excerpts from the book

Tragedy & Hope

A History Of The World In Our Time

by Carroll Quigley

MacMillan, 1966, haardcover


In Mesopotamian Civilization (6000 B.C.-300 B.C.) the core area was the lower valley of Mesopotamia; the semiperipheral area was the middle and upper valley, while the peripheral area included the highlands surrounding this valley, and more remote areas like Iran, Syria, and even Anatolia. The core area of Cretan Civilization (3500 B.C.-i ioo B.c.) was the island of Crete, while the peripheral area included the Aegean islands and the Balkan coasts. In Classical Civilization the core area was the shores of the Aegean Sea; the semiperipheral area was the rest of the northern portion of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, while the peripheral area covered the

rest of the Mediterranean shores and ultimately Spain, North Africa, and Gaul. In Canaanite Civilization (2200 B.C.-I00 B.C.) the core area was the Levant, while the peripheral area was in the western Mediterranean at Tunis, western Sicily, and eastern Spain. The core area of Western Civilization (A.D. 400 to some time in the future) has been the northern half of Italy, France, the extreme western part of Germany, and England; the semiperipheral area has been central, eastern, and southern Europe and the Iberian peninsula, while the peripheral areas have included North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some other areas.

This distinction of at least two geographic areas in each civilization is of major importance. The process of expansion, which begins in the core area, also begins to slow up in the core at a time when the peripheral area is still expanding. In consequence, by the latter part of the Age of Expansion, the peripheral areas of a civilization tend to become wealthier and more powerful than the core area. Another way of saying this is that the core passes from the Age of Expansion to the Age of Conflict before the periphery does. Eventually, in most civilizations the rate of expansion begins to decline everywhere.

It is this decline in the rate of expansion of a civilization which marks its passage from the Age of Expansion to the Age of Conflict. This latter is the most complex, most interesting, and most critical of all the periods of the life cycle of a civilization. It is marked by four chief characteristics: (a) it is a period of declining rate of expansion; (b) it is a period of growing tensions and class conflicts; (c) it is a period of increasingly frequent and increasingly violent imperialist wars; and (d) it is a period of growing irrationality, pessimism, superstitions, and otherworldliness. All these phenomena appear in the core area of a civilization before they appear in more peripheral portions of the society.

The decreasing rate of expansion of the Age of Conflict gives rise to the other characteristics of the age, in part at least. After the long years of the Age of Expansion, people's minds and their social organizations are adjusted to expansion, and it is a very difficult thing to readjust these to a decreasing rate of expansion. Social classes and political units within the civilization try to compensate for the slowing of expansion through normal growth by the use of violence against other social classes or against other political units. From this come class struggles and imperialist wars. The outcomes of these struggles within the civilization are not of vital significance for the future of the civilization itself. What would be of such significance would be the reorganization of the structure of the civilization so that the process of normal growth would be resumed. Because such a reorganization requires the removal of the causes of the civilization's decline, the triumph of one social class over another or of one political unit over another, within the civilization, will not usually have any major influence on the causes of the decline, and will not (except by accident) result in such a reorganization of structure as will give rise to a new period of expansion. Indeed, the class struggles and imperialist wars of the Age of Conflict will probably serve to increase the speed of the civilization's decline because they dissipate capital and divert wealth and energies from productive to nonproductive activities.

In most civilizations the long-drawn agony of the Age of Conflict finally ends in a new period, the Age of the Universal Empire. As a result of the imperialist wars of the Age of Conflict, the number of political units in the civilization are reduced by conquest. Eventually one emerges triumphant. When this occurs we have one political unit for the whole civilization. Just at the core area passes from the Age of Expansion to the Age of Conflict earlier than the peripheral areas, sometimes the core area is conquered by a single state before the whole civilization is conquered by the Universal Empire. When this occurs the core empire is generally a semiperipheral state, while the Universal Empire is generally peripheral state.

