Monday, September 03, 2007

Roman Parallels to America

The Decline and Fall of Rome has been written about endlessly without any real or definitive explanation being offered, primarily because there wasn’t any single event or causative factor but it was the cumulative result of many factors, both large and small. Today the question being asked by many people is “Is America in danger of suffering the fate of Rome?” Obviously no one knows the answer to this question or even what questions to ask, much less any definitive answer but the parallels between Rome and America are striking, beginning with Eagle. Rome and the power of Rome was always signified by the Eagle – just as America is symbolized by the Eagle.

Even a cursory examination of Washington DC reveals similarities between Rome and America. The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials resemble the temples of Rome, the Supreme Court, Congress and other government buildings resemble Rome, the Senate even displays the Fasces – symbolic of Roman Power, the Power of the Consuls and Proconsuls. In fact, the founding fathers took many things from ancient Rome beginning with the concept of a Constitution, so our government is truly a modern day reflection and improved version of the Roman Republic. So it is quite natural to wonder will the fate of America follow that of Rome? We know that the military defeats came long after the Empire was already in decline and failing. So what did cause the fall of the Roman Republic (Empire)?

We know that the fall of Rome was not through military defeats because there was no military force in the world at the time capable of challenging the Roman Military machine. Even the fractious Israelites were kept in check by Roman arms, so the Empire did not fall due to an ineffective military. This leaves two broad areas as the source of the decline – moral and economic decay.

Of course Hollywood has given us a highly distorted view of Roman morals, with their focus on various perversions and immoral behavior by prominent citizens – implying that these actions were common in the society. The reality was that Roman society was rather conventional and even puritanical – much like contemporary American society. Certainly we have prominent citizens whose conduct falls very short of the Ten Commandments but American society in general doesn’t reflect that conduct. However, the Roman government was always corrupt and the Senators were self-serving and open to bribes. It was this internal corruption that opened the door to Caesar and the Empire ruled by dictators. To date America has not suffered a military coup but our Senate is increasingly self-serving and the number of corrupt Senators is growing. Congress has an approval rating at an all time low and the population in general holds the Congress in growing contempt. THIS is a danger sign.

Roman law was for sale to the point that judgments could be purchased and justice became a joke. The American judicial system hasn’t sunk to this low point, but the ACLU and other special interest groups have distorted the law to the point that the very fabric of our society is being warped into something not intended nor wanted by the majority of citizens. The separation of Church and State has been taken to an extreme, terrorists have been defended and released on technicalities, laws governing illegal immigrants are not enforced, and judges increasingly use the bench to legislate law. All of these things are danger signs and signs that the value system and culture of America is waning.

The Roman Empire was an economic powerhouse but it also consumed huge amounts of revenue. The Roman Army was over a million men scattered across the Empire. This was a huge drain and then there was the infrastructure (roads and aqueducts) which also took considerable revenue to sustain. But the Roman Senate – much like the American Congress robbed the tax revenues for self-interest, to enrich themselves and their friends, to pay off potential enemies (foreign aid), and to buy food to keep the populace quiet (welfare). To a large extent we see this in America today as we see our Congress tax and tax and tax but the revenues go overseas into the pockets of dictators or into social programs that sustain a large and growing underclass who are unmotivated to change.

Rome was actually a polyglot civilization that was very tolerant of all peoples and all religions. In fact part of the problem was the barbarians that they were always fighting were not really trying to overthrow Rome, they really wanted land and the protection of Rome. The Empire was filled with refugees from these outlands. This is very similar to what we see in America today. Our country is being overwhelmed by illiterate illegal immigrants while productive applicants are being kept out by bureaucrats. The impact of this can already be seen in California where the taxes go up while the number of taxpayers goes down, the infrastructure is in decline because there is not enough money to keep it in repair. English is in decline and the literate class retreats into enclaves around the larger cities – oblivious to the threat that they are creating in the name of diversity and liberal values.

Is America in threat of decline? Look around – what do you see? The decline has already started. Illegal immigrants are on the rise, illiteracy is growing, corruption is increasing and Congress is no longer an instrument of the people but a self serving club of the privileged – just like the Roman Senate. We have a religious minority – Islam – that is a growing threat as they demand special privileges while telling everyone that they intend to destroy the country. Wake Up America!! The Barbarians are at the Gates


Ira said...

The article would have been insightful had it not left out the most crucial comparison between Rome and America: slavery and the manner in which the land was acquired. Just as in ancient Rome, a few landowners became wealthy by acquiring the land for very little and by using slaves to gain immeasurable profits. These landowners owned most of the wealth of Rome, just as under 10 % own 90 % of American wealth, and due to large amount of slaves the lower classes were unable to find work, making free bread and circus a necessity. The underclass is growing in today's America, not because they do not want to change, but because education, decent housing, and health care are mostly our of their reach, causing a cycle of poverty and misery. Perhaps we need another Great Depression to awaken us to the fact that the 25 years of financial irresponsibility was not caused by the poor or the congress, but by the common ailment called greed. Or perhaps we should go back to the 19th Century when labor laws did not exist and when 4-year-old children worked 16 hours a day in sweatshops. People do not want to see the connection between their own greed and the Great Recession for the prospect of one day having more money than the neighbor is the driving force behind much of American morals and politics.
What is so surprising in America is that the people pride themselves in their right to choose their own representatives, yet they despise them and distrust them. One has to only look at the attempted health care reform to see this paradox. Most Americans are convinced the government would do a terrible job, yet no one seems to ask why it is the government which must always bail out Wall Street which should using the same logic do a fantastic job. Just as in Rome, a small number of wealthy Americans resist change and have been able to convince the majority that change would go against the moral fiber of their society, while in reality the rich get richer and the poor poorer. Edith Hamilton concluded that Rome did not fall because it lost its power - Rome fell because it did not share its wealth with all of its inhabitants, for where wealth becomes concentrated into the hands of few, corruption follows inevitably and destroys the people.

Ira said...

The previous comment was written by me, not Ira. After publishing the comment I noticed that I accidentally used his account.

Susanna Krizo

Royce said...

I posted a lengthy response on the blog itself. Royce