Tuesday, September 01, 2009

there won't be any separate peace

Breton | Last week the Oil Drum featured an article about the very wealthy making preparations for whatever catastrophe the post-peak future has in stock. Many commentators have pointed out that mercenaries understand very quickly there is more money to be done by cutting their rich but helpless employers' throat than by defending them. The very fact than some people – including a few billionaires, apparently – believe a doomsday gated community is a viable response to peak energy tells a more about the preconceptions and fantasies which stand in the way of a successful adaptation to the changes peak oil heralds.

Mercenaries' dubious loyalty is, of course, the first obstacle to the building of reasonably enduring billionaires' lifeboats. Basing one's security on hired sword is one of history's most popular losing bet, even if on the short run it is not necessarily a stupid one. All rulers in history have faced the same conundrum : if you can't enforce your decisions, your power is basically worth nothing, on the other hand, if you give your enforcer too much power, he may well replace you. That's why rulers who didn't trust their own people, relied recruited their soldiers and advisors abroad or among despised minorities : because they won't have the connections to stage a coup.

Of course, on the long run it rarely works. Sooner or later, mercenaries entrench themselves within society, become a part of it and put themselves in position of kingmakers... at the very least.