Saturday, August 13, 2011

Been There! Done That! 3rd Century Rome and 21st Century America

Since Americans have short memories- at least with regard to politics -I like to post 3rd Century Rome and 21st Century America every couple of months so that we can learn the lessons from history. In many ways, 21st century America bears a striking resemblance to 3rd century Rome. Picture: Courtesy of Freedom's Phoenix website.

History does repeat itself. Sometimes more than we would like it to. Take for instance the third century A.D.(200's) Ralph Martin Novak, author of Christianity and the Roman Empire, provides a sobering statistic of 3rd century Rome which serves as a warning to our U.S. government.

He said, "It is estimated that whereas at the start of the third century A.D. the Roman emperors employed only about 300 to 350 full-time individuals in administering the Empire, by 300 A.D. this number had grown to some 30,000 or 35,000 people [bold script added]. The expense of this vastly increased administrative and military structure was an enormous burden on the people of the Empire, and the burden only grew more oppressive over the course of the fourth century A.D....Rome's efforts to collect the taxes necessary to pay for defense and administration exacerbated the already deep social and economic divisions within the Roman empire."

To repeat: In just one hundred years the administration of Rome, bearing a lot of resemblance to the current state of the U.S. government, grew from 300-350 employees to 30,000 to 35,000 employees! By 300 A.D., Rome's central government was so big and overgrown, that it hindered economic growth and its ability to defend its citizens against their enemies.

It is important to remember that this rapid inflation of central government resulted after two centuries of moral decay. And more disturbing, it happened on the eve of Rome's collapse; that is, just before it fell to foreign powers.

Social and moral malaise always prepares the way for an unchecked and oppressive State. As Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, "If the soul is not saved, nothing is saved!" Not even the Republic.


For more insights into how nations rise and how they die, here is a quote by Guglielmo Ferrero in his 1914 book entitled, Ancient Rome and Modern America.

"A civilization is not always in reality richer and stronger in times when it bears the most visible marks of so being. We are rather apt to find that when it is most dazzling and outward seeming, its decadence has already begun...

We think of how great the powerful and rich which could rear monuments so massive that all the centuries have not sweep them under the face of the earth and yet we are to look at these relics in their right light, we must remember all the great roman monuments whose remains survive to our day on a large scale belong to the third and fourth and fifth century of the Christian era, to the centuries of decadence and disillusionment. As the empire weakens, and ages, its monuments become more and more elaborate and colossal."

And another quote from the same book:

"If after 20 centuries of work and study, we find ourselves fortunate heirs of an ancient civilization in a position to live more safely and more comfortably than did our ancestors on this little globe, we are not therefore justified in altering the moral values and virtues to suite our pleasures. The vices, the faults, the depraved inclinations of 20 centuries ago remain the same today. And modern civilization would be guilty of the gravest of errors if, deaf to the great lessons preached by the ruins of Rome, she boasted of those very defects which destroyed in the ancient world one of greatest works of human energy history has to offer."