Laws for History
present only the very basic laws. More detailed concepts and models
(with historical examples) will be presented in The World History Rewritten section (list of topics).
In times of growth
people tend to cooperate, in times of crisis people tend to fight with
It is a trivial observation but its
consequences are not always obvious for historians and economists.
When we have period of economic growth, people are eager to cooperate,
conflicts are rare, and problems are solved in peaceful ways. People
looks like they were good, and rational-acting beings.
When we have economic crisis, economy, and politics is a “zero-sum
game” (or niegative-sum game), so there are much more conflicts, which
are solved with more
methods. We can expect strikes, revolutions, wars, and “irrational”
People looks like they were bad, and irrational-acting beings.
When we are analyzing history (or economy) of
“good times”, we can use scientific tools that assume the people are
good, and will tend to cooperate. Good example of that kind of tools is
the liberal economy, especially free-market theories.
When we are analyzing history (or economy) of “bad times” we should use
scientific tools that assume the people are bad, unhonest and the
history is driven by conflicts. Examples of such theories could be:
game theory, Marxism (with its “class struggle”), or the monopoly
theory, and other economic theories that describe flaws of free market.
If we forget this basic truth, we could repeat the mistake of
Nicolo Machiavelli, who believed that only unhonest (“dirty”)
strategies are effective in politics. Or opposite, we could repeat the
mistake of young Winston Churchill, who had prophesied (as a young
journalist at the beginning of XXth century) that democracy and liberal
economy soon dominate the whole World.
is a consequence of very simple economic mechanism: When the
economy is in the phase of growth, the middle-income citizens (for
simplicity middle class) grow in number and wealth and thus in
political strength. When the economy is in the crisis phase, the group
of middle-income citiziens shrinks, and opposite GPIs from the left
wing and right wing of political scene (conflicted with each other)
grow in strength. Economic mechanism responsible for destroying the
group of middle-income citizens is very similar as in polarization effect, which
destroys the economic prosperity of middle-income countries (described
in more detail on the economics tools page, when I will write about
flaws of the comparative advantage theory).
Now you can see, why the observation that was made by Alexis de
usually happens when the crisis comes after the phase of growth
When the country ruled by a privileged GPI (group
of political interests) is in the phase of growth, the
middle-income citizens (which have no political rights at all or have
very limited political rights) grow in strength. When the crisis comes,
the dominant GPI usually tries to increase the rate of exploitation of
other citizens. In a self-defense middle-income citizens can (if they
are strong enough) made an alliance with low-income citizens group and
made a successful revolution.
Of course, if the crisis not come (or middle-class is strong like in
democratic system), the changes in political system will be gradual
(system will be developing in an evolutionary way).
The Law of Connected
It is the law formulated by polish historian Pawel Jasienica.
When a country with higher-developed political institutions conquers
(or unites with) a country that have less-developed political
institutions, institutions in the first country starts to degenerate ad
institutions in the less-developed country start to develop until
“political levels” in both countries will become almost equal.
The reasons are economic and will be explained in more detail later.
and fall cycle in states before the industrial revolution
Every feudal state goes (sometimes many
times) through specific life-cycle:
- Expansion, and a phase economic
- Decline, because of diffusion processes launched by
- Final fall - country breaks into
a few smaller countries or is completely conquered by barbarians or
some other country, or civil war changes the ruling GPI.
- Eventual rebirth. After the crisis a new phase of
economic growth begins, country unites, and the cycle starts from the
beginning. (Technology level are little higher than at the beginning of
Here a short description of social
mechanics that stands behind this cycle:
There are basically tree most important GPIs
in feudal states:
There are basically tree most important GPIs
in feudal states:
faction. Nobles who want to increase their wealth using military
ways, by conquering or plundering some other country.
faction. Nobles who wants to increase their wealth by increasing
the rate of exploitation of local peasant (or introduce new, more effective
methods of production).
faction. Nobles who want to increase their wealth by selling
their products abroad (usually to some richer country).
- Plus there are merchants. They
are usually have no political rights, but sometimes could be an
important ally for factions mentioned above.
Depending on situation, one of these
faction is the strongest, and dictates the policy of the country. When
planters are on the top, we can see so-called “noble democracy” - a
feudal state (only nobles have political rights) with some elements of
parliamentarism (ex. England, Hungary, Poland) - but it is a very rare
case. When priests are on the top, we can see a religion driven state,
often with great religious buildings (like cathedrals or pyramids).
When soldiers are on the top, the feudal country is expansionistic, and
tries to conquer its neighbours.
