Is America on the Decline?

The fall of Rome is a pattern repeated by empires throughout history. Does that include us?

Unfortunately, the fall of Rome is a pattern repeated by empires throughout history ... including ours?

A group of libertarians gathered in Las Vegas recently for an event called "FreedomFest." We debated whether America will soon fall, as Rome did.

Historian Carl Richard said that today's America resembles Rome.

The Roman Republic had a constitution, but Roman leaders often ignored it. "Marius was elected consul six years in a row, even though under the constitution (he) was term-limited to one year."

Sounds like New York City's Mayor Bloomberg.

"We have presidents of both parties legislating by executive order, saying I'm not going to enforce certain laws because I don't like them. ... That open flouting of the law is dangerous because law ceases to have meaning. ... I see that today. ... Congress passes huge laws they haven't even read (as well as) overspending, overtaxing and devaluing the currency."

The Romans were worse. I object to President Obama's $100 million dollar trip, but Nero traveled with 1,000 carriages.

Tiberius established an "office of imperial pleasures," which gathered "beautiful boys and girls from all corners of the world" so, as Tacitus put it, the emperor "could defile them."

Emperor Commodus held a show in the Colosseum at which he personally killed five hippos, two elephants, a rhinoceros and a giraffe.

To pay for their excesses, emperors devalued the currency. (Doesn't our Fed do that by buying $2 trillion of government debt?)

Nero reduced the silver content of coins to 95 percent. Then Trajan reduced it to 85 percent and so on. By the year 300, wheat that once cost eight Roman dollars cost 120,000 Roman dollars.

The president the Foundation for Economic Education, Lawrence Reed, warned that Rome, like America, had an expanding welfare state. It started with "subsidized grain. The government gave it away at half price. But the problem was that they couldn't stop there ... a man named Claudius ran for Tribune on a platform of free wheat for the masses. And won. It was downhill from there."

Soon, to appease angry voters, emperors gave away or subsidized olive oil, salt and pork. People lined up to get free stuff.

Rome's government, much like ours, wasn't good at making sure subsidies flowed only to the poor, said Reed: "Anybody could line up to get these goods, which contributed to the ultimate bankruptcy of the Roman state."

As inflation increased, Rome, much like the U.S. under President Nixon, imposed wage and price controls. When people objected, Emperor Diocletian denounced their "greed," saying, "Shared humanity urges us to set a limit."

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  • anon||

    Yes. Next question.

  • CE||

    The empire crumbling isn't the danger, it is the hope. A large central state will never tend toward freedom. Even if it starts somewhere near there, it will inevitably move in the other direction, as the US central state has.

    Once the empire crumbles, freedom lovers will have a chance to start over in a few corners of the former empire. Maybe New Hampshire, Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, etc.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Yeah post-Roman Europe was really the place to be. Hopefully we'll be a lot faster as setting up modern versions of the Hanseatic League and Italian city-states (which were the best places in Europe from what I understand).

  • Stephdumas||

    I guess lots of peoples in the Northwest are prepared for starting over with Cascadia.
    http://www.americanthinker.com.....occer.html
    http://www.seattleweekly.com/n.....-beer-mike

  • staceyshea40||

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  • Heroic Mulatto||

    By the year 300, wheat that once cost eight Roman dollars cost 120,000 Roman dollars.

    WHAT THE FUCK IS A "ROMAN DOLLAR"?????

  • anon||

    Obviously a dollar made out of romans.

  • Zeb||

    It's whatever you want it to be.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It's whatever you want it to be.

    Oh, so it's fiat currency then.

  • AlexInCT||

    He is probably dumbing down the explanation for the low information voter. Maybe because he thinks they would not know what he was talking about if he introduced the complexity of a Roman monetary system they would not have knowledge of? But I see your point that it he should have been clear about that.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    He didn't even have to use the terms aureus or denarius, a simple "wheat that was once, in today's terms, 8 dollars..." (which I think is what he meant) would have have sufficed.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I am not fan of where this nation is trending in a lot of ways, and it's good to learn from history where we can, but I have to say that I tire of everyone who dislikes contemporary America comparing it to Rome. Thanks a lot, Edward Gibbon.

    We're not Rome, we're the United States. To the extent we are in a mess we are in a mess of our own. Diocletian would faint from joy if he had drones and NSA spying technology.

  • anon||

    I am not fan of where this nation is trending in a lot of ways, and it's good to learn from history where we can, but I have to say that I tire of everyone who dislikes contemporary America comparing it to Rome.

    You realize the second thought expressed in that sentence just about directly contradicts the third thought, right?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I don't think so. The things we learn from history have to be very, very general, because the specifics matter and are very different.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Some questions need complex answers - others do not.

    One that doesn't need a complex answer is: hubris comes before the fall.

    & I think history shows hubris was an issue for Rome, and given the US now argues things such as "we can murderdrone who we want and no one has any legal recourse to even question it" - hubris is also an issue for the US.

  • Hash Brown||

    The thing is, the sources for ancient history are so patchy that making these kinds of comparisons is pretty silly.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    This too, yes.

  • Drake||

    Roman history from the mid-Republic on is very well documented - we aren't talking about ancient Sumer 2,000 years earlier

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Yes, we enough information to get a strong sense of what Rome was like.

    The Etruscans and Samnites on the other hand...

  • Hash Brown||

    Everything we have is very tendentious and is largely palace history. Not the kind of thing one would need for making meaningful past-present comparisons.

  • DarrenM||

    Not the kind of thing one would need for making meaningful past-present comparisons.

    Why do I get the idea you are just looking for a justification for ignoring history?

  • PapayaSF||

    Not true at all. Allow me to once again pimp one of my favorite history books: For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization by Charles Adams. The rise and fall of Rome (and many other states) had a lot to do with tax policy. Rome grew rich as a low-tax alternative to competing states, then crumbled as a high-tax state.

  • 21044||

    It is as useful as tree rings for forecasting the future.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Oh, please enlighten us 21044. It's not a "forecaster" but it certainly makes its case. Taxes and bread - that's what people revolt for.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Don't thank Gibbon, thank our Founders' Greco-Roman fetish.

  • robc||

    or Swiss fetish.

  • CE||

    I heard they based it on the Iroquois Confederacy of the Six Nations.

  • Raven Nation||

    Not widely accepted among historians.

