America isn’t falling like the Roman Empire. It’s worse.

Summary: Many people ask if America is falling as did the late Roman Empire. The good news is no, we are not. The bad news is that the Republic is falling as the Roman Republic did in its last generation of life. Rome’s people grew weary of carrying the burden of self-government, extinguishing a light that took more than a thousand years to reignite. We walk the same path. But we can change course, if we act soon. This is a revised and expanded version of a post from 2016.

What can preserve our liberty? “I answer, the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and, above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America; a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.”
— James Madison in #57 of The Federalist Papers.

SPQR - the symbol of the Roman Republic
The Senate & People of Rome.

The original Star Trek taught us that humanity was not meant for slavery (one reason it is so disliked today). In it we always rose up and fight for freedom. Unfortunately, history shows that rebellions against ruling elites are rare. Successful revolutions are still more so (as are even partial successes, such as France in 1789). Subjects in well-managed societies (e.g., tyrannies, oligarchies) usually wear their yokes comfortably.

Emperor Octavian.
Emperor Octavian.

Although democracies (i.e., self-government) are rare, they tend to degrade over a few generations, a bitter slide of people from citizens to subjects. The most famous example is the fall of the Roman Republic, a history familiar to our Founders. The Roman people grew weary of self-government, of carrying its burden of responsibility and self-discipline. Sallust, Livy, Cato the Younger, and others warned about the erosion of the character and morality of the Roman people. As a result, Rome experience broad institutional breakdown.

But the state must be ruled. Sheep attract wolves. Civil wars determined who would place the bridle on Rome’s people. Christian Meier’s Caesar: A Biography vividly tells the story of the Republic’s last days (I strongly recommend it). Humanity has produced few people greater than Caesar – wise, brave, a charismatic leader. But he failed to establish a new regime during his five years ruling Rome. As so often happens, the chaos created by decay and reform consumed the first wave of reformers.

His successor, Octavian, logically decided that if Caesar could not restore the Republic – he could not do so, and build an Empire on its ashes. The people of Rome had extraordinary good fortune: two great leaders arose to replace the Republic. They avoided both the usual result of regime collapse – catastrophe – and the alternative arrival of a charismatic leader from Hell (as the Germans got after WWI and the Great Depression washed away the foundations of their society).

The Founders built America on lessons learned from Rome’s history. America might suffer the same fate if we forget their insights. I fear we are following Rome’s path to ruin.

"Caesar" by Christian Meier
Available at Amazon.

The Roman Republic falls, again

“Every country has the government it deserves”
— Joseph-Marie, Comte de Maistre. From Lettres et Opuscules (1811).

Their Republic lasted almost five centuries (509 BC–27 BC), followed by five centuries of Empire (in most respects, a period of decline for the people of Rome). The story of Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire is well known. Seldom mentions is how its people retained their self-respect.

First, they pretended nothing had changed by retaining the outward forms of the Republic. The Senate still met, Rome’s laws still remained in force. “SPQR” (Senātus Populusque Rōmānus: the Senate and People of Rome) still appeared on coins, on public documents, on monuments and public works, and on the standards of the Roman legions. Avoiding mirrors, they marched into the future behind their tyrants.

Second, they hoped for a miracle that would restore the Republic. Better times are coming! A good emperor will come and restore Rome’s past glamour, or Rome’s people will rise up (as they had in the past). Dreams are cheap, albeit ineffective.

Third, they adopted philosophies of passivity and withdrawal – combinations of irony, detachment, and resignation. These became Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Hedonism. The religiously inclined adopted one of the mystery religions (Mithraism was popular in the Army), or something radically different like Judaism or Christianity.  (This insight stems from Hegel, developed by Nietzsche.)

The United States

“{Liberty} must altogether depend on public opinion, and on the general spirit of the people and of the government. And here, after all, as intimated upon another occasion, must we seek for the only solid basis of all our rights.”
— Alexander Hamilton in #84 of The Federalist Papers.

We’re following in Rome’s footsteps in many ways, and this adjustment as well. First, we’re ignoring the rapid erosion of the Constitution and the civil rights it provided. The Executive’s powers grow with each new generation. The Courts become their cheerleaders, treating the Constitution as a Scrabble set with which they can make new rules. Congress retreats into irrelevance, mugging for the cameras and playing ombudsmen for rich constituents.

