September 8, 2007

AND THAT'S BAD? (via Gene Brown):

Learn from the fall of Rome, US warned (Jeremy Grant, August 14 2007, Financial Times)

The US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned.

David Walker, comptroller general of the US, issued the unusually downbeat assessment of his country’s future in a report that lays out what he called “chilling long-term simulations”.

These include “dramatic” tax rises, slashed government services and the large-scale dumping by foreign governments of holdings of US debt.

Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned there were “striking similarities” between America’s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government”.

“Sound familiar?” Mr Walker said. “In my view, it’s time to learn from history and take steps to ensure the American Republic is the first to stand the test of time.”

It's easy enough to make fun of this, but, suppose we take it seriously for a moment. Grant that we stand to lose our Empire -- whatever that is -- as Rome did. The interesting question is: has Rome itself ever not had a standard of living that was in say the top 10% of mankind for any appreciable number of years in the past two thousand?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 8, 2007 8:25 AM

“Sound familiar?” Mr Walker said. “In my view, it’s time to learn from history and take steps to ensure the American Republic is the first to stand the test of time.”

I basically agree agree with this warning by a former Clinton appointee. The warning is: Don't elect a Democrat in 08!

Posted by: Genecis at September 8, 2007 9:08 AM

And the warning to all elected Republicans is: Get your act together.

Posted by: Genecis at September 8, 2007 9:10 AM

"Declinism" is so wacky.

I agree that Rome is very much with us yet, not least in the classical background of of our ways of thinking and acting.

But if one would play the declinist games, ponder only that Rome lasted some 2100 years, A.U.C. to the fall of Byzantiym. America has a ways to go.

Now when a civilizatrion loses the nerve to plow defeated cities with salt and to line roads with crosses, its days may inded be numbered. Based on our warfighting capabilities, we conclude that America has not lost that nerve.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 8, 2007 9:48 AM

I think Rome in the 14th Century during the Schism, when the Papacy moved to Avignon, got to be a very poor and unhealthy place to live. Didn't last long, though.

Posted by: Twn at September 8, 2007 9:48 AM

We constantly replenish our citizenry with new arrivees, so we won't share Rome's fate unless we allow the left to destroy us from within.

Posted by: erp at September 8, 2007 10:21 AM

Well, the population of Rome declined from about 1 million (estimates from high 600,000's to 1.3 million), during the reign of Augustus to about 20,000 during the early Middle Ages. Also, the city's infrastructure crumbled as the population lived in what became rural enclaves in the city, and they recycled building materials to build new walls for their protection in these enclaves, and the magnificent aqueducts, etc. stopped supplying the city's water. But other than that, everything was just great.

Posted by: Wurlitzer at September 10, 2007 7:59 AM

As Constantinople grew to a million. We likewise have a movement from the Rustbelt to the Sunbelt, but Michigan would be one of the wealthiest countries on Earth if it were independent. The question remains whether even rump Rome hasn't been a comparably wealthy place to its peers throughout its "decline."

Posted by: oj at September 10, 2007 8:15 AM