  • Harvard||

    Because it's , well....bullshit?

  • Raven Nation||

    I can't remember all the details right now, but there was a pretty solid debate about this (in the 1970s?). And is was treated as a reasonable hypothesis at first but largely dismissed because the evidence for it is pretty thin.

  • Raven Nation||

    Good summary here:

    http://linguafranca.mirror.the.....ecial.html

    the WMQ article referenced is available via subscription only.

    Another abstract here:

    http://publius.oxfordjournals......9.abstract

    with a link to the full article.

  • Irish||

    I am not fan of where this nation is trending in a lot of ways, and it's good to learn from history where we can, but I have to say that I tire of everyone who dislikes contemporary America comparing it to Rome.

    Rome is actually a very good comparison though. Our entire system of government was actually largely based upon the idea of separation of powers that originated in the mixed government of ancient Rome. The founders purposefully based a large amount of our constitution on Roman political theory, and they were all huge fans of Cato and Cicero. They thought about America in terms of Rome so much that Washington was often compared to Cincinnatus, since both of them chose to step away and return home at the peak of their power.

    Given that our government is based on Rome's government, we're the most powerful nation of our time just like Rome, and we're trending downwards as a result of debt, too much power being accumulated in the executive, and massive military adventurism, I think Rome is a pretty apt comparison.

  • Drake||

    And the Founders tried to right in specific safeguards against the kind of corruption that brought down the Republic - a small / weak federal government with limited powers, the Bill of Rights, etc...

    You know, all the stuff politicians completely ignore these days.

  • DarrenM||

    You know, all the stuff politicians completely ignore these days.

    Unfortunately, politicians aren't the only ones who ignore it (or who are deliberately ignorant of it).

  • ||

    Yeah, but Rome didn't have instantaneous communications all over the Empire. They couldn't travel between the Eastern and Western empire in a few hours. That was why the empire broke apart. If some general in Alaska decided to declare independence, Washington would bomb the shit out of him arrest him and have him in a black cell in Langley in hours.

  • CE||

    Rome had very good roads though, and well-disciplined armies. They could walk a couple of legions anywhere a lot faster than you would think.

  • anon||

    Know who else had good roads and disciplined armies?

  • Swiss Servator - past LTC(ret)||

    The Moops?

  • Mainer2||

    + 1 Bubble Boy

  • ||

    If some general in Alaska decided to declare independence, Washington would bomb the shit out of him arrest him and have him in a black cell in Langley in hours.

    At the point that your military is going to war with itself, regardless of travel time, or people are serving out of threat of arrest or violence, I think your empire has some problems. "We're looking for a few good men...or we'll kill you" doesn't make for a good recruiting poster.

  • R C Dean||

    If some general in Alaska Gaul decided to declare independence, Washington Rome would bomb the shit out of him butcher his army arrest him and have him in a black cell in Langley under the Colosseum in hours months.

    I don't see that the difference between months and hours really makes much difference.

  • Libertymike||

    A stich in time.... and all that.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I don't dispute that the Founders were well versed in Roman history and sources, but being products of 18th century England they had vastly different preconceptions, values, and ideas than Roman writers did. Whether they were aware of it or not they saw the world very differently.

  • ||

    Starting with, say, not worshipping the God of War.

  • anon||

    Of course. They didn't have PS3's back then.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    well, maybe they didn't. But I think we've got it covered nowadays.

  • Irish||

    I don't think they saw the world that differently than Cato and Cicero. Cicero's Republic is very similar in its arguments to the arguments of the founders. Cicero actually brings up the concept of natural law that was one of the primary pillars of enlightenment thought.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Cicero lived in a world where people worshiped a bull and thought it was very important to correctly interpret a chicken augury before making big decisions. It's fair to say that's a different world than our Founders lived in.

  • SKR||

    yeah, a bull is totally different than a sky fairy.

  • Irish||

    So he had a different God and religion. That doesn't change the fact that his political beliefs were unbelievably similar to the Founders.

    Are you seriously arguing that a Hindu nation could never have a political system in common with the United States because one of them is predominantly Christian and the other is Hindu? I don't know what the religious beliefs have to do with what we're talking about.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Cicero lived in a world where people worshiped a bull...

    The non moronic ones didn't worship a bull per se, but used it as a symbol for forces that impacted their lives, that they had no direct control over.

    In that way, they were much more rational than modern believers, whether Christian or Progressive, who believe that those forces can be compelled through supplication (prayer or protest).

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    The 'rational' behavior of ancient culture is vastly under rated - especially among progressives.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    I'm not so sure they were that different. The Enlightenment did share quite a bit with the Ancients.

    But their values and ideas are different from those of today I would submit. No fucking way, for example, would they see the wisdom in Schumer's yogurt subsidy.

  • mtrueman||

    "and we're trending downwards as a result of debt, too much power being accumulated in the executive, and massive military adventurism, I think Rome is a pretty apt comparison."

    You missed out loss of markets. And that's why I disagree that Rome is an apt comparison. Britain is much much better, and closer in time and culture. Like the USA, loss of markets and growth of industrial power in peripheral nations was key in Britain's decline.

    I really don't know what the obsession with Rome is all about. I suspect that it has something to do with her decline being well documented and peppered with colourful characters.

  • Irish||

    Like the USA, loss of markets and growth of industrial power in peripheral nations was key in Britain's decline.

    I don't see how growth of industrial power in peripheral nations was key in Britain's decline. It wouldn't have been a problem if Britain hadn't obliterated its own economy with half-baked socialism schemes from 1945-1975. By the same token America wouldn't be having problems with job loss and decay if we didn't have overpaid and ossified public sector unions driving municipal bankruptcies and an inefficient regulatory state stifling innovation.

    I don't think the comparison to Britain makes much sense. America's government is much more similar to Rome's government and the 'American Empire' has probably had more in common with Rome than Britain.

  • mtrueman||

    "if Britain hadn't obliterated its own economy with half-baked socialism schemes from 1945-1975"

    Britain's decline started well before 1945. They'd engaged in two world wars in two generations and were almost bled white. Until then war was profitable or low cost.

    By peripheral nations, I mean peripheral to the British Empire. This includes America and Germany. By the time it came to supply the British built Indian rail system with locomotives, it was locomotives made in America. Pennsylvania, if memory serves. Liberal, lassie faire policies, hollowed out an aging industrial infrastructure, in Britain just as in the USA today. Look at the internet. USA not only invented and developed the internet, it led the world for a few decades. These days, in cutting edge technology like fibre connection, USA is somewhat akin to Britain's position 100 years ago.

    Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with America adoption of socialistic policies. The internet only came about through socialist/militarist efforts. Similar to this is the rise and fall of Detroit. Wasn't Detroit some 50 years ago the focus of American industrial might? Thanks to lavish socialistic spending on an interstate road network, government help and guidance in the suburbanification of American life etc.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Liberal, lassie faire policies, hollowed out an aging industrial infrastructure, in Britain just as in the USA today.

    A fundamental mistake that American's make about the British Empire is seeing it as a mini me version of America.

    It never was.

    Instead, the British Empire was always more of a trading network, for the benefit of an oligarchy, protected by a strong navy, than a traditional military empire or even strong nation state.

  • mtrueman||

    "than a traditional military empire or even strong nation state."

    The American empire is hardly a military empire. There was the revolution of course, which was a stalemate until the French stepped in, after that ethnic cleansing of the west - the eradication of the bison and herding defenceless women and children into reservations is only marginally a military exercise. The most costly war to date remains the civil war. America sat out most of the 20th century's wars until the last minute. Post WWII when the American empire came into its own, America found itself unable to win - Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. A military empire should be able to point to at least some victories, and Grenada just doesn't cut it.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    The lack of victories that you mentioned were entirely self imposed for internal political reasons. Today, the US is without a doubt the premiere military power in the world, maybe even the history of the world.

    The US is the world's first financial empire.

  • mtrueman||

    "the US is without a doubt the premiere military power in the world"

    Based on their ability to defeat a militia like the Taleban that spends half the year herding goats?

    Military might is more than just possession a load of lethal weaponry. It requires the willingness to put it to use. America fails here. It's a paper tiger.

    I don't see what disqualifies 19th century Britain from claiming to be a financial empire.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    And that's why I disagree that Rome is an apt comparison. Britain is much much better, and closer in time and culture.

    The US federal government today is infinitely more powerful than the queen's government at the height of Britain's power. Both in absolute terms and in relative terms.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That depends. What is the frequency with which legislative sessions devolve into debauched orgiastic bacchanalia?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Since the demise of Senator Kennedy?

  • anon||

    Not often enough.

  • Lord Peter Wimsey||

    "What is the frequency with which legislative sessions devolve into debauched orgiastic bacchanalia?"

    Goddamn! You really ARE Hugh Akston!

    I'm going to steal that sentence and use it at parties. Right after I make my big speech about money.

  • CE||

    That's the after party. What do you think pages and interns are for?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Freedom and prosperity are not natural. In human history, they're rare.


    I fundamentally disagree with this premise. History has shown that freedom is a better evolutionary state than the alternatives. The fact that it gets taken advantage of and bastardized on a cyclic basis is a function of governments. But the default position is freedom.

  • anon||

    I believe (and I may be wrong) that he's expressing the fact that tyranny (by whoever) is the norm in the history of civilization.

  • Drake||

    Yes - tyranny is the default position of government.

  • CE||

    Look at it this way. If home sapiens has been around for 200,000 years, government tyranny has only ruled for about 3 percent of that time.

  • anon||

    Yeah, and before that it was just lions and tigers and bears.

  • ||

    Oh my!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    And gamboling. So much gamboling.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Ummm...not really. Unless you want to argue that the tribal chieftainship isn't a government, you have to go to the paleolithic era.

  • R C Dean||

    I'm gonna need a definition of tyranny and how it applies or doesn't to pre-agricultural societies.

    Once you hit agricultural societies, I think the historical norm is tyranny.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Evolutionary states don't have a "better" or "worse". At best they have "more adapted" and "less adapted". Freedom certainly is better adapted to people who value justice, human happiness, the human intellect and prosperity. But, genuine desire for those things are hardly the norm in human history.

  • Slammer||

    Ubi est "alt-text"?

  • Hash Brown||

    Ubi o ubi est meus sububi?

  • ||

    This analysis is rather simplistic. It ignores the way that the provinces operated (drain them as much as possible) and the fact that that fueled much of the empire. Once expansion stopped or slowed to a crawl, proconsuls would steal the shit out of provinces but that source had already been drained again and again for years. Empires are sustainable only so long as expansion continues.

    Also, the writer is either a total ignoramus about Rome or is deliberately not pointing out that no Tribunes existed during the Empire; they were during the Republic. So any Tribune promising free wheat wasn't doing it in the later Empire (which is the period they were talking about regarding everything else).

  • anon||

    Empires are sustainable only so long as expansion continues.

    Somehow I immediately thought "Federal Reserve."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Empires are sustainable only so long as expansion continues.

    A fact that is the basis of neoconservative philosophy.

  • anon||

    Psh! Maybe if we actually expanded we'd make it to 500 years.

    We just blow shit up then piss away money rebuilding it.

  • db||

    We are not Rome, we are the Michael Bay of empires!

  • ||

    Let me expand upon that: empires are sustainable only so long as expansion with plunder of resources continues. The US does not particularly plunder resources, unlike the Romans.

    Our "Empire" is fundamentally different in the way that it operates; that is why the Rome comparison is a faulty one. That doesn't mean we're not getting into shit all over the globe, because we are.

  • anon||

    The US does not particularly plunder resources, unlike the Romans.

    I'd argue it does, from its own citizens, through inflation.

  • ||

    Then that's once again fundamentally different from Rome, which plundered conquered foreigners, which the US does not; it just dronemurders them.

    Conquest as a form of income was a major feature of both the Roman Empire and the British Empire. It is not a feature of US "Empire", or as I would call it, TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE.

  • anon||

    Then that's once again fundamentally different from Rome, which plundered conquered foreigners, which the US does not; it just dronemurders them.

    I'll agree with that; but does it matter who's getting plundered as long as plundering's occurring, to the empire?

  • ||

    It matters in the fact that the US model--plunder its own citizens--is inherently unsustainable and causes internal unrest and unhappiness. The Roman model, as long as it was expanding, kept the money flowing and the people happy. Their model is perfectly viable...until it stops expanding.

  • anon||

    It matters in the fact that the US model--plunder its own citizens--is inherently unsustainable and causes internal unrest and unhappiness.

