Decline and fall of the American empire
"The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight."
Edward Gibbon – The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Conquest & Overreach
“The decay of trade and industry was not a cause of Rome’s fall. There was a decline in agriculture and land was withdrawn from cultivation, in some cases on a very large scale, sometimes as a direct result of barbarian invasions. However, the chief cause of the agricultural decline was high taxation on the marginal land, driving it out of cultivation. Taxation was spurred by the huge military budget and was thus ‘indirectly’ the result of the barbarian invasion.”
Arthur Ferrill – The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation
Bread and Circuses
“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”
Roman Poet Juvenal – 77 AD
The supply of foodstuffs in the cities declined. The people in the cities were forced to go back to the country and to return to agricultural life. Consequently, the emperors made laws against this movement. There were laws preventing the city dweller from moving to the country, but such laws were ineffective. As the people did not have anything to eat in the city, as they were starving, no law could keep them from leaving the city and going back into agriculture. The city dweller could no longer work in the processing indus tries of the cities as an artisan. And, with the loss of the markets in the cities, no one could buy anything there anymore.
Ludwig von Mises – Human Action
The Military Complex
Lessons from ancient Rome regarding the cost of maintaining a far-flung empire have been ignored. Today, U.S. boots stomp on the ground of over 117 countries. Even the use of mercenaries, in the form of thousands of Blackwater guards and other private contractors filling roles formerly left to the military, has become commonplace.
Economic history books will likely mark 1980 as the year that the rapid phase of the decline of the American Empire began. That’s when the first wave of the Baby Boomer generation reached the age of 35 and turned its attention to living the American dream – on borrowed money. Since that year, household debt has surged from $1 trillion to $14 trillion, while the savings rate has plunged from 12% to below 0%.
A Final Thought
For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph – a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.
George C. Scott as Patton