Are We Rome, asks Freedomfest


Freedomfest is a gathering of conservatives concerned with the fate of our country. I agree with their premise that there are troubling parallels between the US now and ancient Rome. A bellicose nation gets overextended, the currency falters, leaders become corrupt and brutal, and the infrastructure of the society crumbles.

What I don’t see in the list of speakers is anything how to organize and prevent this from happening. Instead their focus is mostly about protecting what you have, an understandable motive to be sure. But if the walls really do come crashing down then we all stand or fall together. Maybe that’s the primary difference in viewpoints between left and right. The left assumes that social and political change comes via mass organization, with social justice being a core value. And “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

However, the people at Freedomfest are genuinely concerned about what is happening to this country. Maybe together we can figure out solutions.

Many historians have warned that the West is going the way of Rome. Rome was the #1 superpower 2000 years ago, and then collapsed. When the British historian Edward Gibbon wrote about “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”in 1776, the British worried that Britain, the #1 Superpower, would lose its dominance in the world”¦..and it did within a century.

Now many experts fear that the United States (and the West in general) are on a road to decline and financial collapse. In 1947, Pulitzer-prize winner H. J. Haskill wrote a book called “New Deal in Old Rome,” making apt comparisons between Rome and the welfare state. Harold Bloom, the famed literary critic at Yale, recently warned, “Twenty-first-century America is in a state of decline. It is scary to reread the final volume of Gibbon these days because the fate of the Roman Empire seems to continue even now. We have approached bankruptcy, foreign wars we cannot pay for, and defrauded our urban and rural poor. We have no Emerson or Whitman among us.”


  1. Only half of the Roman Empire “fell” in the 5th century CE (and there’s plenty of scholarly debate about exactly what happened and why). The other half of the Empire, every bit as corrupt and decadent (the adjective byzantine to describe complicated situations is still in use), continued on for nearly 1,000 years more, finally falling to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

    (As I recall, Gibbon placed a major part of the blame for the fall of Rome on Christianity, something I doubt resonates with most modern American conservatives.)

    I believe the greatest challenge we face now is global climate change which will trigger inevitable populations shifts as people in the most directly affected regions begin to move.

    For example, Bangladesh is an over-populated, low-lying country that already suffers from yearly inundations. If the 150 million Bangladeshis are forced to head for higher ground, what happens?

    Two-thirds of Mexico’s states are suffering from severe drought this year. The US is seeing the effects of extended drought in failed crops and forest fires. Maybe Canada should consider putting up a stout border fence?

  2. A decade ago, Jello Biafra proclaimed us “indivisible from the Fall of Rome.” Since then, we have become more militaristic, more of a police state, more of a failing economy (our debt now exceeds our GDP), more corrupt, more fascist (i.e. corporatist), and more polarized. Perhaps we should add to that more despairing, more medicated, and more violent.

    On a historical note, Constantine co-opted the Church in an attempt to retain control of the empire, which suggests it was already falling.

    It is also worth noting that “mass organization” may not look like what the traditional western Left envisions. The New Left, from Liberation Theology to Sarvodaya (as practiced by Gandhi, Ariyaratne, and others) to Alinsky, believes that community is the key. We seem to believe that the nation builds string communities, when in fact – as recent practice in other countries has shown – strong communities are the basis of society. On that point, they agree wholeheartedly with analyst John Robb.

    If the structure should fall, which seems likely if not inevitable, we will be left with the value on which our nation was formed in the first place: we need our neighbors to survive. This is a radical change for an increasingly urban nation that organizes in like-minded groups rather than communities. In the 25 years I spent in Los Angeles, only rarely did I even *know* my neighbors, much less rely on them. And I’m not alone. I once helped an elderly black lady carry some heavy bags up the stairs of my condo complex. She commented, “You’re not from here, are you.”

    It’s interesting that, despite everyone agreeing that the structure is in peril, few are actually preparing for that eventuality. Here in Utah, preparedness is a religious theme that even many non-Mormons like myself practice. Elsewhere, especially in the city I left nine years ago, people somehow believe that the government will provide, even if it no longer exists. I don’t get it. Let’s say there’s even a 20% chance that the government will fail. That’s like putting one round in the chamber of my revolver, spinning the cylinder, and putting it in my mouth. Hey, there’s an 80% chance I’ll be okay, right? That just seems crazy to me.

    • John Robb isn’t LDS either but he’s also preparing for the fall.

      • Forget mass organizing. Organize your neighbors!

        • True, but sooner or later to be effective the organizing has to, figuratively or literally, march on DC

          • Not really. That’s the point: with healthy, resilient communities, DC becomes irrelevant. But they don’t want you to realize that. So long as we think DC is the problem (and the solution), we’re ignoring our true political power.

          • But it would be better to have DC supporting resilient communities rather than actively opposing them.

            “You may try to ignore politics, but politics will find you” – Christopher Hitchens 🙂

          • They never will, because resilient communities are a threat to their [increasingly] supreme power. We have no leverage with them. We need to stop going to an empty well, and start digging our own (so to speak).

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