Of approximately twenty civilizations which have existed in all of human history ... fourteen, are already dead or dying, their cultures destroyed by outsiders able to come in with sufficient power to disrupt the civilization, destroy its established modes of thought and action, and eventually wipe it out. Of these twelve dead or dying cultures, six have been destroyed by Europeans bearing the culture of Western Civilization. When we consider the untold numbers of other societies, simpler than civilizations, which Western Civilization has destroyed or is now destroying, societies such as the Hottentots, the Iroquois, the Tasmanians, thc Navahos, the Caribs, and countless others, the full frightening power of Western Civilization becomes obvious.

This society became a civilization when it became organized, in the period 7oo-97o, so that there was accumulation of capital and the beginnings of the investment of this capital in new methods of production. These new methods are associated with a change from infantry forces to mounted warriors in defense, from manpower (and thus slavery) to animal power in energy use, from the scratch plow and twofield, fallow agricultural technology of Mediterranean Europe to the eight-oxen, gang plow and three-field system of the Germanic peoples, and from the centralized, state-centered political orientation of the Roman world to the decentralized, private-power feudal network of the medieval world. In the new system a small number of men, equipped and trained to fight, received dues and services from the overwhelming majority of men who were expected to till the soil. From this inequitable but effective defensive system emerged an inequitable distribution of political power and, in turn, an inequitable distribution of the social economic income. This, in time, resulted in an accumulation of capital, which, by giving rise to demand for luxury goods of remote origin, began to shift the whole economic emphasis of the society from its earlier organization in self-sufficient agrarian units (manors) to commercial interchange, economic specialization, and, by the thirteenth century, to an entirely new pattern of society with towns, a bourgeois class, spreading literacy, growing freedom of alternative social choices, and new, often disturbing, thoughts.

From all this came the first period of expansion of Western Civilization, covering the years 970-1270. At the end of this period, the organization of society was becoming a petrified collection of vested interests, investment was decreasing, and the rate of expansion was beginning to fall. Accordingly, Western Civilization, for the first time, entered upon the Age of Conflict. This period, the time of the Hundred Years' War, the Black Death, the great heresies, and severe class conflicts, lasted from about 1270 to 1420. By the end of it, efforts were arising from England and Burgundy to conquer the core of Western Civilization. But, just at that moment, a new Age of Expansion, using a new organization of society which circumvented the old vested interests of the feudal-manorial system, began.

This new Age of Expansion, frequently called the period of commercial capitalism, lasted from about 1440 to about i68o. The real impetus to economic expansion during the period came from efforts to obtain profits by the interchange of goods, especially semiluxury or luxury goods, over long distances. In time, this system of commercial capitalism became petrified into a structure of vested interests in which profits were sought by imposing restrictions on the production or interchange of goods rather than by encouraging these activities. This new vestedinterest structure, usually called mercantilism, became such a burden on economic activities that the rate of expansion of economic life declined and even gave rise to a period of economic decline in the decades immediately following 1690. The class struggles and imperialist wars engendered by this Age of Conflict are sometimes called the Second Hundred Years' War. The wars continued until 1815, and the class struggles even later.

The new Age of Expansion ... appeared as the Agricultural Revolution about 1725 and as the Industrial Revolution about 1775, but it did not get started as a great burst of expansion until after 1820. Once started, it moved forward with an impetus such as the world had never seen before, and it looked as if Western Civilization might cover the whole globe. The dates of this third Age of Expansion might be fixed at 1770-1929, following upon the second Age of Conflict of 1690-1815. The social organization which was at the center of this new development might be called "industrial capitalism." In the course of the last decade of the nineteenth century, it began to become a structure of vested interests to which we might give the name "monopoly capitalism." As early, perhaps, as 1890, certain aspects of a new Age of Conflict, the third in Western Civilization, began to appear, especially in the core area, with a revival of imperialism, of class struggle, of violent warfare, and of irrationalities.

