Monday, July 6, 2009

Is America Like Rome?

Rome was a great civilization, perhaps the greatest according to certain accounts. Its citizens - modern, wealthy, empowered - were the envy of the world. Content with their luxuries and successes, the Romans imported slaves until citizens were a de-facto minority. They stopped manufacturing and creating. Instead, Rome became the center of a vast bureaucracy, controlling and delegating while outsourcing actual production to their slaves and colonies.

Rome thus became lazy and fat, hedonistic and selfish, unwilling anymore to do the dirty work and make the sacrifices that earned its position atop the civilizational heap. They became utterly dependent on imported labor and imported products, hostage to their own egocentricities.


America cannot anymore produce preeminent cars; its industrial might - not to mention its massive debts - resides in the grasps of its fiercest competitors. America now wearies quickly of its own defense, its wars, its security needs. Its attention is sated by “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars,” giving short shrift to Iraq and Afghanistan, to females enslaved and children oppressed beyond our shores. Whereas Reagan’s America defeated Communism by sheer willpower, now the teleprompting Obama - facing radical Islam, Communism’s totalitarian successor - unclenches America’s vital fist.


Are we going the way of Rome - are we already too rich, too fat, too soft? Must we read Nero to our Congress? Have we still got what it takes not only to build the greatest civilization the world has ever seen, but also - and especially - to keep it?


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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You make a decent point, except that you describe decades of decline and then pin it on a man who has been in office for less than six months. Reagan's policies have in a large way led to our depleted industrial capacity, and to say that Reagan defeated Communism by sheer willpower is ignorant of the forces that had been working to destroy the communist empire from the inside since its inception.

larry said...

I don't think there is any doubt that in many ways we are following in Rome's footsteps. Not only that, but every great power has followed a pretty similar path. If the U.S. is to be an exception, we as a people will have to undergo a very fundamental change... in a hurry.

Anthony Goldstein said...

You seem to be echoing what Oxfam activists are saying with their recent costumed protests against the G8 (Perhaps you should consider widening the comment to include other nations too?)

Gill Katz said...

The fat cats sure need a diet and a wake up call. I agree.

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Alan S. said...

Definitely a good point to make, and it does seem as though this empire too will fall.

However, I do think that the mere fact of lack of production does not make that true. Labor will never be as cheap here as it is in India or China, and the lobbyists push to force companies to keep those jobs here is hardly the way of a free market.

What America needs to do (and what we sometimes do) is be a leader in thought, innovation, and change. This is the way to retain our empire, not through assembling microchips. If unemployment is going up, then let's use our brains to fix it. If our cars are shit, then let's design better ones.

We have all the potential to be great again, unfortunately potential is useless, only action matters.