    I wish we'd get to the internal unrest and unhappiness bit a little faster.

  • ||

    Everything the scum in Congress and the White House does is designed to push that off as long as possible.

  • anon||

    So basically Epi, what you're saying is that we are an inefficient empire, unlike Rome.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Then that's once again fundamentally different from Rome, which plundered conquered foreigners, which the US does not;

    Currently, yes, but in the past we were more than happy to plunder the Philippines, Hawaii, Latin America, the Caribbean, etc.

    I would argue that it's not a fundamental difference as much as a choice of strategy.

  • The Heresiarch||

    Inflation was absolutely part of the Roman economy. The denarius was almost pure silver at the time of Augustus. By the time of Aurelian, it was only about five percent silver.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    what about "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man"? does that not count as economic plunder?

    If that book is right, and I haven't read it yet, we are just better at obfuscating our economic plunder.

  • CE||

    Oil, pipelines, rare earth elements -- yeah, what plunder?

  • mtrueman||

    "The US does not particularly plunder resources, unlike the Romans."

    You've heard of the Carter Doctrine? It's never been repudiated by any of his successors and is in effect today? Heard of petro-dollar recycling? That's been happening for about the same time.

    When Americans want to buy oil, they need only to flip the switch on their printing presses and out come the necessary green pieces of paper. If a Japanese or pretty well anyone else wants to buy oil, they must first come up with a good or service that they can exchange for these pieces of paper before they can think of getting their hands on oil.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Yep, and the persistent trade deficit is the US taxing the rest of the world in an indirect, hidden, way

  • R C Dean||

    Let me expand upon that: empires are sustainable only so long as expansion with plunder of resources continues.

    This would mean the American Empire (for the sake of argument) started out on the downslope.

  • R C Dean||

    Let me expand upon that: empires are sustainable only so long as expansion with plunder of resources continues.

    This would mean the American Empire (for the sake of argument) started out on the downslope.

  • kinnath||

    So we fucked up when we stopped expanding then. That makes the answer to all of our problems pretty obvious doesn't it.

  • anon||

    bomb iran, bomb bomb iran...

    /McCain

  • kinnath||

    Fuck the middle east. We should start by making the united states of america cover all of america -- north america, central america, and southern america.

    I can foresee a future where the Big Ten conference has dozens of football factories scattered from the north pole to the south pole.

  • anon||

    I can foresee a future where the Big Ten

    Don't you mean Big One?

    /USSA

  • CE||

    There was point last year where the "Big Ten" conference had 12 teams, and the "Big Twelve" conference had 10 teams.

    You have to love the combination of higher education and athletics.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    You can fulfill Newman's dream of putting up an amusement park across the hemisphere!

    Oh, wouldn't that be divine!

  • Raven Nation||

  • Hugh Akston||

    Epi has made a detailed study of the Romans and Greeks of old. You know the ones I mean.

  • ||

    I apologize for nothing!

  • ZackTheHypochondriac||

    Everywhere I looked there were piles of bodies writhing, and then the explosion happened.

  • The Heresiarch||

    I believe the office of tribune continued into the empire, just like the office of consul. They just didn't have any power once Rome had emperors. The emperor had all the powers of the tribune (and consul), but could not be a tribune himself because he was invariably a patrician.

    I believe Stossel is referring to the annona, which began as subsidized grain during the Republic but continued and expanded during the empire. It is interesting to note that as the empire began to crumble, the annona became more and more generous until it was no longer affordable (sound familiar?)

  • Pro Libertate||

    The office died but the tribunicia potestas was granted to emperors and, sometimes, their heirs.

    There are some useful parallels with Rome. For instance, much of Rome's military activities in the middle-ish part of the Republic were of the go-conquer-then-leave variety. Quite like what the U.S. does.

    An interesting discussion of this parallel with the Republic is Empires of Trust: How Rome Built--and America Is Building--a New World, which distinguishes the rise of Rome and the rise of the U.S. as a world policeman (the so-called empire of trust) from empires of conquest and economic empires.

  • Drake||

    We are much better than the Romans.

    The corruption of the Republic into a monarchy and the eventual demise of the Empire took over 500 years. We are going to do it in a fraction of that time.

    History repeats itself, just faster.

  • Hugh Akston||

    All of this has happened before...

  • AlexInCT||

    And will happen again..

  • DarrenM||

    We are going to do it in a fraction of that time.

    Technology speeds things up.

  • mipaul||

    Gaius Marius, the Roman equivalent of Mayor Bloomberg, was consul 7 times between 107 and 86 BC. Rome was sacked in the 5th century AD. Ipso facto, Bloomberg will be responsible for the sack of New York by Quebecois sometimes around 2500 AD. We're dooooomed!

  • anon||

    Oh no. The French are invading.

    Or something.

  • Steve G||

    no, but the mexicans will take back CA and TX for starters in the next century...

  • NeonCat||

    You scoff, but you've never seen those Quebecois all hopped up on poultine…

  • Firework Surprise||

    Another interesting comparison is how the advent of the standing armies of Rome, in large part, contributed to the corruption (think military industrial complex) that turned the republic into an empire. Standing armies need war to justify their existence.

    The advent of the standing armies was novel in Rome when it came into existence in the era surrounding Marius. These new legions were loyal to a single general not the state. Prior to this, legions were disbanded after a specific war or conquest.

    After this, without constant war and military skirmishes, the Roman generals did not receive the fame, accolades an fortune necessary to garner power and support to run for consul.

    In much the same way, the standing army that came into existence in the US after the Civil War, and expanded after the Spanish-American War and the closing of the Western Frontier need constant war and skirmish to justify their existence. Welcome to the imperial age of the United States. The priorities of liberty become secondary to the survival of bureaucracy and the existence of big government.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Firework Surprise,

    In much the same way, the standing army that came into existence in the US after the Civil War, and expanded after the Spanish-American War and the closing of the Western Frontier need constant war and skirmish to justify their existence.


    You can say that the Western expansion came about precisely because the US Government needed an excuse to keep such a large standing army after the War Between The States; the army was used in a way that subsidized the small farmers who were moving into the Indian territories while asking the government for "protection" from the Indians that were simply defending their own land. Affirmative action for farmers on the backs of the Indians, you could say. There wasn't back then much of a difference between the Roman way and Manifest Destiny, except that Rome was able to expand and plunder for centuries while America was able to get away with plundering her neighbors for only one. Now the US lives off debasing her own currency... History repeats itself except in fast-forward.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    -Affirmative action for farmers on the backs of the Indians, you could say.

