Is it inevitable?

Posted by Dug on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 10:34 AM:

World history is steeped in the rise and fall of societies/cultures/nations. Rome, Greece, Egypt, on and on. Clearly the US has moved from a nation founded on the principles of personal liberty and personal responsibility to one of less liberty and less personal responsibility - and this transition is by and large accepted by the masses.

The causes? Wealth? Hubris? Tolerance?

As you ponder those causes and many others I've always wondered is this simply human nature? Is this inevitable? As this nation has moved from a pimple in the world of nations in 1776 to it's position today it appears there is no stopping a Rome-like collapse. People simply don't care. Or do they?

Disclaimer - I'm not saying that any particular party is to blame for this. I do believe these past few years are evident that class-warfare and divisive politics are feeding the fire tremendously. I also don't believe we are on the verge (5 years) of a collapse but it may happen in my life time.


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    What is a 'Rome-like collapse'?

    Rome is generally recognized as having declined steadily after the reign of the five good Caesars (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antonius Pius, and Marcus Aureliaus) in 180 A.D. as the Empire began to withdraw its more distant territories, until the 'fall of the Roman Empire' in 476 when the last Roman Emporer was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer. However, Odacer and his successors claimed to uphold the Roman tradition, and the remnants of the Empire stood, in the form of the Ostrogothic kingdom, for some time thereafter.

    Meanwhile, the Eastern Roman Empire continued strong until beginning its decline around 1000 A.D., until its final collapse in the 1453 A.D., with the fall of Constantinople.

    We often hear of the collapse of empires, such as Rome, as being inevitable, but such would hardly be thought to be the case. Rome survived for centuries with no certainly no less intrigue and corruption than we see in the United States today.

    Rome began as a monarchy, which was overthrown to establish the Roman Republic some 500 years before the reign of the first Emporer, Augustus. The Empire then continued for nearly 500 years after the republic was replaced with the empire.

    In my view, and this is hardly an original thought, Rome ceased to be when the people ceased to believe in the ideal that was Rome. That is to say, unlike other empires, Rome was not dependent upon the dream of a single man or a single line of rulers, but it was a dream of all citizens to see Rome rise, flourish, and spread its power throughout the world.

    There is a scene in the comedic film "Monty Python's Life of Brian" in which Reg asks 'what have the Romans ever done for us?', which is anwered with a series of statements on the improvements the Romans broguht to the region: aqueducts, sanitary sewers, police patrols, roads, etc.. Rome did not merely invade to pillage and plunder, but to bring peace and plenty, from which it received a share of the benefits of prosperity. It did not seek to leave smoldering ruin in the wake of its armies, but rather sought to bring Roman Order to the lands it occupied and, through that, taxable commerce and prosperity which would enrich the coffers of Rome. Even as they moved from republic to empire, they held to that dream. As they lost sight of that, they began their long, steady decline.

    If there is lesson for America to be learned, methinks, it is that our goal needs ever to be towards prosperity, for prosperity alone can lift a people out of poverty. There is not enough charity in the world to do that. Nor can a nation enrich its people by stripping the prosperous of the fruits of their labours and giving it to those who labour not, and yet expect the propserous to remain both industrious and loyal.

    -- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 11:28 AM
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    I would agree that Rome did a lot of good for the world if you accepted Rome's view of the world. The Jews did not view the Romans as doing good at the time but I'm sure the Roman's felt they were bringing order to the "lesser" people.

    I think that today's geography and technology might hasten the cycle of demise to a culture and people. When 16th century Europeans were fed up with their monarchies they fled to this "New World" of vast empty territory occupied by a sparsely indigenous people - native Americans.

    Today the world is completely governed - 100%. There is no place to go and as technology improves at alarming pace the communications between people seem to exacerbate problems.

    But basically, I was just curious if somehow, someway this is human nature. To move from a free and liberal form of life to a more controlled life ruled by a few elites and then a dramatic fall. China IMO is emerging as an economic power - emerging - through more capitalistic moves like property ownership, investing, free-er (stress on the "er") movement of capital and less wage control. They have a long way to go but are thawing their backward economy by employing some of the basic tenets this country was founded on.

    -- Posted by Dug on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 11:45 AM
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    "To move from a free and liberal form of life to a more controlled life ruled by a few elites and then a dramatic fall."

    I think it is the nature of governments to grow themselves in power. In democratic forms of government, the people find themselves empowered to take monies from others and spend it on themselves in the form of 'good works'. The government sees this demand for theft as a form of empowerment, and gladly complies.

    For example, the people today want health care, but they don't want to pay much for it, as the money they pay for it means money they don't have to buy other things. Thus, they declare it a 'right' and demand the government legislate the means to spread the cost of their health care throughout the populace, so they pay can receive the best of care for only a pittance.

    This, of course, is true of any public service. The people want police protection but they don't want the expense of hiring armed guards, so they demand it as a public service to be funded through taxes. Society sees this as a good thing, because it prevents roving gangs of 'bodyguards' being used to bully those less fortunate, and also prevents blood feuds carried out by rival gangs of bodyguards (the stuff or Romeo and Juliet).

