The United States of America and Ancient Rome: The Sobering Parallels of Big Government Failure

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

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6 Responses

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  1. Mommy V
    Aug 15, 2013 - 05:54 PM

    I’m very disappointed in this article. I am conducting a research paper comparing The Ancient Roman economy to the current United States economy. This article looked like a good read, until I actually read it. First of all, where are your sources for your information? You clearly did not conduct any research outside of your own personal opinions because if you had, you’d know that the food stamp program does not allow for purchases of anything taxable, including alcohol, tobacco, and candy. To further that, it does not even include an option to purchase toilet paper, an essential human need. Furthermore, President Clinton looked to private companies to completely overhaul and re-structure the welfare system back in the 1990’s and this was supported by many Republicans.

    I’m also a little confused about how liberals will “demonize” anyone who supports regulation. Liberals fully support regulation, in fact, its something that they regularly talk about, on this little unknown site that might become popular, called “Facebook”. Look, this paper is unsupported by validated facts, it’s clearly someone’s opinion disguised as a legitimate argument paper.

  2. Rj
    Nov 07, 2012 - 04:12 PM

    It’s called ‘statoil’, or variants thereof depending on which country you are talking about, but the concept is consistent: the state owns the oil. Those economies receive significant income from oil. To their credit, they largely distribute it to their citizens (unlike many African or Middle Eastern countries, who do not distribute broadly). The US cannot do what the Scandies do, because they don’t have a large pool of money to distribute. Given that basic fact, the resulting economic systems become non-comparable.

  3. Chris
    Sep 06, 2012 - 11:13 PM

    I’m not entirely sure of your logic here. The Scandinavian nations (Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc.) are the most socialist in the world today, with high wealth redistribution, free or near-free tuition, and universal healthcare. And they seem to be doing pretty good. Actually, their citizens are the happiest in the world, according to recent studies.

    That doesn’t seem like failure to me.

    • Proud doer
      Nov 07, 2012 - 12:13 PM

      So Chris, history’s lessons aside- do you discount the fact that our country is devolving into a nanny state and those that “do” are becoming tired of supporting those in our society that find excuses the best part of their day? Please try to immigrate to one of those Scandinavian countries. They won’t take you or I, because ultimately they know their resources are limited. So are our resources. Time is running out.

    • Steve
      Nov 25, 2012 - 08:21 PM

      I see people bring this up a lot, how these socialist nations are doing so well. I think part of it with their population so small it is more manageable and several of the countries a large producers of oil and gas especially relative to their population.

    • Joey
      Jan 07, 2013 - 06:01 PM

      The Scandinavian nations do not have to sustain a military. If the US did not require a military, we would be able to keep half the population at home doing nothing and not have to worry about deficits. The fact that you seemingly prefer a system like this makes me believe that you lack drive, desire, and resolve.


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