    The best sentence I've seen in a while. My thanks for it.

  • Firework Surprise||

    This is true. The US Army is in large part the reason why US-native relations in the west were so bloody. This is be beginning though, and even during this time the US Military depended greatly on non-enlisted volunteers to have a military large enough for War.

    The standing army during that time though was plenty big to decimate the Natives.

    Just as the first Roman Generals who refused to disband their Legions helped lead to the end of the Republic and eventually the fall of Rome, in the US it goes something like this:

    Peace Time Regulars War War time military numbers No peace time draw down War Expanded Military Military needs something to do War Military needs something Perpetual War on Terror

    The state losing control of itself is a requirement of its existence.

  • JD the elder||

    ICBW, but isn't the really big standing army mostly a post-WWII thing, not a post-Civil War thing? Prior to WWII, outside of the Civil War and WWI, military enlistment and spending were nothing compared to what they are today.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    You can say that the Western expansion came about precisely because the US Government needed an excuse to keep such a large standing army after the War Between The States;

    What Western Expansion?

    The borders of the continental US were mostly established at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War, more than a decade before the war for the preservation of Southern Slavery.
  • OldMexican||

    John Stossel Asks, "Are We Rome?"


    No. Rome built better ROADZ!

    Ba-rum-bum! Psh!

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    We need to include aqueduct improvements in our next stimulus bill!

  • R C Dean||

  • Almanian!||

    + Route 66

  • NeonCat||

    + Route LXVI

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    OT: Germany’s clean energy plan backfired

    When a nuclear power plant closes, a coal plant opens. At least, that’s the way things are shaping up in Germany, where the move away from nuclear energy appears to have backfired. For the second consecutive year, according to Bloomberg, the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions are set to increase.

    Excuse me while I laugh maniacally while muttering something about predictable outcomes...

  • anon||

    For the second consecutive year, according to Bloomberg, the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions are set to increase.

    I really love the "greenhouse gas" part inserted there as if there's absolutely no debate about the subject whatsoever.

    Fuckers are so transparent...

  • RightNut||

    Oh that article is delicious.

    At the time, the closings were framed as a positive effort to increase the country’s use of clean energy. As an expert then predicted to the New York Times: “If the government goes ahead with what it said it would do, then Germany will be a kind of laboratory for efforts worldwide to end nuclear power in an advanced economy.
    But predictably, when nuclear plants began to shut down, as eight immediately did, something else had to take its place. And coal, which according to Bloomberg is favored by the market, did just that. ”

    What is this "market" the article speaks of?

  • PH2050||

    If the government goes ahead with what it said it would do, then Germany will be a kind of laboratory for efforts worldwide to end nuclear power in an advanced economy.

    What a bunch of fucking idiots.

    In four years, they will be begging to buy thorium MSR technology from China.

  • ||

    I just released some "greenhouse gas" in my office.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Your office?

    You gotta get out a bit. Do some crop dustin'.

  • Zeb||

    I don't think there is much disagreement over the fact that CO2, methane, water, etc. are greenhouse gasses. The question is to what extent they affect the climate and how human activity contributes to that.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    I agree about the greenhouse classification.

    But don't forget these questions:

    What is the true "optimal" temperature of the earth?

    What is the cost of achieving it?

    Is the cost more than the benefit, given our current presumed deviation?

    Should the Eskimos be forced to pay to achieve this temperature correction, even if they would benefit from non-"optimum" temperature of the earth?

  • mtrueman||

    "But don't forget these questions:"

    Those are worthwhile questions. I'd add another though, about the cost of doing nothing and ignoring the warming and our possible role in it. Is it possible to calculate such costs? What is the cost of a one degree increase in ocean temperatures, for example?

  • mtrueman||

    Is it possible to calculate such costs?

    No answer to that, seriously? If it not possible to calculate the costs, then the exercise of weighing up the costs and benefits is ludicrous. It becomes an empty exercise of economic busywork, if not outright invitation to fraud and mischief. Reason readers can't help falling for this sort of thing. Reminds me of those nitwits whose research consists of counting pages of government regulation manuals. At least these hacks (or more likely their grad students) come up with a figure they can display on a power point.

  • mtrueman||

    The existence of greenhouse gases has been accepted by scientists since 1860 or thereabouts.

    Is there debate? Of course. There is still debate over the existence of luminiferous aether.

  • Doctor Whom||

    The first thing I thought when I read about Germany's plans on nuclear energy was that that would happen.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    It is amazing because this was completely predictable if you weren't in a wind/solar daze. Unreliable, expensive power sources will likely never take the place of fossil or nuclear (well without government force).

    Germany will turn their nukes back on. As their utility prices keep rising and rising the already payed for nukes will slowly come back online. For all the money they are going to spend on "renewables" they could have built their entire grid out of nuclear plants with excess reserve capacity for a cheaper price and be completely CO2 free. Disclaimer: I could give a shit about CO2. I'm all about energy density and cheapness.

  • mtrueman||

    "!When a nuclear power plant closes, a coal plant opens."

    Thanks for your interesting link.

    Do you figure a growing economy is incompatible with declining energy use? I have my doubts that it's possible to grow while decreasing energy use, and it seems Germany's plans assumes otherwise.

  • RightNut||

    Nero reduced the silver content of coins to 95 percent. Then Trajan reduced it to 85 percent and so on. By the year 300, wheat that once cost eight Roman dollars cost 120,000 Roman dollars.

    Actually the devaluation of Roman currency was an old phenomenon by the time of Nero. The silver denarius had been in circulation for 200+ years. How long have we had the current dollar?

  • CE||

    The Federal Reserve started in 1913, so 100 years. For the first 20 years, you could still convert a dollar into gold. We really switched to the current fake "money" in 1933, so 80 years.

    From 1913 to 1933, the Federal Reserve eroded the value of a dollar by 24 percent.

    From 1933 to 2013, the Federal Reserve eroded the value of a dollar by 94 percent.

    Source:

    http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Rightnut,

    How long have we had the current dollar?