Second, instead of beginning the hard work of reform – organizing and educating our fellow-citizens, as done by previous reform movements – we dream of better days.  People hope for organizational solutions — magic organization charts (moving the pieces around changes them!) or a constitutional convention — without describing how these changes occur, or how they improve America without a change in its people.

Other Americans dream of revolution – the Great Day in the Future When We Rise and Smite Our Foes. This ignores the decade of mobilization that preceded successful revolutions, such as 1776 America or 1789 France. This also ignores commitment of those revolutionaries to freedom, no matter what the cost.

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Rather than organizing and working for change, we fill our minds with modern amusements: porn, video games, TV, drugs, and info-tainment (giving the middle class a sense of being engagé).

Political Debate - Dreamstime_75395411
ID 75395411 © Skypixel | Dreamstime.

Conclusions

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
— Attributed to Otto von Bismarck.

What comes next? I believe we approach something like a singularity in physics – a transition point beyond which we cannot see. Personally, I dislike Stoicism. I find it difficult to choose between Epicureanism and Hedonism as the best means to enjoy watching the US Republic fall.  Perhaps I’ll try both, and then choose one.  Followed eventually by a conversion to Christianity in my dotage or on my deathbed.

The Campaign 2016 and the circus that followed shows what happens when we treat politics as entertainment Rome’s fate reminds us of the eventual consequences. The machinery bequeathed us by the Founders remains idle but powerful, awaiting only our energy to set it in motion. Lawrence of Arabia tells us that “nothing is written” (in the 1962 film). We can still forge a different fate for us than that of Rome. But the clock is running and the hour is late.

For another perspective, see A new, dark picture of America’s future.

For More Information

Ideas! See my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about reforming America: steps to new politics, and especially these…

  1. Important: A 4th of July reminder that America is ours to keep – or to lose!
  2. For America to prosper it must first burn.
  3. Scary lessons for America from pre-revolutionary France.
  4. The 1% build a New America on the ruins of the old.
  5. Americans trust the military most. 29% are ready for a coup. Ready for fascism?
  6. American politics isn’t broken. It’s working just fine for the 1%.
  7. Advice from a sage about America and its future. Listen to this man. — Alexis de Tocqueville.
  8. Terrifying news about the state of the Republic.

Perhaps we need them to return and kick our asses into action.

Heroes from "The Alamo"
Heroes from “The Alamo”

30 thoughts on “America isn’t falling like the Roman Empire. It’s worse.

  1. The question for me, is can you be both Empire and Republic, can you have a transnational elite running the country whose interests and concerns are global as well as national? Can you trample legal norms abroad without corrupting them at home?
    How do you square that circle? and if you can’t can you dispense with empire one you have it?

    There are examples of democratic empires, France under the 2/3th Republics managed it, the British managed it, the Dutch too, the Austrians attempted it, and may have succeeded without world war 1. But those examples were unstable (France), had a limited franchise (the British/French) or had ceased to be a global player (the Dutch), and none of them lasted very long once they had a full enfranchisement.
    Most long lasting empires have been absolute monarchy’s, or at least they began life that way, Russia, Spain, the Habsbergs. Interestingly, the British were absolutist abroad, constitutional at home, but this only worked as long as the natives were non white or catholic.
    Perhaps America, long at the bleeding edge of modernity will find a way.

    1. Gerard,

      That’s a great question, and results from the sloppy terminology we use to discuss politics. We speak of an Empire as a nation that uses other nations, which is technically wrong terminology. Also, political systems are not always pure forms. For a long time Britain had a mixed parliamentary – monarchy system (after the Glorious Revolution, Parliamentary is sovereign).

      The context of this post is simple, going to the essential aspect: who is sovereign. In a Republic, the people are citizens and so we have full responsibility for America. We delegate the operation of the government to elected officials, but they serve short terms and have limited powers (unlike the British Parliament, which until recent tinkering had almost unlimited power). This is distinct from how we use that power. We can conquer other nations and engage in all sorts of evil. “Republic” does not “act nicely.” As the Founders said repeatedly (as in the Federalist Papers), the Republic’s actions and survival depend upon the character and virtue of its citizens.

      In an Empire, the emperor has full power and the people are subjects.

