Bonta states of Rome that, by the first century B.C., sexual mores had been abandoned, and the former sanctity of marriage forgotten. Crime, once almost unknown in Rome, became rampant. In such an environment, Rome became an easy target for political conspiracies like that of Catiline, which exploited the criminal elements in Rome to carry out bribery, blackmail, and assassination. (Bonta 2005. p36)
One would not be too hard put to find a similar trend in modern America.
From one point-of-view the invasion of the "barbarians" was not the central factor which led to the decline of the Roman Empire. In The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. (1776) the principle reason for the decline of the empire was given as moral degradation. Gibbon states that the actual reason why the barbarian invasion was successful was due to the "....loss of civic virtue among its citizens." Furthermore,
They had become lazy and soft, outsourcing their duties to defend their Empire to barbarian mercenaries, who then became so numerous and ingrained that they were then able to easily take over the Empire. Romans, he believed, had become effeminate, unwilling to live the military lifestyle.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)
This view of the fall of Rome has numerous echoes in a variety of critiques of contemporary American society.
This brief overview and comparison is indicative of the general perception that the United States is facing a decline. This raises the obvious question as to how this decline can be avoided.
An Awareness of the issues that initiate the decline of powerful societies is in itself part of the solution to the problem. In other words, the trends which lead to decline discussed above can be reversed in order to prevent the slide into social collapse. For instance, the issue of surplus extraction and its deterioration into exploitation can be remedied through more equitable balance.
The first requisite is to end the excess and seek a balance between reasonable extraction and reckless exploitation. This has the advantage of also producing a more egalitarian and socially just society, not only for the sake of the many but for the salvation of the few, the elites themselves who have most to lose from decline.
However, while the obvious conclusion to the comparison of The United States with previous empires is that decline is inevitable, yet there are otter views of the future situation. One such view ids that American people in general are not overly interested in pressing the ideal of empire and control over the rest of the world.
Compared with the citizens of Britain in the age of Victoria or of Rome during the time of the Caesars, Americans wear their imperial mantle lightly. They go about the business of empire with a singular lack of pretense We are unlikely to deplete our treasury erecting pyramids or other monuments to our own ostensible greatness.
This view suggests that Americans are too pragmatic and to push the ideals and pretensions of empire to the level where they become self-destructive. However, while this may be the case with regard to many American citizens, this self-depreciating tone does not seem to be the tenor of the present American Administration.
In the final analysis if America is to avoid the fate of older empires it will have to look not only to the economic and political factors which are threatening its future existence, but more importantly to the moral and spiritual flaws in its social makeup. It is only though such a rigorous and critical self-examination that the United States can avoid becoming just another member of the list of fallen super powers.
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Bonta, Steve. "Lessons of Rome: The Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic Provides Lessons That Hint at Flaws in Modern Political Policies." The New American 21 Feb. 2005: 36+.
Bonta, Steve. "Morality Matters: If America Continues to Shed the Values of Her Judeo-Christian Heritage, She Will Surely Follow Ancient Rome into Bondage. Freedom Cannot Long Coexist with Moral Depravity." The New American 15 Dec. 2003: 10+.
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The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, October 12, 2005. http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/t/th/the_history_of_the_decline_and_fall_of_the_roman_empire.htm
The length of this paper obviously precludes any in-depth analysis of these different facets. However, the intention is to provide a broad overview of the most salient aspects relating to the theme of decline.
Of course there are many other factors and correspondences that initiate the decline of empires. The factors mentioned are a focus on the central elements which have been shown to be consistently influential in empire decline.
Fingleton points out that the Unites Sates is in danger of ignoring the effects of accumulating debt in the decline of previous empires.".. While it may not be immediately apparent to voters or even to opinion leaders, it is obvious in national asset/liabilities figures published by the International Monetary Fund. These show that in the first nine years of the 1990s alone, America's net foreign liabilities ballooned from $49 billion to $1,537 billion. Faced with such figures, many American opinion leaders may be tempted to bury their heads in the sand. They should be reminded of the fate of earlier empires that paid too little attention to trade."