    Well, the current-CURRENT dollar exists since 1971, that is when Nixon shafted the international banks and reneged from Bretton-Woods, so just a few decades. The pretense of a dollar backed up by gold started in 1934 after the Great Plundering by FDR, so that dollar is many decades old. The Federal Reserve Note exists since the creation of the Federal Reserve and Legal Tender laws, so if one considers that dollar, it is about to turn 100 THIS year.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm not sure currency debasement was linear, either. I think various emperors tried to repair some of the damage from time to time.

    Diocletian's economic activities were quite draconian, ranging from price-fixing to career-fixing.

  • ||

    Rome was too decentralized to stick together as an Empire, they had to decentalize power to the eadges of the empire because they literally couldn't communicate and react to events quickly enough.

    We have the opposite problem. We have instantaneous global communications, and travel within hours to nay point on the planet. So we're becoming more centralized than the Roman Empire ever could.

    I think the analogy will probably turn out to be more like the USSR than Rome.

  • anon||

    they had to decentalize power to the eadges of the empire because they literally couldn't communicate and react to events quickly enough.

    While we can instantly communicate to anyone anywhere, there's a certain point that will be reached where the local authority either doesn't care what the central power orders or is unable to carry out the orders.

  • ||

    And the central power will still have enough local control to have that guy shot immediately. Becuase the central power still has instananeous comminications with all of his subordinates, with other local powers in the same area, and with forces based in DC that can travel to the local authorities area in hours.

    There aren't going to be any local coups in America. No general is going to be seizing control of Texas and declaring himself President. Secession is a dofferent story, but that's not what happened with Rome.

  • DarrenM||

    And the central power will still have enough local control to have that guy shot immediately.

    But communications are still screwed up enough that they won't know exactly *why* they have that guy shot, just some vague idea that he should be.

  • PapayaSF||

    One of the things that happened to Rome was that the barbarians or Muslims showed up in the provinces and said "We can either kill you or you can surrender to us, and we'll charge you less in taxes than Rome does." Most took the deal.

  • RightNut||

    they had to decentalize power to the eadges of the empire because they literally couldn't communicate and react to events quickly enough.

    That was only true for the far eastern provinces of the empire, and maybe Britain. The Rhone and Rhine rivers allowed relatively quick transport for the legions to Germania, which is where most of the threat to the western part of the empire originated. It was really the threats to the eastern part of the empire which would take awhile to react to. I don't recall what the marching times were but it was something like 3 weeks to get to Trier from Rome, and 3 months to get to Antioch.

  • Irish||

    It was really the threats to the eastern part of the empire which would take awhile to react to.

    Which is why the empire eventually split in half and Byzantium managed to soldier on for 1000 years after the fall of the Western Empire.

    I don't think you can argue that Rome's problem was difficulty with outlying provinces when the sack of Rome in 410 was undertaken by a Visigoth king that had been a Roman commander and whose kingdom was very close to Rome itself. The eventual destruction of the Western Roman Empire was brought about by threats that were very close to Rome which Rome was unable to counter, not by the collapse of outlying provinces.

  • RightNut||

    The barbarian threat to Rome is really kinda overrated. The Roman's had been fighting Germanic barbarians since the time of Marius. Except for a few battles every time the legions fought Germanic barbarians before 235 AD they won.

    External threats no doubt hastened the decline of Rome, but the empire rotted from the inside out.

  • Zeb||

    But now you can get news instantly and get anywhere in less than a day. A lot can happen in the time it takes to march an army from Rome to Trier.

  • RightNut||

    A lot can happen in the time it takes to march an army from Rome to Trier.

    True but the Roman's didn't have gunpowder, but did have a good understanding of concrete and engineering. Sieging a well fortified location would require a good chunk of time. Generally enough time for reinforcements from Rome to arrive to somewhere like Trier.

    This is another reason why the Sassanids were a much bigger threat than the Goths ever were. The Sassanids had siege weapons, the Goths did not.

  • CE||

    Sounds like Rome had the USPS and FedEx, just like us (from Wikipedia, the world's most complete encyclopedia):

    Two postal services were available under the empire, one public and one private. The Cursus publicus, founded by Augustus, carried the mail of officials by relay throughout the Roman road system. The vehicle for carrying mail was a cisium with a box, but for special delivery, a horse and rider was faster. A relay of horses could carry a letter 800 km in 24 hours. The postman wore a characteristic leather hat, the petanus. The postal service was a somewhat dangerous occupation, as postmen were a target for bandits and enemies of Rome. Private mail of the well-to-do was carried by tabellarii, an organization of slaves available for a price.

  • Bam!||

    "Private mail of the well-to-do was carried by tabellarii, an organization of slaves available for a price."

    Does "slave" in that context mean the same as today? Because it sounds slightly different.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I don't buy that. The Empire lasted a long time with all of those distant provinces. A lot of factors contributed to its eventual fall, but the size only mattered when they'd declined enough.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    Why don't they make thick crust pizza in Rome?

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Because of Bush.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Obama:

    'Diocletian is my bitch!'

  • meunke||

    We won't fall as Rome did.

    We have BATMAN!

  • CE||

    You think Batman will stay on the side of the government, no matter how tyrannical it becomes?

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Bat-Man is a vigilante. He swings with his own conscience.

  • OldMexican||

    As inflation increased, Rome, much like the U.S. under President Nixon, imposed wage and price controls. When people objected, Emperor Diocletian denounced their "greed," saying, "Shared humanity urges us to set a limit."


    Note to future economically-ignorant tyrants: If you don't want future generations to continue laughing at your stupidity, please don't write your edicts in very long-lasting materials such as stone.

  • Tony||

    If we do decline it will be the first time an empire fell entirely by choice. It's not a healthcare law that will cause it, it will be moron ideologues who think we can maintain our stature without having to pay any taxes or perform any upkeep.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    If we do decline it will be the first time an empire fell entirely by choice[...] it will be moron ideologues who think we can maintain our stature without having to pay any taxes or perform any upkeep.


    The Roman Empire started to tax her citizens to the hilth, to the point that farmers refused to farm and moved to Rome for the welfare goodies. The cave-in did not wait long to happen after that.

    So if this current Empire decides to tax her citizens in the same manner, the cave-in will be entirely by their own choice, Tony, totally contrary to your conclusion. Once again, you have showcased your ignorance in basic economics and, further, showcased your chutzpah by accusing others of being just as ideologically-committed to moronic actions as YOU are. It's entertaining in a way, like seeing a homeless man ranting about black helicopters below one of the overpasses in I-10.