  2. Hi Larry,

    This is the best “start here” analysis of the fall of the Republic I have read. I don’t think anyone should be able to get a high school diploma in the US without being able to generate footnotes for a dozen references chosen at random. A font for endless discussion and points of departure.

    LK> The original Star Trek taught us that humanity was not meant for slavery (one reason it is so disliked today).

    If ever there was an episode for our times, it’s The Omega Glory. As politically-correct “woke” storytelling, it’s a complete disaster, but those critics couldn’t grok the humanity of The Iliad. It’s amazing that adults today think my appreciation of Homer means that you endorse men tearing down city walls so I can kill all the “indigenous” men and take all the women and children as slaves. Symptom of the illness.

    Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before or since. Tall words proudly saying We the People. That which you call Ee’d Plebnista was not written for the chiefs or the kings or the warriors or the rich and powerful, but for all the people! Down the centuries, you have slurred the meaning of the words, ‘We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.’ These words and the words that follow were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well!

    The Omega Glory was so over the top beat you on the head maybe people couldn’t see the point: the Constitution is not a totem to be wrapped in mantra, it’s a tool with meaning and purpose for people with a will to earn and protect their freedom.

    With regards,

    Bill

    1. Bill,

      Thanks for the pointer to “The Omega Glory”! I agree on all points. This post is has a similar message: Can we love the Constitution without knowing what it says?

      This is a revised version of my 2004 post “Death of the Constitution”, briefer with a more optimistic spin: A 4th of July reminder that America is ours to keep – or to lose!

      I was looking for a TOS Star Trek where Captain Kirk gives his “we’re not meant for slavery” speech, but couldn’t find it. Any suggestions?

      1. Buzz,

        That’s a good one, but not about slavery. With the classic ending:

        Spock: [referring to Flavius] I wish we could’ve examined that belief of his more closely. It seems illogical for a sun worshiper to develop a philosophy of total brotherhood. Sun worship is usually a primitive superstition religion.

        Uhura: I’m afraid you have it all wrong, Mister Spock, all of you. I’ve been monitoring some of their old-style radio waves, the empire spokesman trying to ridicule their religion. But he couldn’t. Don’t you understand? It’s not the sun up in the sky. It’s the Son of God.

        Capt. Kirk: Caesar – and Christ. They had them both. And the word is spreading… only now.

        Dr. McCoy: A philosophy of total love and total brotherhood.

        Spock: It will replace their imperial Rome; but it will happen in their twentieth century.

      2. Jako,

        I don’t see a speech by Kirk – or anyone – in that about humanity wanting to be free. It says the opposite. Slaves gained limited rights and became content. Only with the arrival of Christ did that change. That’s an interesting theory. It is sorta true, in that Christians (mostly from “fringe sects) were prominent in the the 18th and 19th century abolitionist movements. But they weren’t slaves. And that emerged in Christian societies only after centuries of accepted slavery.

        But let’s not deny the West’s achievement. Slavery is an ubiquitous institution across the world throughout history. The West fought to abolish it. As our influence wanes, it reoccurs in various corners of the world (e.g., East Africa, Pakistan).

      3. Hi Larry,

        LK> I was looking for a TOS Star Trek where Captain Kirk gives his “we’re not meant for slavery” speech, but couldn’t find it. Any suggestions?

        No great speechs. In The Gamesters Of Triskelion, Kirk worked on Shahna, getting to understand that her condition of slavery was not right, there is a bigger universe, love, and a nod toward self-reliance. There is a lot of resistance to oppression in TOS and powerful people behaving badly, but not as much focus on chattel slavery.

        Regards,

        Bill

        PS: Had to google, it was the first episode I thought of, but I didn’t remember how to spell Triskelion and I wouldn’t have remembered anything close to Shahna, lol. – B

  3. Brings back memories of my old Roman history prof. I fell under his influence when I was twenty. Now I’m sixty, and I have never shaken off his shadowy grip.

    The dividing line between Republic and Empire for Rome isn’t clear cut, because the Roman Republic was engaged in what amounted to imperial wars well before Caesar buried it. Rome had an empire long before it formally became one, and the burdens of empire were a factor in the Repubic’s demise. Rome changed the forms when the pretense could no longer be maintained rather than accept reform while it still might have done some good.