    It is generally accepted that society has an obligation to provide for the common good, which is to say to provide those services which promote peace and stability but do not enrich individual citizens. The problem comes from the use of government to provide individual services to one group of citizens at the expense of another. When that becomes the norm, government ceases to be a vehicle of 'general welfare' and becomes a means of institutionalized theft, as ours has become with the growth of entitlements.

    I do not think it is 'inevitable' that such excesses will lead to a collapse, however. Just as we are seeing in Europe, austerity movements and other clawbacks against the excessive growth of government power can develop and can sometimes be successful. But dependency is a stubborn condition, and those who have grown accustomed to it will fight hard to retain it. This is why conservatives fight so hard to prevent its prevalance in society, a fight being lost at many turns even as we watch the folly of such growth playing out across the Atlantic.

    It is sad to watch the left cheering gleefully the results of the past election, as they seem to proudly proclaim that we, too, can now be as broke and fiscally clueless as Europe. I suspect the relatively harmless 'Occupy' movement will begin to give way to the type of anti-austerity riots seen over there as those driven to indebtedness by their incessent demands for government assistance will fight against the necessary and prudent calls to cut back. That, too, seems to be human nature.

    -- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 12:31 PM
  • Personal liberty has grown enormously since our nations founding and is still increasing at an ever growing rate. I am far more free to say what I think and live my life how I desire than my parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were. When do you believe was the peak era for personal liberty? Certainly it couldn't have been anytime prior to the modern Civil Right movement for the vast majority of our population.

    Personal Responsibility is a pretty sticky thing to measure but I think we may have improved over time in that area as well. Look at long term historical violent crime & property crime rates, drug/alcohol consumption rates, rates of parents abandoning children, etc.. The dregs of society have always existed, but at least today they have fewer children to neglect and they murder & rob a few less responsible citizens than they used to.

    Unfortunately lots of people look back on their younger days with rose-colored glasses of nostalgia and think the the world is going downhill. The negative things you see today are usually greatly outweighed by the constant incremental progress that has been erasing the ills of the past.

    -- Posted by Nil on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 12:46 PM
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    Do you seriously believe that the murder rates are lower today? Just curious - what do you mean by fewer children to neglect? Do you believe that the number of out-of-wedlock births today are much lower than the past?

    I suspect the incremental progress you are talking about has more to do with private industry than any government program. When I was growing up minority families were largely a 2-parent, in-wedlock situation. Today that isn't true by any measure of imagination is it?

    -- Posted by Dug on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 1:28 PM
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    "Personal liberty has grown enormously since our nations founding and is still increasing at an ever growing rate. I am far more free to say what I think and live my life how I desire than my parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were."

    I'm not sure how you measure that. Certainly, as far as government interference, our parents were more free than we are today. But, as far as freedom from society's imposition we may be considered more free - immoral acts are large uncensured, the pressure to conform to society's strictures is less, and the familial pressure to pursue a course of livelihood of parental choosing is less.

    Certainly the imposition of a more crowded landscape has restricted the freedoms our parents and grandparents enjoyed as a result of their lesser interaction with society. They enjoyed the freedom to engage in some activities simply by virtue of their lesser likelihood of observation.

    Do not confuse increased opportunity with increased freedom. We have always had the freedom, for instance, to attend to higher education, though the opportunity was not so readily available as it is today. We have always had the freedom to travel, though the lack of ready transportation limited the opportunity to do so.

    Even as recently as the days of my youth, a person still had the freedom to live in relative obscurity. Not so, methinks, today. As society has sought to become Santa Clause, deliving the goodies, so has it assumed the task of knowing when we are sleeping and when we are awake. Social Security numbers, which used to state clearly they are 'not for identification purposes', have evolved from 'Social Security Number' to become our 'Social Security and Identification Number', with which we are branded in our youth and obliged to carry throughout our term as citizens.

    Why should we assume that personal freedom is greater only since the civil rights movement, and why for the 'vast majority of our population', when the civil rights movement primarily impacted minorities?

    I see greater dependency on government today than before, and that means less freedom. If you are beholden to the government for your retirement income, for your medical coverage, or for your education you are hardly more free from government intervention than your parents generation.

    -- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 2:00 PM
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    U.S. incarceration rates have risen from fewer than 100 per 100,000 to greater than 500 per 100,000 citizens, with the bulk of that increase being seen since the late 1970s and the 'war on drugs'.

    In addition, the stigma of incarceration has grown markedly, such that ex-prisoners are followed for greater distances and for longer periods of time than our parents' and grandparents' generation. No longer can one flee the stigma of a jail record by fleeing to a distant state.

    -- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 2:09 PM
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    In simpler terms I guess it seems like as societies move up Maslow's hierarchy of needs (I know he spoke of individual needs not societal needs) they tend to get comfortable, lazy and more dependent on someone else to fend for them.

    The things that motivated them to be successful are now gone and they fall into an entitlement mode. There are examples of this throughout history and plenty in today's world.

