Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Doing As The Romans Did?

Bottomline, here are some reasons Rome fell to the Barbarians:

A lazy, entertained, uninformed public - panem et circenses - Bread and Circuses - The ruling class of ancient Rome used Bread and Circuses as the method that to maintain their power and control of the people. This method kept their sheeple fat and happy, even as rulers literally fleeced the public, by stealing their wealth and sending their children off to war to plunder the rest of the world. Food and amusement is all the majority of American people seem to be interested in. If the government can give them more "free stuff" then they won't care if laws are broken or ignored, or if their liberties are trampled.

A small group of ruling elite - Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama/Clinton - Same old song and CFR crowd. Confiscate wealth, spend more money, grow government, give out entitlements for more Bread and Circuses, reward friends of the ruling class. The ruling elite live very well I might add, giving themselves pay raises in Congress at every opportunity and their friends and family get lucrative government contracts. Funny how they chastise wealthy businessmen for flying in jets and living well, when the Washington DC crowd does the very same thing.

A devaluing currency and economy - Seen the state of the US economy lately? If the dollar isn't devalued now, it will be with the rate that our debt is being monetized by the Fed's printing presses.

An overstretched military - The US military is overstretched. Troops are being asked to sign up for longer tours of duty and 20% are National Guard and Reserve Forces, which were not really meant to serve in the capacity that they do.

A growing domestic spy force/police state - Department of Homeland Security. Need I say more. There are cameras everywhere, phones being tapped, records being collected.

Diminishing civil liberties - Removal of Habeas Corpus, Warrantless wire-tapping, Warrantless Searches, Property confiscation...etc. etc. (Oh right, that's all to "keep us safe")

Two years ago, Bill Bonner wrote an article that was posted on Daily Reckoning, UK that made some interesting comparisons between the US and Rome. It's pretty interesting.

Here's an excerpt:
"Another feature of the Roman system of government that Americans will find familiar is the Twelve Tables, which were a kind of Bill of Rights for Roman citizens. During the Republic, a citizen could not be arrested in his own home, criminal courts had to follow procedures designed to protect the innocent, and the writ of Habeas Corpus was established.

Later, of course, many of these protections of the individual were tossed indeed many have been recently in America today. The latest military spending bill, for example, just passed by Congress, permits the president of the US to become a kind of dictator in the event of a ‘situation’ that he feels calls for martial law.

Empire then, in its most naked form, was basically a protection racket - as it is also today. Rome provided security. Its subject states and vassal kingdoms paid tribute. Expanding Rome’s frontiers was usually hugely profitable. Caesar’s eight-year campaign to subdue the Gauls, for example, resulted in hundreds of thousands of fresh slaves shipped to Italy. The slave market near Rome was said to have sold more than 1,000 of them in a single day. Vast quantities of gold, silver, and jewels, also, ended up in Roman hands. Then, once a new territory was securely under Rome’s yoke, the poor yokels had to pull hard to pay their annual tribute – usually in the form of wheat or olives or cattle.

Providing ‘security’ was dangerous and difficult work to the troops in the field, but the folks at home took the new bounty as though it were manna from heaven – just as they do today. We have no precise figures on it, but at least we have no inconvenient facts to interfere with our theory. The influx of free ‘wealth’ into the homeland depressed the value of local production and undermined the local economy."
We have abandoned American factories and businesses in favor of employing others abroad in the name of a global economy. We have made it difficult and unprofitable for many businesses to exist here with all the regulations and restrictions. Our small businesses and farms are disappearing at an alarming rate. We have been actively engaged in Empire building and eventually that will weaken us (if it hasn't substantially already) just as it weakened Rome. We, just like Rome, cannot be the world's policeman forever.

Bonner continues:
Soon, the honest plebes were no longer able to support the government; instead, they expected the government to support them. And the old families that had been the
backbone of the Republic began disappearing too. While the Romans had had a civilising influence on the barbarians they brought into the empire in the beginning,
the very success of Rome later had a barbarising influence on the Romans themselves. The tough old values of independence, discipline and thrift gave way to soft new values – that were measured in easy money and credit, bound up in corrupt connections and special favours, and operated through slave labour.

So it was that gradually the empire weakened...until finally the barbarians could be held back no more. They started by being admitted peacefully. Later, they came when they wanted...sacked Rome and took over what was left of the empire in the West.
The United States has become a nation of entitlement. More and more people have come to rely on government handouts and government programs. The old families that had been the backbone of the Roman Republic began disappearing too, perhaps just in the same manner as many businesses are beginning to fail and fall and disappear, or be swallowed up by foreign interests. Of course what has come into vogue is the practice of government bailout/ownership of these companies and the dictatorship by the government on how these businesses are run. Now we are also seeing the growth of government jobs and the disappearance of private sector jobs, so people will become even more dependent on government as time goes on.

Just as in Rome, American values of independence, discipline and thrift have given way to soft new values – measured in easy money and credit, bound up in corrupt connections and special favors, and operated through slave labor. Americans are no longer the independent lot as they once were and have become more and more dependent on government to help them. There is no value of thrift, as demonstrated by the push for consumption at all costs, and has resulted in the average family owing thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Surely the pool of illegal workers in this country can also be considered slave labor.

It's just a matter of time before this empire weakens, especially as we end up owing more money than we are worth, and finally the barbarians will be held back no more. It can be said that enemies of this American Empire have already been admitted peacefully and come here when they want despite no-fly lists and immigration laws. Immigration laws are not being enforced. Just as Rome was eventually sacked, will we be so as well? The sacking perhaps has begun already as illegal aliens have been allowed to bankrupt our social services system. And tell me again , how much of our debt does Communist China hold? How much oil do we buy from countries who despise America? The fact is we have become beholden to countries who may not like us very much.

Some historians add that Rome fell in part because of the disappearance of the independent farmer. The backbone of the Roman society began to disappear when cities began consuming more than the rural areas could produce. Perhaps the fall of the US will be when pillars of business and industry fall, or when government merely goes bankrupt. When we can no longer produce things, people will, as in Rome, flock to the cities (and government) for free hand outs. A country needs producers in order to survive; not moochers and looters.

The thing is, that government cannot provide for everyone if no one is paying into the system. Eventually the Empire goes broke. And if printing money is the Empire's answer to paying off debt, then sooner or later we see inflation and then government steps in with wage and price controls. Emperor Diocletion attempted to freeze wages and prices. We all know that leads to shortages and lines at the store because producers stop producing if it brings them a loss. People will not produce if it causes them a loss,mostly because it is unsustainable. In the Emporer's time, people stopped bringing their stuff to the marketplace. It led to Diocletion's removal.

Others have written on this same topic, probably because the parallels are so very sobering. If we take the opportunity to learn from history maybe we can prevent the repeat of the same mistakes made by Rome. Unfortunately with the all out pursuit of Bread and Circuses currently in the US (bring on national health care and the Superbowl or the next Hollywood blockbuster), it doesn't seem like anyone really cares, and the ones who do care are mocked and considered a national security threat.

Read and understand history - it may provide a light to the future.