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The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

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March 19, 2014 - 7:34 am

NASA is one of the few government agencies that’s worth keeping around, but as an “air” and “space” agency it is poorly equipped to study the history of the rise and fall of past empires. So…

Few think Western civilization is on the brink of collapse—but it’s also doubtful the Romans and Mesopotamians saw their own demise coming either.

If we’re to avoid their fate, we’ll need policies to reduce economic inequality and preserve natural resources, according to a NASA-funded study that looked at the collapses of previous societies.

“Two important features seem to appear across societies that have collapsed,” reads the study. “The stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity and the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses.”

In unequal societies, researchers said, “collapse is difficult to avoid…. Elites grow and consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society.”

As limited resources plague the working class, the wealthy, insulated from the problem, “continue consuming unequally” and exacerbate the issue, the study said.

Meanwhile, resources continue to be used up, even by the technologies designed to preserve them. For instance, “an increase in vehicle fuel efficiency technology tends to enable increased per capita vehicle miles driven, heavier cars, and higher average speeds, which then negate the gains from the increased fuel-efficiency,” the study said.

The researchers used what they termed a Human And Nature DYnamical (HANDY) formula to reach their conclusions. The formula uses factors such as birth rates, resources, and income classes to create a mathematical equation to project outcomes.

What’s “handy” is that this government-funded study just happens to line up with what the rigidly ideological president and his party keep saying. Shocking!

It seems clear that now that NASA has been taken out of the manned space flight game, and now that its role in national security and hard-edged exploration is being reduced, it just has too much time on its hands.

Do you want to know a fairly crazy fact about history? We don’t really know why many past civilizations collapsed. Of those whose collapses we do understand, few were simple. Very very few collapsed for one or two reasons, and few collapsed quickly. Some didn’t collapse — they failed to defend themselves and were destroyed. That’s not quite the same thing as a collapse. Some collapsed because of freak natural disasters, and thanks to our present level of technology, such collapses are largely things of the past. Rome collapsed over the course of several centuries, and was split and overrun by enemies, and was betrayed from within. Easter Island’s collapse was pretty quick and fairly easy to explain, but it was also not an empire and was not spread over much territory. But there are many past civilizations that we know little about, how they flourished, and how they died, and how they built what they built while they were still alive (cue the Ancient Aliens guys). It isn’t so much the case that there are gaps in our history. It’s that there is some known history between all the gaps.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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Top Rated Comments   
It is always good when engineers and physicists do social science.

Maybe psychologists and sociologists should design rockets?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Every time I think the government couldn't get any dumber, they prove me wrong.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
All that is required to win this argument is to frame it properly. The overlords overtaxing the masses, while consuming far too much themselves, are not the Koch brothers and the TEA Party. It is, rather, the enormously bloated federal bureaucracy emanating from Washington D.C. If we frame the argument so that the government meddling class are the overlords and the working producers across the country as "the people" then we can correctly assert that NASA's model is correct. It is simply a matter of properly framing the argument to show who the true over-consuming overlords really are.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (25)
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Hey NASA, here's something a bit more immediate to worry about than the fall of Empires:

HOW YOU GONNA GET THE NEXT ASTRONAUT TO THE FRIKKIN SPACE STATION SINCE YOU HAVE NO MANNED PROGRAM AND OBAMA PISSED OFF THE RUSSIANS?

23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is always good when engineers and physicists do social science.

Maybe psychologists and sociologists should design rockets?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
The group that invented that HANDY thing contained social "scientists".
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Notice when you put "social" in front of anything it means the opposite?

Like Social Science, or Social Justice
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
More dystopian twaddle. This is from the Goddard Space Fiight Center, and part of it was headed by Soros' pet scientist, James Hansen. He left his mark.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
You lost me with your first sentence. NASA can't get an astronaut to LEO after spending tens of billions of dollars trying to replace the woefully inefficient shuttle; it is just an earmark machine. The next American manned orbital launch will be by private enterprise, not by the hapless bureaucrats who occasionally dabble with outer space stuff.

Shut NASA down, replace it with a 'NARPA' style agency that doles out a strictly limited amount of money to promising start-ups and projects (with a terrifyingly powerful IG, BTW) and perhaps allow a smallish science-oriented agency for unmanned exploration.

Virtually all organizations over time will bloat and become primarily self-preservation machines, and NASA is far down that track. Kill the monster and raise up a successor that isn't in its dotage.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
NASA's right!
We'd better cut down our bloated and inefficient bureaucracy, and respond more proactively to external threats, or we might collapse, like the Romans! And we'd better get a handle on entitlements, or we'll face the same crisis they did when they could no longer provide the Annona to a population that had grown dependent on it!

That's what they were trying to say, right?

Seriously, I've heard many theories advanced for the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but no historian has ever connected it to "inequality" or "consumption of resources". The Romans were defeated by people much poorer than they were!
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm trying to think of just one major civilization in which an over-consuming elite forced the masses to famine and rebellion leading to the collapse of that civilization. There have been a fair number of over-consuming elites that were rebelled against, but the elites usually won or were rather quickly restored to power in a counter-rebellion. This is the sort of stuff a college sophomore would write simply because s/he didn't know any better or because s/he was trying to please a predictably left wing professor.