    I mentioned something about prophecy a couple of threads back. Well, my old Roman history prof made a prophecy, which I still remember. (He didn’t call it that at the time. I’ve known some prophets in my time, but he never claimed to be one) He said that one day, our civilization would produce a new Augustine who would tell us what was still living and what was dead. The post about the end of the American Republic and this sort of combined to jog that memory. (Although I’m not sure he’d agree with you that the end of the Republic was caused by the Romans being unwilling to carry the burdens of self government)

    1. The Man,

      I’ll take the other side of that. An “empire” is often used to describe a foreign policy of conquest, because that’s what the Roman Republic and British government did. But that’s not useful. Every kind of government can conquor others and rule for their benefit, from tribes to Galactic Federations. Calling them all “empires” drains the word of meaning.

      An empire is a polity ruled by an emperior (i.e., sole ruler, of which there have been countless over history). This can be sliced and diced to personal preference (e.g., distinguishing religious rulers, hereditary rulers, military rulers, etc) – but all have many features in common. It is distinguished from the various forms of oligarchies (e.g., rule by an aristocracy or plutocracy) or a democracy (e.g., rule by the citizens, whether direct or through representatives).

      Most of the smoke about these discussions disappears with this simple distinction between who rules and the state’s foreign policy. Also, so stated the primacy of the first factor is clearly more important.

      “He said that one day, our civilization would produce a new Augustine who would tell us what was still living and what was dead”

      Such “prophecies” are as common as dirt, and have been since the fall of rome. For good reason: there is always a yearning for a strong leader to right the usually numerous wrongs, and people often don’t wish to make the effort to do so themselves. We want a winged Jesus (our current faddish love for superhero fiction might be a side-effect of this).

      Unfortunately, despite our hopes – such leaders are rare. When a winged Jesus-figure becomes necessary, the more common results are some form of social decay to a more stable society (which might be collapse or foreign conquest) OR the rise of another form of strong leader from the void (e.g., a Hitler).

  4. I think that one of the major issues that somehow falls under the radar is that what we are supposed to have is a representative republic and NOT a democracy. All democracies prior to the US have failed because, as someone wisely cracked: a democracy needs to be more than two foxes and a chicken voting on what to have for dinner. We have tampered over the years with the constitution, including having an income tax, a concept specifically excluded from the original constitution. Other attachments were more beneficial, such as equal rights for men, women, minorities, etc. although those should never have been needed, but clearly they were.
    We have evolved over time to a system where the executive branch has gleaned an inordinate amount of power, congress due to its dysfunction has slowly given it away. (Madison, at his deathbed*, stated that he had a change of mind, just before he breathed his last breath, and this may have referred to his concern that the only thing that would defeat his otherwise well balanced plan was the development of “factions.” You can translate that as parties. And you can see the result of that.) The Democrats have clamored for a greater and greater role of government in every aspect of our lives, and the Republicans, originally supposed to be the party which decried government intrusion, have largely remained AWOL. Thus we have fulfilled Franklin’s caveats- both the statement “a republic, if you can keep it” as well as that “a people who would give up essential liberties for a little security deserve neither.”
    Oddly enough, prior to being subsumed by the religious right, it was the Tea Party that was pushing the concept of more limited government, etc. The Occupy wall Street folks essentially had similar outlooks (they were more similar than most people believed) but differed in their terminology. So the majority of people are disillusioned, most have no concept of what a democracy entails, having been fed pablum from our state sponsored education system, and afterwards the void filled by social media and the garbage peddled by our mass media. Everyone turns to despair or worse indifference. As Lewis Black once mentioned, what we are being asked to vote on given our current two party system is “between two bowls of $h!t”)
    So where does that leave us- an acknowledgment that something is desperately wrong without an answer or solution is worth the toilet paper it is written with. How do we suddenly re-educate an entire population to be prepared to step up and administer the demands of a true republic, where personal responsibility and individual self reliance is the order of the day. (Especially that now, most people have been fed the “woke” pablum that everyone is a victim, and those of us who disagree are fascists, white supremacists, or worse). there is an interesting book written by Will and Ariel Durant-“The Lessons of History.” ** As you may recall, they authored a ten volume masterwork of history, mostly of western civilization. After amassing this amount of material, they went back and reviewed their conclusions and offered their thoughts in this last book. It is short, and easily read, i highly recommend it. However among the points that it makes is that everything tends to be cyclic. That liberty creates by its nature increased inequality. (equality of opportunity inevitably allows people with greater intelligence, talent, work ethic, etc. to succeed more greatly) As that inequality increases, also just as inevitably, people either through jealousy, or deprivation, rebel and either through legislated means, or violent means, inequality is reduced or removed. Also as morals centered on religious authority devolves into secular moral authority ( essentially a relativistic morality by its nature) society devolves and also as inevitably as the cycles of inequality, religious fervor eventually returns in one form or another. These may be inevitable outcomes, and probably are the outward expressions of basic human needs and drives. Thus, while i am not sure at this time what the exact answer is, i think that the answer will lie somewhere in these basic truths of human nature. I believe that we will have to strive to find a middle ground where liberty is still extant, but limiting the level of inequality so it does not get to violent redistribution, and finding a requisite moral underpinning without totally giving up our society to an overwhelming religious oversight. The constitution of the United States is a good place to start, but would have to involve a lot of work to get our people off their butts, but also to recognize, as some already do, that our future is not a given, and that we will all need to work together to get there. Or else we will all hang separately…
    Sorry for the long post, but there is so much wrong, and so much that needs to be done, and so many questions without answers at present.

