Parallels Between the Decline of the Roman Empire and the Decline of the United States of America
There are many parallels between the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and the decline of the present- day American economy.
An English author, Edward Gibbon, published a book in 1776 called "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Have you ever read this book? It's very interesting, quite a heavy tome. I was dusting off my bookshelves and books, and came across this weighty masterpiece of English literature and history of Classical Antiquity...I haven't looked in it for maybe a decade or so. As I did, I was shocked to discover what the decline of the Roman Empire and our current economic situation here in the United States had in common.
I paused to flip through it once again. It grabbed me, sort of . That always happens when I'm dusting or re-arranging my books. A book will suddenly demand my attention, when I've had it on my shelf for years without opening it. That's why dusting the books takes me a week or two to complete the task!
There are definitely parallels between what happened then, to those last, decadent Romans as their economic and political system collapsed in ruins about their feet, and what is happening in America, today, as our decadent and overly self-indulgent society seems to be on the very brink of economic and political collapse...
Why did Rome fall? The Roman Empire during the period of Classical Antiquity (which pre-dated widespread Christianity, and was artistically most significant in the pantheons of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses) was a very powerful and widespread Empire. The ruler was the Caesar (a line of 12 Caesars ruled the Roman Empire: the first was Julius Caesar, the last was Romulus Augustus); his rule was autocratic and absolute. In its essence, the Roman Empire in its heyday was a military dictatorship, heavily supported by a slave economy, and with arms out-flung to the outer reaches of Europe. There seemed to be, on the face of it, no outward reasons for this successful model of government and economy to cease to be successful. The inner reasons are speculative and numerous. Historians, including Mr. Gibbons, do not have the definitive answer. Here are just a few:
- Invasions by Germanic hordes of people
- the coming of Islam
- The sack of Rome
- General malaise of the people
- the decadence of the ruling classes
- the growing influence of Christianity
- a collapsing and no longer workable economy. "The economy of the Empire was a plunder economy based on looting existing resources rather than producing anything new."
- loss of civic virtue
- Excessive taxation spurred by a huge and overweening military budget
- Decline in agriculture; deforestation which led to drought; withdrawal of land from agriculture. Small farmers driven onto the dole; the elite who owned vast tracts of land tilled by slaves were exempt from taxation.
- Decline in the production of exportable goods; discouragement of entrepreneurialism; discouragement of technical innovation
- Unsound economic policies (maybe the most key factor)
- Debasement of the currency
- crop failures
Does any of the above list of reasons for the collapse of the Roman Empire sound familiar? The unsound economy? The mismanagement of natural resources and agriculture? The overweening military budget? The elite sheltered from taxes while the small farmers are going under? The general malaise of the people; the loss of civic pride and civic responsibility?
I thought, very uneasily, yes, it sounds familiar. It could be America, today, instead of the Roman Empire at the end of the third century, AD. All except for the part about the barbarian hordes of Germanic people invading, of course.
I also came to realize that societies, countries, "empires", have a natural terminus as well as individuals and businesses do. The Bell curve is swooping upwards from the inception of the complex society (or individual, or business); the thing is growing all the time, reaching its maximum peak, its heyday. From then on, there is a natural reactive decline, until, in the end, the person, or society, or business...dies. Ceases to exist. Fades out completely, and is no more.
An American anthropologist named Tainter presented a theory in his book, entitled, "The Collapse of Complex Societies", which sounds a LOT like the anthropological version of chaos theory.
He says, in effect: there are diminishing returns to an increasingly advanced, increasingly complex, and increasingly technically sophisticated society. Societies become increasingly advanced, increasingly complex, and increasingly technically sophisticated at the expense of their resource base, to the point where the resource base can no longer accommodate the complex society and the society is no longer sustainable.
Once the complex society is no longer sustainable, it collapses into smaller, less complex units, which ARE sustainable with the available resources. And the cycle of increasing complexity begins all over again. This would explain why we, the human race, seem to be condemned to repeat history, over and over.
The collapse may be a violent collapse, or it may be a peaceful collapse. The collapse may be sudden; or it may be gradual. A case may be made for the survival of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire well into the European medieval period. It didn't officially expire until the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
What does this mean for us? Where is America going, now? We have outrun our resources, as evidenced by the current debt crisis. What happens next?
I just added this link. Experts are predicting 50% unemployment in the United States by 2013. Not sure I believe it--this is definitely a promotional site, bu
- Newsmax\'s Aftershock Survival Summit
Newsmax's Aftershock Survival Summit, secure your free copy of the bestselling book, "Aftershock".
If you want MORE click HERE:
- The American Dream--Broken?
Is the American Dream of success, prosperity, rags to riches, broken beyond repair? Is the American Dream of equality, and a chance for everyone to realize their visions, a myth? Tell me what you think. I'd really like to know.
- American Identity
Here is what identity Americans have forged from a nation composed of everyone, from everywhere: the freedom to be anyone you want or need to be.
More by this Author
Is violence necessary? Are people hard-wired to be violent to each other? Yes, in some ways, due to a part of our brains called the anydgala, the little almond. No, in other ways--violence is a social adaptation.
The party is over for America as a superpower, and now it's up to us to clean up the mess.
Here are some o fthe theories and ideas of the most unique mind of our times: Stephen Hawking. This is also a brief biography and bibliography of that brave and orginal soul, Stephen Hawking.