Categorized | Economy, History, Most Recent, Politics

On Autarky

In traditional society, it is the principle of autarky, or self sufficiency, which guides economic development. That is to say, political and cultural development guides economics. Generally speaking, states raised money as needed to conduct specific campaigns, public works, and general maintenance of roads and public buildings. The idea of centering political and cultural developments on economics would have seemed absurd to the Roman Senate at it would the Macedonians of Alexander or Cyrus of Persia.  While global trade always existed, it was recognized that a society that did not depend heavily on trade was better off as its course was not to be determined by foreign markets, economic pressure, and war. In many ways this was an extension of the stoicism valued as a personal ethic in Antiquity. Just as people are best who can live unaffected by the absence of luxuries, a strong, healthy nation is one that can exist without a need for great wealth, but rather great strength and character.

Today this principle is completely turned on its head, as is expected from a society which is the very inversion of normal, hierarchical traditional society. States are measured successful solely based on their material prosperity and how widespread certain luxuries are in the population. There are studies for example, which gage how many households have televisions, access to cable, a car, cell phones, and cars. A society that measures itself on these things is utterly disconnected from true life in the higher sense of the term. The proper measure of greatness in a society is not how much its population has, but how much they can do without. True freedom and independence is the ability to live a full healthy life without being a slave to modern conveniences which, while harmless in and of themselves, are not crucial or necessary in any sense of the term. To advocate this is not to advocate a “return to nature” in the hunter gatherer sense of the term, or to endorse a luddite position, but rather, to separate our understanding of cultural and spiritual well being and success from material trinkets and conveniences. As Evola wrote in Fascism viewed from the Right;

Naturally, it is not right to go overboard in the opposite direction. In every respect, we can be guided by the analogy offered by the behavior of a man worthy of the name. He can promote the development of his body and bodily health, but not become its slave. When it is necessary, he reins in the corresponding impulses and makes them obey a higher will, even at the cost of sacrifices. He does the same thing every time he wants to or must confront task that demand particular strain. In order to make possible what, on the national level, corresponds to a similar line, adequate relations have to be established between the political principle of an organic national state and the world of economy, which corresponds to its corporal part.”

Sparta, for example, was for the best part of its history known for its contempt of wealth and luxury, along with its simplicity and autarkic government. Thucydides commented on the city itself, referring to it as nothing more than a cluster of villages, entirely underwhelming for a city whose reputation was so great. While Sparta produced little in the ways of great architecture, art, poetry, and the like, Sparta’s inner character is of an incomparably higher type than that of a primitive tribe of hunter gatherers, for example. The aim of self reliance is not to create a state that is perpetually impoverished and unworldly, but one that puts the sacred over the profane, and puts its cultural and spiritual life as something beyond material wealth.

Even in the modern world of global economy, autarchic thinking manifests itself irrespective of ideology. From a nationalist point of view, it is the only logical direction for a state as the nation and state are identified as one, and the independence from foreign influences of the nation is paramount. For fascists, it was important enough to be the third point of Mussolini’s Fascist political program issued in 1921 stated as follows;

“ …Third, the gradual disengagement of Italy from the group of the Occidental plutocratic nations by the development of our productive forces home..”

Autarkic measures can be seen in modern times elsewhere, in the isolationist trend in the United States prior to WWII, certain austerity measures and industrialization attempts in third world nations such as the Sankara government of Burkina Faso, and the Juche ideology of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In these cases, autarchy is not connected with a traditional ideal but nonetheless is perceived as a necessity. The Burkina Faso case is worth nothing for the energetic measures taken by the idealistic, if Marxist leaning leader Tomas Sankara who earnestly sought to break the cycle of dependence which plagues most of the African continent. He decreed all clothing worn for example, by government employees had to be made in Burkina Faso itself, refused foreign aide and cut certain luxuries high ranking government officials enjoyed which were otherwise seen as wasteful and beyond the means of the small and by no means wealthy West African nation. When he found that foreign investment for a railroad would be to expensive, he had it built out of pocket, using labor and material from his country. Had his promising start was cut short tragically by a foreign backed coup, perhaps he could have had a greater impact on the continent.

Juche has been discussed in a previous article While the media in the west often highlights the DPRK’s economic difficulties, it can do little else since the DPRK’s economy, however small, is by and large in the hands of the leaders of the state rather than foreign interests. Even its allies in the PRC only have so much pull. This compared to its southern counterpart, the Republic of Korea which while more prosperous is ultimately a slave to economics and vulnerable to any change in the international market. Its population is also saturated with the “consumer culture”. This “consumer culture” is the end result of a state that focuses entirely on bellies and physical desires without any higher orientation. It is regressive in every sense of the term. This isn’t merely something that exists in the Republic of Korea but in any state which uses the western model of “success” as its guide. These examples are brought up not to advocate any particular modern system of thinking, but merely to disprove the notion that economic self reliance is outmoded or otherwise outdated, as it tends to be viewed derisively by “free trade” advocates, globalists and the like. They show simple ways in which to move a state more towards self sufficiency outside of complete restructuring, and how these methods are the same regardless of ideological trappings in the context of a modern state.

"Buy Italian Products" Fascist poster promoting autarkic measures

“Buy Italian Products”
1935 Fascist poster promoting autarkic measures

The necessity of some measure of self reliance is even more apparent today when the “global community” which is to say, those nations with the power and wealth to impose their destructive democratic ideology on the world, can put economic and eventually military pressure on any nation that steps out of line or seeks to determine its own course. The ability to at least blunt that first weapon, the economic blockade, can be the difference between weathering the storm and collapse. Mussolini himself was quoted as such;

“Without economic independence the political independence is doubtful, and a nation of great military power may become the victim of an economic blockade.”

It may mean giving up luxuries or going without but these things, in a healthy society, would be seen as an honor, for the sake of freedom and independence. How is a state to determine its own course when its economic life is the master of its political and social life, and that economic life can at any moment be altered by foreign pressure? Did the isolated islanders on St Kilda or the Aran islands , or example, concern themselves with the “global market” when they were gathering seaweed to nourish crops or out at sea in fishing boats?

Historically, the strongest and greatest nations were those who put economic growth to the service of the state and did not interest themselves in riches for the sake of riches. The Romans in their early years could be considered this way, likewise to the Spartans. Those nations who put trade first quickly became prizes for nations not bought off by gold- the Phoenician trading states and Lydia, for example, could prosper but only on account of their submission to stronger imperial neighbors, be they the Persians of Cyrus or the Macedonians of Alexander.

The United States in this situation, is in a unique place; it has the resources, landmass and population to truly be self reliant in every way, without substantially giving up luxury however it is so entirely centered on this international economy, so completely enslaved by consumerist, “free trade” capitalist mindset that this is unthinkable.  As the position of the United States on the world stage declines, this may have to change out of sheer necessity.


About Ray Wilson

Ray Wilson resides in New York City. He holds a degree in history and studies philosophy, theology and entomology in his free time.