Parallels between the United States and old Rome are a commonplace since 2008. A corrupt, venal and largely dysfunctional elite class has adopted an ideology, Objectivism, which offers a rationale and all-purpose excuse for its ascendency. A military establishment that’s metastasized like a tumor. An attempt to manipulate the state religion to justify all of the above. The echoes are there. As well, though critics of the comparison point to differences. Rome was an agrarian economy based on slave labor.
But while wage slavery is an improvement on chattel slavery, it can in downturns be just as, if not more degrading. As the wags say, masters felt an obligation to feed and house their slaves, however badly. The strutting entrepreneurs feel no such compunction. What’s more, under the new spirit of the age, Ayn Randians condemn the charitable spirit that ameliorated some of the horrors of early industrial America’s Gilded Age. Puritan virtues always made Americans shy of accepting any help. Now, however, the rich themselves are meant to feel that they have achieved their station by natural law. Any attempt to bring comfort to the afflicted is contrary to Jesus’ teachings of Self Reliance and Personal Responsibility. Or something.
Back in the 90s, I laughed when Newt Gingrich would babble about responding to de-indutrialization by demolishing welfare. This was supposed to push each Personally Responsible American into being an internet entrepreneur. He had an eager acolyte in Bill Clinton and the New Democrats. We’re still under their thumb well over twenty years on. Reagan’s mix of jingoistic Morning in America happy talk and institution of a patronage system and consolidation of economic power in the hands of a rapidly decreasing number that the Romans would have no trouble recognizing brings us back to the days of Diocletian. Just befoe the wheels came off the operation and Rome changed leaders like babies change diapers.
Gosh, I’m always a ray of sunshine!