    *Myron Magnet. James Madison and the Dilemmas of Democracy. What kind of government did the Father of the Constitution envision? Winter 2011
    **https://smile.amazon.com/Lessons-History-Will-Durant/dp/143914995X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=375PXFLWBX4AA&keywords=durant+lessons+of+history&qid=1553101000&s=gateway&sprefix=durant+lessions%2Caps%2C213&sr=8-1

    1. Barry,

      I was not surprised that your contribution did not receive any reply — it is overwhelming! With your eloquence and insight you managed to recapitulate many ideas stated here, on FM, and elsewhere, as well as of mine. I particularly appreciated:

      “How do we suddenly re-educate an entire population to be prepared to step up and administer the demands of a true republic, where personal responsibility and individual self reliance is the order of the day.[?]”

      We can’t! FM still believes in “reigniting the spirit,” which is admirable; but even the Editor has awoken to doubts…

      1. Jako,

        “I was not surprised that your contribution did not receive any reply”

        Me, neither – because it was almost 900 words long. That’s the length of a post, not a comment. People who wish to write essays should start a website or find one to publish them – not stick them in comments. They are bombs, ending discussions because people won’t scroll thru them. This is an esp serious problem on mobile devices.

        The FM website’s comment policy suggests that 250 words is a good max length. In the distant past I attempted to enforce it. But my standards – and expectations – for comments have fallen. Now I just try to keep out the trolls and those making inappropriate comments.

  5. “Such “prophecies” are as common as dirt, and have been since the fall of rome. For good reason: there is always a yearning for a strong leader to right the usually numerous wrongs, and people often don’t wish to make the effort to do so themselves.”

    I didn’t say a second Augustus, I said a second Augustine. As in St Augustine of Hippo. He was referring to someone who would make an accurate assessment of society’s condition, not a dictator who would put things to rights.

    1. The Man,

      Whoops, my sloppy reading. I had “Augustus” on the mind!

      That’s an interesting prediction, and often made in some form. That is, that a reform or revival of America (or the West) might be (or begin with) something religious in nature. It’s happened before in Britain and America, most recently in the 19th century (Lind has a book coming soon describing how a new such renewal might occur).

      “He said that one day, our civilization would produce a new Augustine who would tell us what was still living and what was dead”

      This is pure Nietzsche, looking at the creation of a people. Nobody has yet gone deeper into these things.

      “Nietzsche was ineluctably led to meditation on the coming to be of God—on God-creation—for God is the highest value, on which the others depend. God is not creative, for God is not But God as made by man reflects what man is, unbeknownst to himself. God is said to have made the world of concern to us out of nothing; so man makes something, God, out of nothing. The faith in God and the belief in miracles are closer to the truth than any scientific explanation, which has to overlook or explain away the creative in man.