It is a comforting Christian and communist myth that the Roman Empire collapsed because of a decadent and corrupt ruling class, but it is only kinda, sorta, in some ways of looking at it true. In reality, the Western Empire dissolved due to the ravages of invasion and loss of territory and, thus, revenue. The loss of Roman Africa and its foodstuffs and revenue, aggravated by Roman attempts to relieve the Roman citizens who suffered losses due to the Vandal conquests of their lands led the Western Empire to simply become unable to maintain its garrisons and infrastructure as a central government function. When the garrisons went away, the villa rustica began its evolution to the castle protected by the landowner's own private army. The still thriving Eastern Empire almost succeeded in re-uniting the Empire and establishing a central government but was thwarted by the Bubonic Plague and threats to its own eastern and southern borders. The Eastern Empire survived for almost a thousand years longer and finally only succumbed after first being mortally damaged by the former Byzantine allies the Venetians and their Frank co-conspirators' sacking of Constantinople in 1204 and then the inability or unwillingness of the resurgent Western European kingdoms to render aid to the "Greeks" when they faced the final Muslim onslaught in 1453. A century and change later those Westerners found at least some unity when they faced those same Muslims at the gates of Vienna rather than exotic and faraway Constantinople.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Honestly, the libs draw their history from tv and Hollywood movies:

History? Caligula, Antony and Cleopatra, Nero and all other Hollywood movies

Science? The Day After Tomorrow, Category 7, To the Artic, The Day the Earth Stood Still........ etc. etc.

But lets throw in Hunger Games and remind leftist elites and their mindless supporters how things truly are.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can think of two obvious examples of over consuming elites leading to the collapse of a civilization. The first is Bourbon France prior to the revolution of 1789 while the second is the Soviet Union prior to its collapse. In both cases the elites caused the "over consumption of resources" through forcing economic misallocation meant to maintain their own power; just like current day communist China and, arguably, Obama's transformed United States.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd argue that many of Rome's problems stemmed from too much interference in economics by the Senate and emperor -- debasement of coinage (for a time the government paid in coins, but would only accept payment in labor or goods, because the coins were worthless), cronyism, price controls, excessive taxation (the manor system started because of an excessive sales tax -- a self-contained manor didn't have to pay the government as part of every transaction) and more.

Julian the Apostate, before he inherited the throne, was charged to raise more tax income from Gaul. He arrived to find the people on the edge of a tax revolt due to the high taxes. He lowered the rates, cracked down on corruption and tax dodging, and increased revenue while quelling the discontent.

(then, sadly, led the empire into an initially brilliant but ultimately failed and fatal expedition into Persia. His intelligence services failed to let him know about the new walls around Ctesiphon)
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
When you have usurpers who seek the throne and buy off the praetorian guard with ever more pay & bonuses, debasing coinage comes naturally.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Every time I think the government couldn't get any dumber, they prove me wrong.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
It all makes perfect sense. People including politicians have been criticizing CEOs of emphasizing short term profits (dividends) over R & R and long term corporate health.

Are not Political parties with their spoils systems and patronage doing the same thing. They can read the tea leaves, but they have to get to tomorrow and not worry about the future. If they saved money by not paying off a faction/ a constituency with government money they would be breaking a rice bowl / goring an ox. They would not live to as a political entity after the next election so what use is worrying about the future?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm pretty sure Constantinople (twice), Tenochtitlan, Rome, Hindu India (twice) Cuzco, Egypt, (eleventy kabillion times) pre-Islamic Spain, pre-Norman England, Persia, (twice) Islamic Crimea, the medieval Balkans, Jewish Palestine, Carthage, and Byzantine Asia Minor didn't "collapse" because of capitalism and the ecology.

There's a possibility Mayan city-states MAY have collapsed. Other than that, who in the heck are they even talking about?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perhaps the French revolution, and if you are being particularly myopic, the Russian revolution. They seem to ignore/get the wrong message from things like the fall of the USSR.

However, it should be noted that Obama's policies are doing more to create "Elites" and "Masses" than anything we have seen in recent history in the US. Income equality means that people cannot change their station in life very easily, thus perpetuating any asset inequality.

So...it seems like NASA is pushing creating "Elites" and "Masses" to avoid creating "Elites" and "Masses". I think they need to take a course in logic.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Gee. If I were a congressman on the committee reviewing/approving NASA's upcoming budget I would zero it out. Or at a minimum - apply a prejudicial withhold to all of their critical programs until they come and justify the expenditure of funds on this report. What budget justification document is NASA citing that authorized the expenditure of funds for this report?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here would be a good place to start: The Subcommittee on Space (House Committee on Science, Space and Technology), Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Chairman: http://science.house.gov/subcommittee-space-and-aeronautics
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Soviet Union also collapsed. It did not have a dearth of natural resources, and its whole society was built on the idea of equality. The Russian Empire that preceded it has lasted centuries. The USSR died within 70 years of its birth.

NASA should be shut down. It is not doing what it was chartered to do anymore, and it is manifestly incompetent in what it is doing now.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
And the job it IS supposed to do is currently being done very well by the private sector.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
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