The Decline and Fall of …. which empire was that again?

About ten years ago I read Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and was struck by certain similarities to a certain civilization we’re all familiar with. Check out this list of contributing factors hypothesized by Gibbon and other historians:

– Constant foreign invasions and overextension of the armies, resulting in a massive percentage of the tax base going to support the wars, a general reluctance on the part of the populace to serve in the legions, and the hiring of mercenaries to do some of the fighting

– The federal government taking local tax revenues to support the wars and reducing support for local government, resulting in less investment in infrastructure and social services

– Farmers being forced into bankruptcy and welfare due to taxation; the disappearance of the middle classes; starvation among the poor

– General hedonism among the upper classes, gluttony and drunkenness, moral and ethical decline, and materialism

– The rise of lawyers and litigation, placing a burden on government and the economy

– Inflation of currency and lack of manufacturing

– The emergence of Iran as a military threat (!) and being constantly embroiled in battles in the Middle East

– Environmental degradation caused by overpopulation, including deforestation, over-use of water resources, and extinction of species

Gee. Does any of this sound familiar?? It seem even more true than 10 years ago when I first read it. Maybe it’s time for us to take a fall; if the British survived it, so can we. Possibly a little more humble for it, let’s hope.

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One thought on “The Decline and Fall of …. which empire was that again?

  1. Debbie says:

    I’m with you on this one Teresa. It seems to me that the old adage “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (or something like that). History is full of great empires that fell because they became too big for their britches. And I guess our turn is coming up.

    It might not be a bad thing.

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