    IMO Chinese and Indian people hunger for opportunity and prosperity and work a lot harder to get it than we do. They also don't have all the entitlements we do.

    Americans have opportunity and prosperity and balk at doing anything to maintain it but feel entitled to continue their prosperity at another American's expense. Many are satiated and have zero desire to get off the couch and improve their situation.

    Boring subject but interesting to me just the same.

    -- Posted by Dug on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 3:51 PM
  • BC, In the case of these threads it seems to me personal liberty in mostly discussed as it relates to lack of government interference or restriction in such.

    Maybe the pursuit of happiness is where some justify the government intervention of citizen behavior modification.

    -- Posted by Old John on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 10:08 AM
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    Whether or not a person's liberty is subdued because they 'feel threatened' or see their liberty curtailed by other influences is subjective.

    The question is whether or not government infringes upon liberty. In my view, the very existence of government is an infringement upon liberty, but one which we accept as being necessary for good order. In the absence of government, you have the highest level of liberty but the lowest level of security. Peoples band together and establish governments, in which they trade some level of liberty for an attainable level of security.

    In the absence of government, there is no infringement upon my liberty to kill my neighbor if he offends me. My ability to do so is dependent upon the level of my strenght versus the level of his, but the liberty to do exists, which is to say there is no legal sanction against it. He, likewise, has the same liberty to do so against me. We establish governments to prevent that sort of atmosphere from existing.

    At some point, however, governments tend to infringe upon freedoms in ways that do not offer attainable security, or under pretenses of enhancing security with no real impact thereupon. That, I believe, is the point at which we now find ourselves.

    -- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Fri, Dec 14, 2012, at 10:52 AM
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    If the Republicans permit themselves to become nothing more than 'Lite' Democrats, they will have no relevance whatsoever. Where will people who oppose the Democratic Party ideas turn? The Libertarian Party? The Conservative Party?

    -- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Wed, Dec 26, 2012, at 4:00 PM
  • Do any federal house and senate polititions work to represent their districts or do they only work to represent themselves and/or party?

    -- Posted by Old John on Wed, Dec 26, 2012, at 6:30 PM
  • Dug I do know one thing the Canadian companies are coming to America and hiring unemployed workers and they are moving there families to Canada where apparently the economy is doing well, something we should take lessons from, but we cannot get along with one another long enough in order to start moving our economy forward.

    -- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Thu, Dec 27, 2012, at 7:29 AM
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    Do any federal house and senate polititions work to represent their districts or do they only work to represent themselves and/or party?

    -- Posted by Old John on Wed, Dec 26, 2012, at 6:30 PM

    Neither. They serve the corporations and special interest groups. It sounds cliche', but it's true.

    -- Posted by Simon Jester on Thu, Dec 27, 2012, at 9:00 AM
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    If this nation should ever fall, it will be due to self inflicted wounds.

    -- Posted by voyager on Tue, Jan 1, 2013, at 4:14 PM
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    "If this nation should ever fall, it will be due to self inflicted wounds."

    That is essentially the message of Edward Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'. It took him six volumes (usually packaged as three) to say so, though...


    "...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. Jones is surely right in saying that taxation was spurred by the huge military budget and was thus 'indirectly' the result of the barbarian invasion."

    - Arther Ferrill -

    -- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Wed, Jan 2, 2013, at 8:25 AM
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    The US Library of Congress is archiving everyone's "tweets" on twitter - since 2006. They are going to categorize and index them for us. Billions of bits of data and soon to be trillions. What possible good can this be?

    Of course we have a "revenue" problem not a "spending" problem... or as democrats say we need to "invest" more. Until democrats realize that this is a waste and needless spending of my money this won't end. The full story:

    -- Posted by Dug on Fri, Jan 4, 2013, at 9:44 AM
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    And worst of all, even the English language has been corrupted.

    -- Posted by voyager on Fri, Jan 4, 2013, at 10:03 AM
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    Dous that mean we get to read Congress and the President's tweets and twitters and whatever it is they are recording? Would bet not... they will exempt themselves...... an ongoing investigation or some other useless rhetoric they will apply to their right to privacey.

    Like you Rick I have never tweeted or posted on an type of social webpages and do not intend starting now. Not that it really matters. They could likely be capturing and saving everything we do on a computer, intending on using it when they send us to the internment camps or the 'Big Public Showers' like Hitler used.

    -- Posted by Have_Wheels_Will_Travel on Fri, Jan 4, 2013, at 12:02 PM
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    "Dous that mean"

    Drat.... and I didn't mean duz that mean either. Should be Does that mean.

    -- Posted by Have_Wheels_Will_Travel on Fri, Jan 4, 2013, at 12:09 PM
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    Yes Rick, that must be what it was..... but you couldn't prove it by me. One more language I cannot master.

    -- Posted by Have_Wheels_Will_Travel on Fri, Jan 4, 2013, at 1:09 PM
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    A nice little graphic showing spending and taxes in the U.S., current and historical.

    -- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Mon, Jan 7, 2013, at 10:21 AM
  • -- Posted by Shapley Hunter on Mon, Jan 7, 2013, at 10:34 AM

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