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Rome\'s decline and the U.S.
#1
I know this is cliche, but I can't help but look around, and make the comparison to Ancient Rome's decline and the decline of the U.S.A.

I was at the gym today, and looking at the monitors of the financial crisis, elections, and just the overall pessimism in today's culture and society. USA morally bankrupt, in decline.

I don't mean military invasion...the barbarians are at the gates, but things look strikingly similar to Rome's economic, financial and cultural situation in the 3rd century AD. I am sure the people did not think: "wow, things are looking real bleak now", but there must have been a sinking feeling amoungst the population.

Will we bounce back, like Rome in the 4th Century AD?? Don't know. :-|
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#2
http://www.amazon.com/Are-We-Rome-Empire...0618742220


Adrian Goldsworthy touched on this question, the US as the new Rome, during a lecture at the Kansas City Public Library.

You might find the lecture of interest -- it is on his book How Rome Fell. It is available as an MP3 at this site:

http://www.kclibrary.org/event/adrian-go...-rome-fell

:wink:

Narukami
David Reinke
Burbank CA
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#3
I doubt that the USA will be under any HUGE threat, as Rome was, until some greater nation or any nation at all, tries to invade us to loot our wealth that we owe them. I don't mean this unrealistically, it could happen. History proves that. Someone in Rome would have said the same thing...the only thing that is stopping a third world war, is the nuclear threats, i.e...GAME OVER HUMANITY! LMFAO!!!! umm...but Turkey and Syria are having a bit of war going on...anyway this is silly Tongue
Samuel J.
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#4
Nothing is forever. Didn't Scipio mention this, thinking of Rome, as Carthage was sacked?
David J. Cord
http://www.davidcord.com
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#5
I'm not entirely sure that Rome can be compared to the United States in any meaningful context. The similarities that can be drawn (founded, grew, won a few huge wars, prospered, declined) are so broad as to deprive us of any useful comparisons, since that pattern can be applied to nearly any civilization that has ever existed.
Prosperity and decline can be traced to specific reasons and circumstances, on a case-by-case basis. Having said that, the next step in making a comparison between Rome and the United States would be to see if any lessons relevant to 21st century context can be gleaned from the Roman decline. My answer: no. America certainly has it's share of challenges, but none of Rome's larger problems,e.g., frequent civil war, hostile mass migrations, plagues, and an indefensible frontier. (Which I know you understand, but mentioning them is part of my point).
Take what you want, and pay for it

-Spanish proverb
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#6
Well, if the US is anything like Rome then it has many more centuries of lording over the rest of us. As I see it, there is little chance of mass invasions in the future but a real danger of two types of destructions that could bring the US and most everyone else down. The first would be a war in which weapons of mass destruction would be amply used, whether nuclear or biological, and the other is a socio-economic degeneration that also looks all the more possible in which it will mostly be our civilization that will be destroyed rather than those who rule us. Philip Dick's novels look to better describe the future than ever before...
Macedon
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#7
It is not straightforward to make comparisons between different Empires. The Roman Empire was a land-based Empire. In full contrast, the transmutation of the Roman Empire into the Eastern Roman Empire made it into a naval Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire fell precisely when Eastern Roman oligarchies subcontracted both civil and military navies to Venice where they moved on.

USA is not a new force as many (want to) believe but is essentially the continuation of the British Empire. Exactly like the British Empire, US at its core is a naval Empire. Along with the British they form (what the French love to describe as) the Anglosaxon block, that is the world ruling Empire of the last 2 centuries and will remain for at least the 21st century. The power of this block lies not within territories but precisely in the domination of the world's oceans: not so much to control ressources (oil etc.) as most claim but mostly to maintain the establishment of one global basic oceanic traderoute (China/India/Korea/Japan to Suez to Gibraltar to English channel to England/Holland/Germany and to US which is served also via the Pacific). Namely Suez moves around the 70% of global intercontinental trade. Germany and Japan - not in WWII but even prior to WWII - were precisely British/US inventions. Korea too in the past 50 years. China too in the past 30 years. It is astonishing to see how the world's most industrially productive nations per population are Germany, Japan and Korea which are precisely picked for being at the extremes of the Eurasian landmass while being relatively poor in ressources and thus in desperate need of a protector to ensure good guarding of traderoutes. This is a testament to Anglosaxon Imperial reach under which huge and "had-been" progressive countries like Russia and Brazil are reduced to raw materials exporters while China, also relatively poor in materials, is permitted to import the vast majority of basic raw materials has been made as a main exporters of goods. US's imperial power is really the fact that nobody in the world - Russia included - can trade internationally without US being implicated and it is them who can tell the rise and fall of anyone. This is precisely the reason that talking about US economy (thriving, doing mediocre or in crisis) is largely irrelevant as the world's oligarchies that man the US do make out not just the US's but the world's financial system and thus they can provide as much "funding" (i.e. promises) as needed. As such, it is not to ancient Rome that Americans have to look to take lessons but to Constantinople and Venice. Constantinople fell out precisely because its own oligarchies decided to fly over to Venice from where they waged war against it for about 200 years before tearing to pieces. Venice simply reduced in power when its oligarchies flew to Britain via Holland.

