For the past 300 years, the historical pattern has been for the era marked by a century to continue into the following century by fourteen or fifteen years.
Let me explain. Everyone knows that the 19th Century, its uprightness, its optimism and sense of purpose, the halcyon days of British Empire, came to an end with World War I, starting in 1914 and building to a nasty crescendo by 1916. The 20th Century had arrived, and it had some real horrors in store for us.
But if we return back another hundred years, we notice that the 18th Century ends in 1815 with the final defeat of Napoleon, that final project of the Enlightenment and of the French Revolution. With the Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815, we have a new Europe along the lines of Metternich’s plan, and the 19th Century at last is here.
In 1713 and 1714, we have the Treaties of Utrecht, Baden, and Rastatt, bringing an end to the era of Spain as a major power, and the rise of the Habsburgs. Louis XIV dies in 1715, after reigning for 72 years. The Baroque period is over, and we are now firmly in the 18th Century.
We still live in the 20th Century. Nothing much significant has changed in our lives in the past twenty years. Symptoms of a deeper rot are appearing here and there, foreshadowing a larger crisis, but the crisis itself has not arrived yet. We still live in an era of Pax Americana, the old republic very much a strained and tired Empire now, with the U.S. Dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
That is going to change.
The next task for History is to dismantle the untenable structures and institutions put in place by late Modernity, which have been extended now as far as they can go. Our debt-based monetary system will collapse, our unbacked fiats will be worthless. The debts and unmeetable obligations will all default.
There are ironies and great contradictions as the former home and hope of Liberty becomes viciously unfree and increasingly despotic. Our leaders no longer govern, but try instead to rule us — they are less legitimate with each passing day, their laws corrupt or worse. They are nearly finished, and will be swept away with the tide.
Just as in 1914, the internationalist system will break down, dashing the hopes of the would-be first-world nations. We will probably have a pretty good war as well, or many local ones worldwide. These transitions tend to involve war.
Deflation first — it clears the way for the complete loss of faith and hyperinflation that will follow. The next big wave down in the financial markets is the battering ram. The U.S. national debt is about faith, so is quantitative easing, and so is the very idea of magical coins that could ever be “worth” a trillion dollars. When this is faith breaks, in concert with loss of faith in perpetual growth and unlimited cheap energy, then things will move very, very quickly.
There is nothing any of us can do at this point, except navigate the rapids as well as possible, and to stay out of the way of a dying empire, which is still very dangerous in its death throes. We are actually very privileged to be alive and witnessing this next transition, to what we do not know just yet. But what an honor to live at this time, not in ignorance but with an existential resolve to come out of it alive and much the wiser.