By 1930 it was clear that Western Civilization was again in an Age of Conflict; by 1942 a semiperipheral state, Germany, had conquered much of the core of the civilization. That effort was defeated by calling into the fray a peripheral state (the United States) and another, outside civilization (the Soviet society). It is not yet clear whether Western Civilization will continue along the path marked by so many earlier civilizations, or whether it will be able to reorganize itself sufficiently to enter upon a new, fourth, Age of Expansion. If the former occurs, this Age of Conflict will undoubtedly continue with the fourfold characteristics of class struggle, war, irrationality, and declining progress. In this case, we shall undoubtedly get a Universal Empire in which the United States will rule most of Western Civilization. This will be followed, as in other civilizations, by a period of decay and ultimately, as the civilization grows weaker, by invasions and the total destruction of Western culture.

The conquest of the problem of producing food, known as the Agricultural Revolution, began in England as long ago as the early eighteenth century, say about 1725. The conquest of the problem of producing manufactured goods, known as the Industrial Revolution, also began in England, about fifty years after the Agricultural Revolution, say about 1775. The relationship of these two "revolutions" to each other and to the "revolution" in sanitation and public health and the differing rates at which these three "revolutions" diffused is of the greatest importance for understanding both the history of Western Civilization and its impact on other societies.

At the beginning, in the early Middle Ages, Western Civilization had an economic system which was almost entirely agricultural, organized in selfsufficient manors, with almost no commerce or industry. To this manorial-agrarian system there was added, after about 1050, a new economic system based on trade in luxury goods of remote origin for the sake of profits. This we might call commercial capitalism. It had two periods of expansion, one in the period l050-1270, and the other in the period Io-169o. The typical organization of these two periods was the trading company (in the second we might say the chartered trading company, like the Massachusetts Bay Company, the Hudson's Bay Company, or the various East India companies). The next period of economic organization was the stage of industrial capitalism, beginning about 1770, and characterized by owner management through the single-proprietorship or the partnership. The third period we might call flnancial capitalism. It began about 1850 reached its peak about 1914, and ended about 1932. Tipical forms of economic organization were the limited-liability corporation and the holding company. It was a period of financial or banker management rather than one of owner management as in the earlier period of industrial capitalism. This period of financial capitalism was followed by a period of monopoly capitalism. In this fourth period, typical forms of economic organization were cartels and trade associations. This period began to appear about 18890, took over control of the economic system from the bankers about 1932, and is distinguished as a period of managerial dominance in contrast with the owner management and the financial management of the two periods immediately preceding it. Many of its characteristics continue, even today, but the dramatic events of World War II and the post-war period put it in such a different social and historical context as to create a new, sixth, period of economic organization which might called "the pluralist economy."

CapitaIism, because it seeks profits as its primary goal, is never primarily seeking to achieve prosperity, high production, high consumption, political power, patriotic improvement, or moral uplift. Any of these may be achieved under capitalism, and any (or all) of them may he sacrificed and lost under capitalism, depending on this relationship to the primary goal of capitalist activity - the pursuit of profit.

Money and goods are not the same thing but are, on the contrary, exactly opposite things. Most confusion in economic thinking arises from failure to recognize this fact. Goods are wealth which you have, while money is a claim on wealth which you do not have. Thus goods are an asset; money is a debt. If goods are wealth; money is not-wealth, or negative wealth, or even anti-wealth. They always behave in opposite ways, just as they usually move in opposite directions. If the value of one goes up, the value of the other goes down, and in the same proportion. The value of goods, expressed in money, is called "prices," while the value of money, expressed in goods, is called "value."

The founding of the Bank of England by William Paterson and his friends in 1694 is one of the great dates in world history. For generations men had sought to avoid the one drawback of gold, its heaviness, by using pieces of paper to represent specific pieces of gold. Today we call such pieces of paper gold certificates. Such a certificate entitles its bearer to exchange it for its piece of gold on demand, but in view of the convenience of paper, only a small fraction of certificate holders ever did make such demands. It early became clear that gold need be held on hand only to the amount needed to cover the fraction of certificates likely to he presented for payment; accordingly, the rest of the gold could be used for business purposes, or, what amounts to the same thing, a volume of certificates could be issued greater than the volume of gold reserved for payment of demands against them. Such an excess volume of paper claims against reserves we now call bank notes.