As such Americans will have to start worrying only when they see their oligarchies flying away to greener pastures - something that no matter the "crisis" is not happening. On the contrary, US was able to contain its enemy No1 not modern-China (a US creation, totally dependent no matter how it strives to escape) but good-old Russia also Britain's bad-old enemy since the 1750s. Containing Russia was effectively done in early 20th century with the spread of communism (hugely funded from the West) and recently went up to the level of making it fight for its very own inner periphery and US has fingers even inside the Russian state. On the planetary map, in Eurasia the US manages to keep closed the vertical and horizontal land-based traderoutes with the invasions in Afganistan and Iraq and the isolation of Iran and is currently successfully moving in the step re-islamization of Europe, South Europe paticularly to complete the cut-off and revert the world map back to an "idealized" pre-19th century setting that permitted a tiny part of the world, the West (and that is not Europe but Britain, Holland and earlier Venice) to largely control the fates of the world, this time possibly totally.

US's greatest fear? Many point the Russian gas-pipelines which is one indeed. In reality its biggest nightmare is the Transiberian. Its possible nightmate also is a re-construction of airships or... a discovery of UFO-like flying machines that can trasport trade in sufficient quantities from any point to any point. Put the maths and you will realise the statement of how these 2 real and 1 theoretical alternatives can cause the downfall of the US overnight.
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#8
I do see a parallel between the US and Rome, but I don't think our situation can be likened to the Roman Empire post Augustus. For some time, I've suggested a parallel not with the Roman Empire but the late Roman Republic. The self governing institutions which worked well in a small republic were outmoded when Rome became a great empire. All too often, the irresponsible voters thought only of their petty concerns; only Caesarism could run an Empire properly. Likewise, the democracy which was suited to a isolationist republic of the late 18th and 19th centuries is coming under heavy strain in the 21st. Sacrifice is vitally needed for almost everything--reducing debt, easing environmental strain--but it's no way to get elected...Just like late Republican Rome, we're headed for crises which may witness the denoument of the old system. The duration of our democracy, like Rome's republican tradition, in no way guarantees permanence.
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#9
Quote:I do see a parallel between the US and Rome, but I don't think our situation can be likened to the Roman Empire post Augustus. For some time, I've suggested a parallel not with the Roman Empire but the late Roman Republic. The self governing institutions which worked well in a small republic were outmoded when Rome became a great empire. All too often, the irresponsible voters thought only of their petty concerns; only Caesarism could run an Empire properly. Likewise, the democracy which was suited to a isolationist republic of the late 18th and 19th centuries is coming under heavy strain in the 21st. Sacrifice is vitally needed for almost everything--reducing debt, easing environmental strain--but it's no way to get elected...Just like late Republican Rome, we're headed for crises which may witness the denoument of the old system. The duration of our democracy, like Rome's republican tradition, in no way guarantees permanence.

Wow. Never thought of it like that. Idea Makes sense. :-) True, perhaps we have become too large for our government to work properly in the 21st century. Definately a change in the culture and ideals from rural ' lets do what is right for all' to 'me,me me'.
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#10
Quote:I do see a parallel between the US and Rome, but I don't think our situation can be likened to the Roman Empire post Augustus. For some time, I've suggested a parallel not with the Roman Empire but the late Roman Republic. The self governing institutions which worked well in a small republic were outmoded when Rome became a great empire. All too often, the irresponsible voters thought only of their petty concerns; only Caesarism could run an Empire properly. Likewise, the democracy which was suited to a isolationist republic of the late 18th and 19th centuries is coming under heavy strain in the 21st. Sacrifice is vitally needed for almost everything--reducing debt, easing environmental strain--but it's no way to get elected...Just like late Republican Rome, we're headed for crises which may witness the denoument of the old system. The duration of our democracy, like Rome's republican tradition, in no way guarantees permanence.

