A few days ago I was reading a book called “Empire” by Orson Scott Card. It was a frightening book — albiet unrealistic — of what happened if there was a civil war between left wing hi-tech lunatics and hardcore rightwing survivalists. That premise, I felt, wasn’t very realistic.
But a part of the book dealt with a series of lectures that I found the idea of both fascinating and appalling — the fall of America.
I will summarize the main salient points. While an avid reader of history, I am not a historian and would appreciate corrections being made.
Rome was founded as an aristocratically lead nation in the hills of Italy. At some point, they turned into a republic, where citizens were represented by their Senate. This representation was not very absolute — the needs of the common people were often over looked — but there WAS attempts (the plebian tribunes, the land reforms of the Grachii) at making sure government was … well, representative.
Rome grew in power and size, and her bureaucacy swelled. Increasingly, the republic was beset with internal problems and external issues. Increasingly, the Senate became filled with corrupt senators in the pay and bidding of the Legions, or local businessmen, or corrupt smugglers — one senator was even paid by pirates!
As a result of the increasing corruption and wasting of money, taxes became ever more onerous, and elections were mob affairs — canidates murdered in the streets. The upstanding were butchered, like Cicero, and the base and venal were hailed as heroes.
Eventually, there was very little left. A long string of ineffective Senate leaders culminated in allowing a few powerful men — Caesar, Pompey, Crassius — to take most control of the Republic. The three plotted to rule jointly, then turned on one another. Caesar? won and began using his absolute power to try to derail the Republic. He failed — a patriot named Brutus and the rest of the Senate saw to that — but that did not stop the fall. Octavian, a strong man and a cunning one, played to the mob and the business leaders, and before long the proud history of the Republic was ashes, the Senate little more than a rubber stamp, the people’s rights thrown to the ground and replaced with bread and circuses.
America started as an aristocratically lead society, with the powerful and influential leading the people to revolt against tyranny. These leaders, much like the ancient Roman founders of the Republic, tried to create a government that was fair. They paid much more attention to givng power to the people, to stopping tyranny, and almost none to making themselves powerful — they were, without a doubt, great men and human beings.
But they were all too mortal, and they died, and much like Rome, less able men took their place, and as the country prospered, interests found reasons to chip away at the structure.
Just as the practice in Rome of allowing outlying regions to govern their own affairs lead to outlying corruption, so did in the early years the nation struggle with corruption on a state level, with Tammany Hall a symbol of everything wrong with government. Much like Rome swelled and grew fat on the conquest and expansion, so did America expand, until we held islands in the Atlantic and Pacific, armies flung all over the world (Legion style), and interfering with every nation within our reach.
Like Rome, our government has become more corrupt, more attuned to listening to big business than to the small man, the plebian, the everyday Joe.
Like Rome, the very offiicials elected to protect us from corruption are often found themselves to be corrupted, like Mr. Spitzer.
Like Rome, we are engaged in a seemingly unending series of small wars that serve mostly to antagonize those around us and drain our wealth and treasure — yet fatten the pockets of the military industrial complex. (Roman arms manufacturers and the armorers who made segmenta lorica, the Legionary armor, had more sway in the Senate than entire segments of Rome).
Like Rome, the government defines new roles for itself on a regular basis — with no limits or checks.
Like Rome, the government panders to the mob, saying what they think they wish to hear and doing little. It matters not if it’s a mob in ancient Rome baying for free bread, taxes on big landowners, and to fling the Germans out, or if it’s a mob in America baying for more welfare, taxes on big businesses, and to fling the illegal aliens out.
Like Rome, we have become paralyzed to fix anything.
Here’s one that should please the Ron Paul supporters: he had an ancient predecessor, the Brothers Grachii, who advocated increased participation in the Senate by the people, more protections for the people’s rights to own land and property, less restrictions on the people’s travel, the right for redress against patricians, land reform (the equivilent, really of money reform back then), and smaller government.
Rome, of course, was a lot more hardcore than America. They murdered the elder, and then the younger brother, in shockingly gruesome fashion. That was the end of the Brother Gratchi Revolution.
Not long after, a series of strongmen like Pompey and Sulla (Bush, anyone) ran the country, running over the rights of everyone, engaging in petty wars, running up debts. (Some say that Sulla did good things. Some people think Bush is a good president, too. Your miliage may vary).
And then? The collapse, the fall, the Republic replaced with an Empire, starting so slowly that by the time it was done, everyone had already become complicit in it.
Is America showing parallels to Rome, in the last days of the Republic?
If the economy goes to pieces, and terrorism becomes so rampant that we live in terror, if the population feels powerless and impotent, if the government is so steeped in corruption that it can accomplish nothing but spend more money than it can take in, and take in so much money it bankrupts businesses and drives them away … do you *really* think the average person of this country would not accept a strong, cunning leader?
A leader that might suspend some “rights” in the name of security? Bush has only started.
A leader that might put a government stranglehold on the economy to “save it”? Enough people are in credit and financial trouble that they wouldn’t care.
A leader who would manipulate the press? Or create an educational system so inefficiently run that any change would seem positive, even if it ended up brainwashing children into adoration of the “leader”?
If you think it cannot happen … maybe you should read your history some more.Tweet
Former Lead Statistical Analyst, BNSF
Former Internal Revenue Officer, IRS
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