In effect, this creation of paper claims greater than the reserves available means that bankers were creating money out of nothing. The same thing could be done in another way, not by note-issuing banks but by deposit banks. Deposit bankers discovered that orders and checks drawn against deposits by depositors and given to third persons were often not cashed by the latter but were deposited to their own accounts. Thus there were no actual movements of funds, and payments were made simply by bookkeeping transactions on the accounts. Accordingly, it was necessary for the banker to keep on hand in actual money (gold, certificates, and notes) no more than the fraction of deposits likely to be drawn upon and cashed; the rest could be used for loans, and if these loans were made by creating a deposit for the borrower, who in turn would draw checks upon it rather than withdraw it in money, such "created deposits" or loans could also be covered adequately by retaining reserves to only a fraction of their value. Such created deposits also were a creation of money out of nothing, although hankers usually refused o express their actions, either note issuing or deposit lending, in these terms. William Paterson, however, on obtaining the charter of the Bank of England in 1694, to use the moneys he had won in privateering, said, "The Bank hath benefit of interest on all moneys which it creates out of nothing." This was repeated by Sir Edward Holden, founder of the Midland Bank, on December 18, 1907, and is, of course, generally admitted today.

This organizational structure for creating means of payment out of nothing, which we call credit, was not invented by England but was developed by her to become one of her chief weapons in the victory over Napoleon in 1815.

[Financial capitalism] is of such overwhelming significance in the history of the twentieth century, and its ramifications and influences have been so subterranean and even occult, that we may be excused if we devote considerate attention to its organization and methods. Essentially what it did was to take the old disorganized and localized methods of handling money and credit and organize them into an integrated system, on an international basis, which worked with incredible and welloiled facility for many decades. The center of that system was in London, with major offshoots in New York and Paris, and it has left, as its greatest achievement, an integrated banking system and a heavily capitalized-if now largely obsolescent-framework of heavy industry, reflected in railroads, steel mills, coal mines, and electrical utilities.

This system had its center in London for four chief reasons. First was the great volume of savings in England, resting on England's early successes in commercial and industrial capitalism. Second was England's oligarchic social structure (especially as reflected in its concentrated landownership and limited access to educational opportunities) which provided a very inequitable distribution of incomes with large surpluses coming to the control of a small, energetic upper class. Third was the fact that this upper class was aristocratic but not noble, and thus, based on traditions rather than birth, was quite willing to recruit both money and ability from lower levels of society and even from outside the country, welcoming American heiresses and central-European Jews to its ranks, almost as willingly as it welcomed monied, able, and conformist recruits from the lower classes of Englishmen, whose disabilities from educational deprivation, provincialism, and Nonconformist (that is nonAnglican) religious background generally excluded them from the privileged aristocracy. Fourth (and by no means last) in significance was the skill in financial manipulation, especially on the international scene, which the small group of merchant bankers of London had acquired in the period of commercial and industrial capitalism and which lay ready for use when the need for financial capitalist innovation became urgent.

The merchant bankers of London had already at hand in 1810-1850 the Stock Exchange, the Bank of England, and the London money market when the needs of advancing industrialism called all of these intc the industrial world which they had hitherto ignored. In time they brought into their financial network the provincial banking centers, organized as commercial banks and savings banks, as well as insurance companies, to form all of these into a single financial system on an international scale which manipulated the quantity and flow of money so that they were able to influence, if not control, governments on one side and industries on the other. The men who did this, looking backward toward the period of dynastic monarchy in which they had their own roots, aspired to establish dynasties of international bankers and were at least as successful at this as were many of the dynastic political rulers. The greatest of these dynasties, of course, were the descendants of Meyer Amsehel Rothschild (1743-1812) of Frankfort, whose male descendants, for at least two generations, generally married first cousins or even nieces. Rothschild's five sons, established at branches in Vienna, London, Naples, and Paris, as well as Frankfort, cooperated together in ways which other international banking dynasties copied but rarely excelled.