Usually the most effective (most
profitable) way to increase wealth of dominating nobles is a military
expansion, so feudal country tries to conquer the weakest of his
neighbours. At the beginning, that kind of “government investment” is
quite profitable. New conquered countries give a monarch extra lands
that he could use to revard his warriors, officials and supporters, and
opens new markets for local traders. Until the volume of the long-range
internal trade (ie. trade between different provinces of kingdom) is
high, country is united, because profits from trade makes stronger
these GPIs that are interested in unity of the country. Long range
trade is a glue that keeps different provinces together.
Then, after the long growth, comes
the slow economic fall. There are numerous causes of such crisis. Maybe
too many conquered lands consume to many military resources of the
country. Maybe too intensive exploitation of natural resources makes
country vulnerable to natural disasters. Maybe long-range trade becomes
less profitable because differences in wealth levels between provinces
became smaller. Maybe the reason is the shift of trade routes because
of some external processes.
As a result the volume of the
internal trade loses its power to glue country together, and local
feudal lords grow in power (comparing with monarch). Eventually that
process disunites the country into several (or even hundreds of) pieces.
Crisis in a
relatively rich country makes some economic problems to their neigbours
too. If that country trades goods with some barbarian tribes (or some
other country with lower income), population, wealth, and technology
level of these tribes increases rapidly when the rich country is in
expansion phase. When the crisis comes, rich country would try to
protect its trade balance using numerous protective means: its
merchants will start buy little less goods, dictate lower prices or try
to find other barbarian tribes that could sell the same goods cheaper.
In consequence that middle-income barbarian tribes suffers from poverty
because their “export” drastically decreases (see “the polarization effect”).
In consequence, a war becomes a very
good alternative for these barbarian tribes: they are well equipped,
and numerous, and have no other option to protect their social status.
Moreover army of the rich country is quite weak because of economic
crisis. So, we can observe a great barbarian expansion and migration.
Middle-income tribes attacks (and in most cases conquer) the rich
country, and also some low-income barbarian tribes in their
Country falls under the rule of
barbarians (or some times a middle-income country), and the cycle
starts from the beginning. (But barbarian lands join the civilized
states.) As you can see, great nomadic empires (like Mongol or
Arabian) emerge because of the weakness of conquered feudal countries.
Of course this is only one of many possible paths of this rise-and-fall
cycle. Depending on GPI which rules the feudal country (warriors,
priests or planters), and many other factors, the schema of growth, and
fall could be little different. Actually there are probably at least a
two dozens variants of this rise-and-fall cycle.
When countries exists in a
relatively open geographic region, and borders with many barbarian
countries, its overall development is rather slow. Feudal countries go
through many cycles of expansion and fall, and size of civilized
(non-barbarian) area increases rather slowly.
But when several countries are bundled together in a relatively
enclosed peninsula-like region, and this region have some natural
internal borders like mountains, forests, swamps, then the schema of
historical evolution is a little different. (These borders
prevent any singular country from permanently conquering or dominating
the whole region - because there are many equally strong sub-regions
that have very different economical interests.)
In such region there are several
countries with comparable strength competing with each other. Even when
one country grows in power, its neighbours immediately made an alliance
to bring that country down. Countries have very little place to expand,
so economic falls (and thus political regressions) caused by immoderate
expansion are not so deep. Costs of war increase dramatically, because
there is no longer “easy prey” in close surroundings (every new military discovery is very
quickly implemented by neighbours). So, the alternative ways of
increasing country wealth like trade, technology development an
investments become relatively more profitable (we can construct curves
illustrating what is the best choice for a country: war, trade
expansion, technology-intensive investments, etc. - or to be more
precise: what is the best choice for GPIs
that rule the country - using similar curves like in the theory of
utility in economics).
For all those reasons technology
development speeds up, and volume of trade grows. Technology
development (especially in agriculture) helps cities to grow, and trade
growth gives cities economic reason to growth (cities become important
centers of trade exchange). So, we can observe appearance of first
populistic city-states (like
Sparta, Corinth and Athens in Ancient Greece, or Venetia, Milano anf
Genoa in Medieval Italy). And their appearance makes technology,
and trade development even faster.
Expansion of these city-states, and
diffusion of new technologies imported by other (feudal) states on
“peninsula”, eventually make all counties on peninsula populistic. And
there is a chance that after some time one of populistic countries
eventually become democratic - which makes technology development even
We can observe the peninsula schema
a few times in history: in Ancient Greece, in Medieval Italy, in Modern
Europe, and in XV-XVIII centuries in India. (But before the southern
parts of India subcontinent - for example Kerala - could evolve into
populistic states, whole region was colonized by Europeans.)
Populistic system can also evolve in a country on an island that is
located at the crossroads of important trade routes, and have limited
ability to expansion (You should remember that overseas military
expansion is much more costly than land expansion, because of logistic
reasons, so all alternative methods of increasing the island country’s
wealth are more profitable). Good examples of that kind of countries
could be Ancient Minoan Crete or modern England and Japan.
corrections, January-February 2006