+1

Although, I don't necessarily think that our current situation necessarily ends in a monarchic/imperial takeover by our executive branch. Not without another Civil War first.
Alexander
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#11
In regards to US history, I tend to play Devil's Advocate a little bit.

It is popular to declare that civil rights are in jeopardy in presant-day America, and that corruption and short- sightedness in government has never been worse. To an extent, I agree.

We must resist, however, the temptation to oversimplify the history of civic virtue in America into a fuel gauge traveling from "F" to "E". What we moderns call "civil rights" has had high points and low points, depending on how we define terms. I've long hypothesized that every generation of every culture has been convinced that society is in a state of decline, and if we could only return to the Good ol' Days, everything would be to rights.

The reality of what, in hindsight, constitutes an actual decline is often far more complex and nuanced than what a person can often perceive in his own lifetime. We may observe our 21st century problems with a stagnant economy, burdened environment, and worldwide tensions and be inclined towards pessimism. But consider: how do our problems stack against, say, the Civil War, when President Lincoln ordered the suspension of habeas corpus? The Great Depression? The painful steps taken during the civil rights struggles of the 60s? Surely the prevailing sentiment during those times was one of lamenting the direction that society was headed.

We must remember to bring a sense of perspective to our problems. America, as a nation, has faced far more daunting problems than a blah economy. Rumors of our terminal decline are, in my opinion, greatly exaggerated.
Take what you want, and pay for it

-Spanish proverb
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#12
There are parallels though. Rome had periods of economic crises, bankers failing, bailing them out to prevent the whole system from collapsing. Coinage debasement similar to the US going from silver coins to jacket coins. There is a saying that form follows function. In armor, if you need head protection, you build someting that fits around a head. Similar problems often are met by similar attempts at solution, there are only so many options. So, yes Rome faced issues similar to the U.S. faces now, but also different. In any major issue, there will inevitably be many variables that affect the problems and solutons as well as constraints on dealing with them. In multi nation scenarios, the players of today are not those of 1800 years ago. So while you may draw some lessons from history, you cannot say with certainty that things will play out now as they did during Diocletian's time, because its just not the same. So, yes and no. To say history repeats itself is not quite right, every time is a new game, but form follows function so while it may be decorated differently, it still a helmet so to speak.
Caesar audieritis hoc
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#13
Quote:Although, I don't necessarily think that our current situation necessarily ends in a monarchic/imperial takeover by our executive branch. Not without another Civil War first.

Monarchy is a dinosaur by now if ever there was one. One possible scenario: a future economic meltdown which present government is held responsible for and can't handle, leading to a coup de'etat. It's highly likely a new leader, like Augustus, will try at first to disguise the abrupt change. Confusedmile:
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#14
Quote:But consider: how do our problems stack against, say, the Civil War, when President Lincoln ordered the suspension of habeas corpus? The Great Depression? The painful steps taken during the civil rights struggles of the 60s?

A key difference is that in the past democratic government wasn't directly to blame, hence wasn't vulnerable. Nowadays the economy is at grave risk in part because voters insist on keeping spending high and taxes low, so the red ink keeps accumulating, threatening an eventual collapse. I think democracy survived the civil war because the North had a big edge. Things might've been different if the US faced a greater threat of longer duration (the authoritarian regime of Germany reflected the need for more discipline when surrounded by powerful enemies, whereas Canada and Mexico were hardly a threat to us, so democracy was a luxury we could long afford.)

Quote:We must remember to bring a sense of perspective to our problems. America, as a nation, has faced far more daunting problems than a blah economy. Rumors of our terminal decline are, in my opinion, greatly exaggerated.

I think our country will survive, just like Rome became even stronger after the late republican upheavals.
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#15
Well, when I said monarchy/imperial, I was definitely leaning towards an imperial form of government. Not a monarchy ala old England or France. In today's common parlance, I'm sure dictatorship would be the more appropriate term.
Alexander
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