In concentrating, as we must, on the financial or economic activities of international bankers, we must not totally ignore their other attributes. They were, especially in later generations, cosmopolitan rather than nationalistic; they were a constant, if weakening, influence for peace, a pattern established in 1830 and 1840 when the Rothschilds threw their whole tremendous influence successfully against European wars. They were usually highly civilized, cultured gentlemen, patrons of education and of the arts, so that today colleges, professorships, opera companies, symphonies, libraries, and museum collections still reflect their munificence. For these purposes they set a pattern of endowed foundations which still surround us today.

The names of some of these banking families are familiar to all of us and should he more so. They include Baring, Lazard, Erlanger, Warburg, Schröder, Seligman, the Speyers, Mirabaud, Mallet, Fould, and above all Rothschild and Morgan. Even after these banking families became fully involved in domestic industry by the emergence of financial capitalism, they remained different from ordinary bankers in distinctive ways: (i) they were cosmopolitan and international; (2) they were close to governments and were particularly concerned with questions of government debts, including foreign government debts, even in areas which seemed, at first glance, poor risks, like Egypt, Persia, Ottoman Turkey, Imperial China, and Latin America; () their interests were almost exclusively in bonds and very rarely in goods, since they admired "liquidity" and regarded commitments in commodities or even real estate as the first step toward bankruptcy; () they were, accordingly, fanatical devotees of deflation (which they called "sound" money from its close associations with high interest rates and a high value of money) and of the gold standard, which, in their eyes, symbolized and ensured these values; and () they were almost equally devoted to secrecy and the secret use of financial influence in political life. These bankers came to be called "international bankers" and, more particularly, were known as "merchant bankers" in England, "private bankers" in France, and "investment bankers in the United States.

The influence of financial capitalism and of the international bankers who created it was exercised both on business and on governments, but could have done neither if it had not been able to persuade both these to accept two "axioms" of its own ideology. Both of these were based on the assumption that politicians were too weak and too subject to temporary popular pressures to be trusted with control of the money, system; accordingly, the sanctity of all values and the soundness of money must be protected in two ways: by basing the value of money on gold and by allowing bankers to control the supply of money.

Bankers, who loved deflation, often acted in an inflationary fashion from their eagerness to lend money at interest. Since they make money out of loans, they are eager to increase the amounts of bank credit on loan. But this is inflationary. The conflict between the deflationary ideas and inflationary practices of bankers had profound repercussions on business. The bankers made loans to business so that the volume of money increased faster than the increase in goods. The result was inflation. When this became clearly noticeable, the bankers would flee to notes or specie by curtailing credit and raising discount rates. This was beneficial to bankers in the short run (since it allowed them to foreclose on collateral held for loans), but it could be disastrous to them in the long run (by forcing the value of the collateral below the amount of the loans it secured).

On the whole, in the period up to 1931, bankers, especially the Money Power controlled by the international investment bankers, were able to dominate both business and government. They could dominate business, especially in activities and in areas where industry could not finance its own needs for capital, because investment bankers had the ability to supply or refuse to supply such capital. Thus, Rothschild interests came to dominate many of the railroads of Europe, while Morgan dominated at least 26,000 miles of American railroads. Such bankers went further than this. In return for flotations of securities of industry, they took seats on the boards of directors of industrial firms, as they had already done on commercial banks, savings banks, insurance firms, and finance companies. From these lesser institutions they funneled capital to enterprises which yielded control and away from those who resisted. These firms were controlled through interlocking directorships, holding companies and lesser banks. They engineered amalgamations and generally reduced competition, until by the early twentieth century many activities were so monopolized that they could raise their noncompetitive prices above costs to obtain sufficient profits to become self-financing and were thus able to eliminate the control of bankers. But before that stage was reached a relatively small number of bankers were in positions of immense influence in European and American economic life.