  • Irish||

    If we do decline it will be the first time an empire fell entirely by choice[...] it will be moron ideologues who think we can maintain our stature without having to pay any taxes or perform any upkeep.

    Every empire has fallen entirely by choice. You never see a powerful nation decline unless it starts making really bad decisions.

    By the way, solid lack of historical knowledge, Tony. During Rome's upswing, the average citizen needed to work two days to pay their taxes. Diocletion then proceeded to do two things:

    1. He instituted a much more rigid tax system that forced people to pay higher rates as well. Farmers were driven to near starvation. As OM mentioned, people began lining up to sponge off the Roman treasury. According to historian Joseph Tainter: "Those who lived off the treasury were more numerous than those paying into it."

    2. He devalued the currency, leading to rampant inflation.

    By the 4th and 5th century, there were tax riots in the countryside because people were starving as a result of oppressive taxation.

    In other words, everything you want to do resulted in the collapse of Rome.

  • RightNut||

    Why respond to him. He's shown again and again his ignorance of history, among other things. Just ignore it.

    You know what really stifled human innovation? The Black Death. You know what would have prevented the Black Death? Big government building a sanitation infrastructure or funding research and education about sanitation.

    Tony
  • Irish||

    That's my favorite Tony moment. It's a possible second to the time he argued Obama should have people who oppose his environmental policy killed.

    Big government building a sanitation infrastructure or funding research and education about sanitation.

    Government should have funded education about germs that wouldn't be discovered for another several hundred years! Government is magic and can see the future!

  • Tony||

    You completely miss the point, of course. Perhaps the single most important contributor to human well-being in the history of the species is the development of institutions, big government primary among them. That's the point.

  • RightNut||

    Keeping this on topic the Romans had big government. Big government didn't stop the plague of Justinian now did it?

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Perhaps the single most important contributor to human well-being in the history of the species is the development of institutions, big government primary among them.


    Which is why the Russians and Chinese never had it better during the Starvation Years of Stalin and Mao....

    .... Oooops!!

  • Irish||

    Perhaps the single most important contributor to human well-being in the history of the species is the development of institutions, big government primary among them.

    This is really bizarre given that the industrial revolution and the greatest increase in human prosperity in history began after the enlightenment decreased governmental power over its people.

    Argument by assertion isn't the same as providing evidence, Tony. The greatest period of human prosperity began when government was scaled back from a period in which it was overly intrusive.

  • PH2050||

    +1 Five Year Plan

  • Nazdrakke||

    Perhaps the single most important contributor to human well-being in the history of the species is the development of institutions, big government primary among them

    Or maybe just, farming. That helped a lot, too. Until some smart guy with a bunch of muscles and some good friends realised that he didn't need to farm, really, to get the benefits of farming if he just...

  • RightNut||

    I think I'll start imagining Tony's comments read by the Goliath from Borderlands 2.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    I like it.

    "HOW ARE YOU?"

  • Jordan||

    The Nomad may be more fitting

    "DROP YOUR GEAR AND I'LL LET YOU GO"

    "SOME NICE GEAR YA GOT"

  • ||

    I've said it before, but I always imagine the voice of Kim Jong Il.

  • PapayaSF||

    This was my favorite Tony moment:

    Tony 6.28.13 @ 10:49AM
    What is the point of talking about individuals in a political context?

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    That too is by far my favorite Tony moment. The NYT would be proud.

  • Tony||

    I do not want oppressive taxation that leads to starvation.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    No, Tony will happily settle for near-starvation.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    I do not want oppressive taxation that leads to starvation


    All taxation is oppressive. There are no gradations when it comes to taxation, or it would be the same as saying you want to be raped in the ass but only a little bit.

  • R C Dean||

    I do not want oppressive taxation that leads to starvation.

    You'll get it, on your current course. Since in your world the government should always be bigger and more expensive. That ever-growing expense will be paid either by direct taxation or indirect taxation via monetizing the debt. Ergo, the tax burden will always be growing, which means it will evenutally get to the point of forcing people into starvation.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    Rome fell largely because it over taxed and burdened its citizenry.

    It thrived when it left people alone.

  • burserker||

    we pay plenty of taxes, we just don't spend it wisely, and spend more than we take in.
    the decline has already started, and the snowball is picking up speed...

  • Gorilla tactics||

    actually tony the empire was very prosperous throughout its early period Augustus to the "terrible third century" because taxes were actually very low. It starts going to shit when the parthians are replaced by the sassanids, they were ruthless at waging war and they forced the empire to hire more armies, pay them with more inflated money. Eventually gravity caught up with them and they were in shit. The height of the empire had relatively low taxes

  • ||

    If we do decline it will be the first time an empire fell entirely by choice. It's not a healthcare law that will cause it, it will be moron ideologues who think we can maintain our stature without having to pay any taxes or perform any upkeep.

    And, when it comes to progressive options about paying taxes, we always ends up being someone else. This puts them squarely in the moron ideologues camp, based on your own definition.

  • Nazdrakke||

    Pretty silly article, really. Like Stossel just grabbed a few things that sounded good and slapped them together, but there are parts of the Roman decline that are, I think, useful to us as warnings.

    The biggest for me is understanding Augustus, how he operated and how he eventually destroyed the Republic while the proles largely went on thinking that nothing had really changed. He has an expert at making sure most of the forms of the republic were observed while concentrating ever more power into his own hands.

    Also the ever increasing militarization of the Roman homeland as the political figures began to look for threats at home first is also something I think has a disturbing parallel in the modern US.

  • Irish||

    The biggest for me is understanding Augustus, how he operated and how he eventually destroyed the Republic while the proles largely went on thinking that nothing had really changed. He has an expert at making sure most of the forms of the republic were observed while concentrating ever more power into his own hands.

    Sort of like how we continue electing congressmen as if nothing has changed and then Obama uses the regulatory state to pass massive environmental bills without congressional approval?

    I'm really looking forward to 20 years from now when the president has literally unlimited power but we keep electing congressmen based solely on tradition.

  • RightNut||

    By the time Augustus took power the Republic had really been dead for half a century. Augustus was just the last person to give the republic the final shove over the cliff.

    If you really want to understand the transition from Republic to Empire you have to go back to the Gracci brothers and the crisis of the republic.

