Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Decline and Fall

Ye socks may not recall Edward Gibbon's famous treatise on why the Roman Empire collapsed, but I've been thinking about it a lot over the last week or so.

Ironically, he wrote it back in 1776, when our grand experiment in democracy began.

Now, as things seem to be unraveling, I wondered if there were any parallels.

Gibbons did a lot of research, and his work is very interesting to read if you're a history buff like yours truly. But, I disagree with his overall thesis, because he points to the rise of Christianity as the trigger for an overall "loss of civic virtue."

According to him, the Romans stopped focusing on building-up the material world around them and started focusing on their individual eternities.


I am much more inclined to accept the explanation put forth by Ludwig von Mises, who believes the Romans collapsed due to bad economic policies:

* They allowed their currency to drop in value, much like we have debased the dollar in recent years.

* They instituted price controls that led to a shortages in consumer goods, kinda like what we've experienced with fuel.

* The shortages caused people to worry about mere subsistence instead of expanding markets, just like a lot of ye socks have reduced the number of miles you add to the odometer of your SUV's.

* And, finally they instituted an arbitrary system of taxation that punished trade and discouraged innovators, frighteningly similar to what The Disaster in Waiting has promised to do after January 20th.

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