The power of investment bankers over governments rests on a number of factors, of which the most significant, perhaps, is the need of governments to issue short-term treasury bills as well as long-term government bonds. Just as businessmen go to commercial banks for current capital advances to smooth over the discrepancies between their irregular and intermittent incomes and their periodic and persistent outgoes (such as monthly rents, annual mortgage payments, and weekly wages), so a government has to go to merchant bankers (or institutions controlled by them) to tide over the shallow places caused by irregular tax receipts. As experts in government bonds, the international bankers not only handled the necessary advances but provided advice to government officials and, on many occasions, placed their own members in official posts for varied periods to deal with special problems.

The influence of bankers over governments during the age of financial capitalism (roughly 1850-1931) was not something about which anyone talked freely, but it has been admitted frequently enough by those on the inside, especially in England. In 1852 Gladstone, chancellor of the Exchequer, declared, "The hinge of the whole situation was this: the government itself was not to be a substantive power in matters of Finance, but was to leave the Money Power supreme and unquestioned." On September 26, 1921, The Financial Times wrote, "Half a dozen men at the top of the Big Five Banks could upset the whole fabric of government finance by refraining from renewing Treasury Bills." In 1924 Sir Drummond Fraser, vice-president of the Institute of Bankers, stated, "The Governor of the Bank of England must be the autocrat who dictates the terms upon which alone the Government can obtain borrowed money."

In addition to their power over government based on government financing and personal influence, bankers could steer governments in ways they wished them to go by other pressures. Since most government officials felt ignorant of finance, they sought advice from bankers whom they considered to be experts in the field. The history of the last century shows ... that the advice given to governments by bankers, like the advice they gave to industrialists, was consistently good for bankers, but was often disastrous for governments, businessmen, and the people generally. Such advice could be enforced if necessary by manipulation of exchanges, gold flows, discount rates, and even levels of business activity.

[The] period, 1884-1933, was the period of financial capitalism in which investment bankers moving into commercial banking and insurance on one side and into railroading and heavy industry on the other were able to mobilize enormous wealth and wield enormous economic, political, and social power. Popularly known as "Society," or the "400," they lived a life of dazzling splendor. Sailing the ocean in great private yachts or traveling on land by private trains, they moved in a ceremonious round between their spectacular estates and town houses in Palm Beach, Long Island, the Berkshires, Newport, and Bar Harbor; assembling from their fortress-like New York residences to attend the Metropolitan Opera under the critical eye of Mrs. Astor; or gathering for business meetings of the highest strategic level in the awesome presence of J. P. Morgan himself.

The structure of financial controls created by the tycoons of "Big Banking" and "Big Business" in the period 1880-1933 was of extraordinary complexity, one business fief being built on another, both being allied with semi-independent associates, the whole rearing upward into two pinnacles of economic and financial power, of which one, centered in New York, was headed by J. P. Morgan and Company, and the other, in Ohio, was headed by the Rockefeller family. When these two cooperated, as they generally did, they could influence the economic life of the country to a large degree and could almost control its political life, at least on the Federal level. The former point can be illustrated by a few facts. In the United States the number of billion-dollar corporations rose from one in 1909 (United States Steel, controlled by Morgan) to fifteen in 1930. The share of all corporation assets held by the 200 largest corporations rose from 32 percent in 1909 to 49 percent in 1930 and reached 57 percent in 1939. By 1930 these zoo largest corporations held 49.2 percent of the assets of all 40,000 corporations in the country ($82 billion out of $165 billion); they held 38 percent of all business wealth, incorporated or unincorporated (or $81 billion out of $212 billion); and they held 22 percent of all the wealth in the country (or $81 billion out of $367 billion). In fact, in 1930, one corporation (American Telephone and Telegraph, controlled by Morgan) had greater assets than the total wealth in twenty-one states of the Union.

The influence of these business leaders was so great that the Morgan and Rockefeller groups acting together, or even Morgan acting alone, could have wrecked the economic system of the country merely by throwing securities on the stock market for sale, and, having precipitated a stock-market panic, could then have bought back the securities they had sold but at a lower price. Naturally, they were not so foolish as to do this, although Morgan came very close to it in precipitating the "panic of 1907," but they did not hesitate to wreck individual corporations, at the expense of the holders of common stocks, by driving them to bankruptcy.

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