufacturing has fled to Asia, taxes and inflation are on the rise, along with house prices and yes, you guessed it – economic inequality.

When a country no longer produces and innovates, when a shrinking minority are put to work to keep the idle afloat, what is left to keep the country alive? I don’t know whether Western decline can be reversed, but I sure don’t intend to go down with it if it does.

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