“Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”
America is repeating history and this is especially true in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
- The rudimentary principles, standards, and judgments about what was meaningful or important to life declined. Human life became cheap. Materialism and decadence became an obsession. Matters of right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error became skewed. The acceptable rules or standards of human behavior were lost. Adultery, sexual promiscuity, incest, sodomy, prostitution, orgies, bestiality, sadism, massive consumption of alcohol, etc. became rampant.
- Political corruption, greed, and incompetence in the leadership led to instability. The Senate and the Emperors, along with various Consuls and government officials, were sullied by their power, leading many of the emperors to increasingly equate themselves with the gods.
- Economic decline weakened and eventually bankrupted Rome through irresponsible spending, skyrocketing debt, oppressive taxation, inflation, the devaluation of currency, class warfare, and constant military engagement.
- Increased public need produced increased dependence on government hand-outs, which caused many to shirk their personal responsibilities and continue the negative cycle of dependence on the State. As Edward Gibbons once wrote, “The push for intellectual mediocrity further hastened Rome’s collapse. ‘The minds of men were gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius was extinguished.’” In 2012, Justice David Souter alluded to the “pervasive civic ignorance” of the people of Rome as a key weakness in it’s empire. Naturally, this widened the gap between the rich and the poor, and as the poor expected more and more from the government, they fell prey to greater and greater tyranny. Rome equalized incentives for work. Heavy taxes (paid in money, food, goods, or livestock) ate away at the incentive to work hard and the number of those receiving government welfare was so much larger than the number of those paying taxes. People were accustomed to sending huge chunks of their pay to the ever-growing government and seeing nothing in return. By the time Emperor Diocletian forced male children to adopt the profession of their father, all motivation, drive, and individual initiative had vanished; personal ambition withered and a ‘decline of civic vitality’ quickly ensued. This overabundance of ease led to boredom. Therefore, to amuse the “mob”, the emperors sponsored gladiatorial games to buy the favor and support of the “mob.” Yet, in time, one-third of the Empire’s total income was consumed by the cost of the games. According to Gibbon, it was artfully contrived by Augustus that, in the enjoyment of plenty, the Romans should lose the memory of freedom.
In 2005, during an appearance at the National Press Club, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker explained that “the United States can be likened to Rome before the fall of the empire. Its financial condition is ‘worse than advertised’…It has a ‘broken business model.’ It faces deficits in its budget, its balance of payments, its savings — and its leadership.” As David Walker has also said, “There are striking similarities between America’s current situation and that of another great power from the past: Rome… The Roman republic fell for many reasons, but three reasons are worth remembering: declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government.”
Consider these two other insights…
“Rome did not fall because of external forces such as invasion by the barbarians. Rome had no sufficient inward base; the barbarians only completed the breakdown – and Rome gradually became a ruin” (How Should We Then Live! by Francis Schaeffer).
“Perhaps we should imagine the Late Roman Empire as a retired athlete whose body has declined from neglect and an unhealthy lifestyle. At times the muscles will still function well and with the memory of former skill and training. Yet, as the neglect continues, the body becomes less and less capable of resisting disease or recovering from injury. Over the years the person would grow weaker and weaker, and in the end could easily succumb to disease. Long decline was the fate of the Roman Empire. In the end, it may well have been ‘murdered’ by barbarian invaders, but these struck at a body made vulnerable by prolonged decay.” (How Rome Fell by Adrian Goldsworthy)
Regarding the collapses of the world’s major empires, British scholar C. E. M. Joad said that the declines all had several things in common: decadence, weariness, and irresponsibility. To that, British historian C. Northcote Parkinson added that collapses are usually marked by an overcentralized government, heavy taxes, and bureaucracy.
Selah (pause and think about it).
Written by Joel M. Killion