      “Moses, overpowered by the obscure drives within him, went to the peak of Sinai and brought back tables of values; these values had a necessity, a substantiality more compelling than health or wealth. They were the core of life. There are other possible tables of values — one thousand and one, according to Zarathustra — but these were the ones that made this people what it was and gave it a life-style, a unity of inner experience and outer expression or form. There is no prescription for creating the myths that constitute a people, no standardized test that can predict the man who will create them or determine which myths will work or are appropriate. …

      “There is nothing that underlies the myth, no substance, no cause. No search for the cause of values, either in the rational quest for knowledge of good and evil or in, for example, their economic determinants, can result in an accurate account of them. …

      “Moses, Jesus, Homer, Buddha, these are the creators, the men who formed horizons, the founders of Jewish, Christian, Greek, Chinese, and Japanese culture. It is not the truth of their thought that distinguished them, but its capacity to generate culture.”

      Unfortunately such people, the true creators, appear at their own times. Our necessity doesn’t concern them.

  6. Quote to ponder from a science fiction author.

    “The best, most egalitarian, fairest systems of government we have now are based on structures that are millennia old at their core. Democracies and republics actually use a series of bronze-age technologies to approximate some of the better aspects of group decision-making protocols that science shows us are the most efficient known way of getting stuff done, but the technology exists to remove even more barrier to making those protocols work.”

    Elizabeth Bear describing her new book, Ancestral Night, at the John Scalzi’s website Whatever.

    The last phrase “technology exists to remove even more barrier to making those protocols work.” Her book might be worth a look if she describes that technology and how humanity applies it.

    1. Matt,

      Thanks for pointing that out! The sentence before the one your quoted seems important.

      “I was inspired by Iain Banks and his Culture novels, but I wanted more detail on how a post-scarcity society and a completely novel form of government might work.”

      Writing about how a “post-scarcity society” would work has become popular on the Left, as in some works about the Star Trek universe. It’s the equivalent of writings by Libertarians on the Right, imagining a world in which governments are not necessary.

      The imagination of these writers is commendable. The overall context – in a society decaying because so many people prefer to watch entertainment on screens rather than meet the challenges of the day – is, imo, disturbing. It smacks of escapism. Prefering to build castles in the air than tend the communities living today.

  7. As much as I hate repeating myself, here, again, I have to mention an excellent treatise on theme of “Fate of Empires,” http://people.uncw.edu/kozloffm/glubb.pdf
    Highly recommended.

    There are crucial points FM and so many other miss — there just may be natural causes of societies’ decline (due to a copyright I’m trying to paraphrasing an example):

    “Decadence is a moral and spiritual disease, triggered by the extended state of wealth and power. Cynicism, failing faith, pessimism and levity. The citizens no longer take care saving themselves, as they loose hope that anything in life is worth saving.”

    We may be doomed not for something we may have done, we’re doomed because our society naturally reached this point. It was said: “Nothing is written;” however, the history tends to repeat itself and there seems to be very few examples successfully implementing the Bismark’s paradigm (learning from mistakes of others rather than your own) throughout history.

    American “Empire” managed to defy many predictions; still, we should consider the final stage to be a typical one; with one exceptional overtone — this failing empire has the ability to “fail” the whole world along with it (USSR didn’t, but that may not mean much).
    So, there comes my favorite expression — a bifurcation point (or rather ‘trifurcation?’) — US may transition into:
    (a) a pleasant tyranny (not a huge step, mind you), with corporate mercenary armies and all
    (b) completely failed society, where not even the Pentagon will do what the discredited Executive or dysfunctional Congress would ask them to
    (c) a continued decline culminating in an economic and institutional collapse and resulting in a turbulent period (a lot of necessary pain involved), then reinstating some modified form of the founding principles (perhaps dissolving the Union) and reemerging as just rank and file member(s) of a multilateral world.
    I prefer the (c) — the (b) is too close to Armageddon and (a) would become very “unpleasant” in time.

    1. Jako,

      “there just may be natural causes of societies’ decline ”

      Thank you for a demonstration of what I describe as Response #3 to decline: “resignation.” Your repeated insistence on it reveals a deep commitment to apathy, quite typical today.

      You must be a treat to your children, if any. “I’m not taking you to the doctor, since illness followed by death is natural.” Why try to fix America, since the decline might be “natural”?

      1. Larry,

        As I said in my other response: your devotion to the “reigniting the spirit’ is admirable!