  • Nazdrakke||

    If you really want to understand the transition from Republic to Empire you have to go back to the Gracci brothers and the crisis of the republic.

    Super important period, agreed. There's really no one thing to me, but a long string of economic class conflicts, elites wrestling for power, and militarism that eventually led to Augustus. I think I focus on him because, well, pessimism.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Certainly, the populism of the Gracci, Marius, Caesar, and so on contributed mightily to the fall of the Republic. A very important caution from that period is how previous constitutional limits got tossed, like those limiting the number of times someone could hold the consulship, the power of the censor getting diluted, and other checks being honored more in the omission.

    Once the checks got weakened enough, the whole thing essentially collapsed, allowing Augustus to seize total power while going to great lengths to make it look like he was restoring republican government.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Didn't Felix Sulla basically restore the old constitution before the fall of the republic, albeit in rather forceful way? That tells me that no one really cared about the checks on power in the Roman system.

  • Pro Libertate||

    He sorta did, and he voluntarily stopped being a tyrant after a while, but the system was beyond broken by then. Not to mention all the people he had killed.

  • Gorilla tactics||

    True, but Augustus still had to "play ball" somewhat. Remember when the julio claudians collapse, there was another civil war 69-70

  • Bill Dalasio||

    While "Empire" as a concept is highly robust - the norm throughout human history - individual empires aren't really sustainable. They ultimately completely degrade the character of the citizenry. Individual productivity is substituted by access to the levers of power. Individual virtue is replaced the favor of the leadership class. The only qualities that offer one any standing security are martial skill and discipline. But, that ultimately creates the seeds of the empire's descent into warlordism.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    OT (sorta): Obama hates poor people. Will sacrifice them on the altar of Gaia.

    http://e2.ma/message/fli3d/j8qofe

  • db||

    This seems as good a place as any to lay down some Latin T-Rex beats.

  • Azathoth!!||

    It is interesting how comparisons to Rome always place the US at the Fall of the Empire. But we have no Empire. We are(possibly) at the Fall of the Republic. The Empire stage is still before us.

    The Republic is moribund. We await Caesar.

  • PapayaSF||

    Good point.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Yes we are a modern analog to the Roman Empire.

    However, this superficial article makes the same fundamental error that most people noting the parallels make. Which is to forecast an imminent or at least near collapse as happened to the Roman Empire. When the horrifying truth is that the US today is analogous to the Roman Empire ca 140bce. Meaning that we have not even begun to explore the depravity that centralized, unlimited government is capable of inflicting and that our descendants, most likely, have five centuries of civil war and tyranny in their future.

  • Mark22||

    I'm afraid I have to agree: what we are experiencing is somewhat analogous to the end of Republican rule, but the empire lasted a lot longer.

    However, I don't see it quite as negative: I think despite all its flaws, our democracy is pretty robust, and although it may try to gain more and more power, individuals are gaining power even more through technology and telecommunications. Our country has been through some pretty rough times and always recovered and ended up better than before.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    The importance of technological innovations can't be overstated, and for the past century or so we've been seeing exponential development of ideas and tech as we've developed the capital necessary to support a huge specialist class of scientists, engineers, and professional innovators. As bad as the state is, it's difficult to imagine that we'd be better off living in any era of the past.

    Beyond that, while we may not be able to win many souls by talking about debasement of currency, the rapid destruction of traditional media and the increasing forced transparency of the state will produce a different arc than ancient Rome.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    You are assuming that the state won't use new technology to maintain and extend control. A truly naive belief. PRISM is just the beginning.

  • DenverJay||

    Yeah, this article is off base. As many upstream have pointed out, the Roman Empire and the USA are hardly comparable. Instead of debating the similarities with the decline of the Roman Empire, it would be much more illuminating to compare the current state of the USA and the end of the Roman Republic, when the Empire was born. This is the true state of America, when the Constitution of the Republic starts being ignored and the laws passed by the Senate (and House in our case) are ignored or given lip-service only. As I have said before, I hope this time we can avoid the civil wars that did so much damage when Caesar was assassinated and the Republic truly died.

  • granite state destroyer||

    Odd that no one brought up the most obvious parallel - immigration. Long term the Roman Empire was undermined and finally destroyed through demographic change. The Roman elite stopped having large families, and they consistently encouraged immigration and importation of cheap labor to do the work that "Romans just would not do". The growing immigrant slave/freemen population effectively destroyed the ability of native yeoman farmers and tradesmen, the Roman middle class, to make a decent living, and their descendents ended up either sinking into the welfare state as well, or going off to grab small plots of land in Gaul and Iberia (which ended up destroying the native traditions and languages in those areas). By 400 AD wealth in the Italian area of the Roman Empire was far more unequally distributed than it had been 500 years earlier.

  • granite state destroyer||

    I would also add, amplifying on comments from above - that another result of immigration was a disastrous tax policy. As the Roman middle class disappeared, under pressure from cheap imported labor, government revenues began to drop, and expenditures for the wealthy increased - because even slaves needed to eat and find shelter. This created a vicious cycle of increasing tax burdens on the citizens who could still pay taxes, who of course became steadily fewer as taxation bankrupted them, leading to lower revenues, more taxation, inflation, etc.

  • Solidus||

    I hope the author is correct. Rome received a reprieve when Justinian I KICKED OUT the lawyers and judges and rewrote the body of law. It is well past time foe the citizens of the US to be heard. If the dialog cannot be re-established and the government brought to heel in accordance with the founding principles, I fear it will not take 1,000 years for us to fall. http://coldwarwarrior.com/

  • bassjoe||

    There's something odd about comparing the 'end' to a tyrannical empire to the 'end' of a democratic republic.

    Is America an empire? Yes. That said, The collapse of the modern American "empire" should be welcomed by any true libertarian as the most fearsome excesses of our government are a direct result of our imperialism.

  • MoreFreedom||

    A simple measure of "decline" is government spending as a % of GDP. On that measure we're worse off. It's a good measure, because history (our history from 1776 thru 1910) shows that ALL government can operate consuming less than 8% of GDP. Today it's more like 42%, not including the costs of complying with too many to count regulations.

    The voters have learned they can vote themselves benefits from the Treasury. The politicians have learned to buy votes with government goodies, and to raise campaign cash selling them. And they are consuming about 34% of what we make, to take, keep some of it in their wallets, and to give/sell it to others.

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