Any simple examination of the history of civilization will shed light on two of the most successful empires of all time– The United States of America and The Ancient Roman Empire. These two impressive success stories are wonders of the world. However, as history shows us, no empire has lasted forever. When the citizens of ancient Rome gave more power to politicians, the Roman government grew to an alarming extent. In the act of promising their constituents hefty entitlements and luxuries, the Roman Empire met the same fate most socialist governments do — failure. As America faces growing challenges in 2012, we should take note of the Roman failures. Ambitious politicians are promising us ideas that sound nice — universal healthcare, a government run economy, and expansive welfare — but their actions will bankrupt the treasury and stifle economic growth in the long run. When forced with decisions to cut spending, these demagogues will opt to cut our defense spending rather than our entitlements, scared to go back on their promises of milk and honey. Like the Romans before us, our military will be weakened, borders breached, and influence waned. History has taught us time and again that the expanding welfare state of a super power will ultimately lead to its demise.
As the Roman Empire grew, so did its welfare program. Born out of the politicians’ desire for power rather than compassion for their constituents, the government began erratic welfare spending. The bureaucrats spent millions on providing wheat, bread, and pork to its poor citizens completely free of charge. These poor citizens, receiving no incentive to work for a living, became non-working recipients of welfare. To humor their lazy constituency, politicians provided them with free entertainment such as circuses and plays. The “poor” — having the luxury of not having to spend money on anything — were even able to afford slaves.
This life of luxury lived by the non-working poor made it so the number of welfare recipients grew tenfold. It bankrupted the Roman treasury, and to pay for the entitlements, they began debasing and inflating their currency, which in turn devastated the economy.
This draws sobering parallels with the current American food stamps system. The program has good intentions and provides millions with essential food necessities. Unfortunately, the system is also ridden with fraud. Millions are able to purchase non-essential food items such as alcohol, tobacco, and candy, and basically anyone can receive these entitlements. If comprehensive entitlement reform is not implemented with the Food Stamp Program, it will bankrupt our treasury a la Ancient Rome. We already see the U.S. dollar declining in value, so this should be an issue of high priority.
In order to pay for the excessive welfare programs and public works projects (such as The Coliseum), spending cuts had to be made in Ancient Rome. To ensure the needy constituency wasn’t directly offended, Rome decided to cut defense spending. This bares resemblance to the 2012 Democratic Party’s stance on spending; the only department they see eligible for cuts is the military. This made the Roman military progressively weaker, and the incentives for joining the military were basically deleted. This led their borders to be open to invasion (like our Southern border), and their weak army was no match for the invading barbarian hordes. Like present day Al-Queda and other Anti-American entities, these barbarians didn’t reason and negotiate, and subsequently, Rome was ransacked.
They say history repeats itself, but that isn’t entirely true. Humans repeat the stupidity of humans before them, therefore fulfilling history’s repetition. The inevitable fall of great civilizations stems from big government. When you trust overambitious and selfish politicians, you soon learn that they don’t really care about your welfare; they just care about your vote. Liberals will take credit for welfare programs and demonize anyone who favors regulation or review of their legitimacy, but the real reason for their fondness of welfare is their fondness of power. If we don’t make serious cuts in entitlement spending, the power of the federal government will grow even larger, and subsequently be rendered broke. If we keep kicking the can down the road, inflation will become even more rampant; and, as the value of the dollar plummets, so will the American economy. Furthermore, if we let power seeking progressives make cuts to our military and defense, we will be susceptible to invasion and occupation and therefore writing our own conclusion of the United States of America.
Colin Snell | Burlington College | Pemberton, New Jersey | @SnellColin