        Your sick patient parable, however, may not fit to dismiss my intended point; neither I nor Glubb Pasha thought of the “natural outcome” as substitute for diagnosis and definitely not pretending to be prognosis, as you attempted to demonstrate. While at this allegory: if you deny the age and its associated ailments in your diagnosis — you may loose the ability to devise an effective treatment.

        As for the kids, thanks for asking: we have two and yes, they do consider me a treat (well, most of the time;-), just not in the sense you implied — don’t confuse one’s personal attitude toward a runaway freight-train with that toward one’s own family.
        BTW, personally, I had always been immersed and involved, even, long time ago, in another country — another world; I may be skeptical, but not apathetic nor fatalistic…

        Further, in the case of a complex, systemic failure of the republic (paraphrasing your own ideas), exhibiting very undesirable outward and even inward behavior, it may come to the point where the world would be better off to let it die and concentrate on working on new one(s) instead. (As per your very own idea predicting a singularity point transition as a possible outcome.) And, if the congenial professionals in today’s administration don’t stop poking the Bear and the Dragon even closer together, that point may come sooner rather than later.

        248 words

    2. Jako,

      Although we’ve gone over this before, I’ll attempt to explain this once again.

      Everybody over the age of ten knows that that death is part of life. Everything dies, from pets to the Sun – and eventually, the universe itself. We don’t need a professor of anything for that insight. Ecclesiastes 3 (written circa 300 BC) tells us that …

      “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die …”

      Queen Gertrude tells Hamlet (Act I, scene 2, written circa 1660):

      “Thou know’st it’s common; all that lives must die,
      Passing through nature to eternity.”

      While that’s useful info, it should not guide our actions. It is not our decision when to give in. When I was in the Boston backgammon club, Paul Magriel played there. He was one of the top players in the world. His book, Backgammon, was considered the player’s bible. He was famous for fighting on long after the game appeared lost. The story was told of a member who asked him why he did so. Magriel replied, “So you give up?” “Yes, of course.” Magriel replied with one of those insights that can transform a life: “That’s why you lose.”

      History is made by people animated by the spirit Churchill showed in his most famous speech, words that will probably outlive western civilization in this era.

      “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

      1. Sorry Larry,

        I had this tab opened for some time while I was doing so many other chores, I missed this longer reply to my original post…

    1. Dark,

      That’s the beauty of the Roman’s adaptation to the Empire. A path for everyone’s taste.

  8. “Personally, I dislike Stoicism”.

    Why is it, and what is it that you personally dislike about stoicism?

    1. astakask,

      People have individual reactions to each school of philosophy. I know of no objective or universal way to evaluation them. So this is my personal opinion of Stocism, in terms of its value to me.

      Stocism, like most schools of philosphy, has no fixed or definitive doctrine. But its general tenets are as follows.

      Belief in the value of formal logic to guide life – color me skeptics.

      Monistic physics – THis seems unlikely to me.

      Naturalistic ethics – I do not believe this is true. Like Nietzsche, I believe that a culture’s ethics are chosen, not rooted in nature or a supernatural being.

      Suppression or conquest of the passions – I believe that passions provide our energy and purpose. A nice demo is the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within.

  9. ”The Roman people grew weary of self-government, of carrying its burden of responsibility and self-discipline.”

    Would that ensure the necessity of restricting the franchise? And therefore resemble what has been depicted in Starship Troopers?

    1. Info,

      I agree that if we have some form of democracy – a big “if” – the question of the franchise will be a key point of debate. My guess (guess!) is that the West’s brief experiment with the universal franchise will be considered a failure, and some form of service will be required for voting. Military service (as in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers), or back to requiring property ownership or paying taxes?

      Depending on the level of force required to establish the new regime, extending the vote to women might be debated. Women have proven solid voters for open borders and an ever-more lavish welfare state. A new regime that turns to the Right – again, an “if” – might look with disfavor on that history.

      We can only guess at what lies on the other side of the Singularity. A more useful question is if its worthwhile to analyze the faults of our regime and attempt to devise new ones.

      1. ”Military service (as in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers), or back to requiring property ownership or paying taxes?”

        To modify the last idea including those who are net taxpayers. Because Net Taxpayers I think alongside those who have property and military service have more skin in the game. And perhaps would have incentive to vote in the long term interest.

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