How does the Roman Empire before its collapse compare to the present-day America? While the economy of the United States of America has continued to be the strongest in the contemporary world for quite a long period of time, this country has been experiencing persistent economic decline within the recent past. Similar to what happened before the fall of the great Roman Empire, in the recent past, the U.S has been experiencing increased unemployment rates, has developed entitlement programs for its population of poor people, increased bailouts for huge businesses and progressively increased government handouts to the unemployed. According to the most recent statistics from the Department of Labor in the U.S, the rate of unemployment is also now at 9.9 percent (Yingling, 2010). The similarities between the Roman Empire and the current U.S nation have made many people to believe that the U.S is on the verge of collapse, just like the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, it is important to note that there exist some differences between the two civilizations, and therefore the U.S can overcome its obstacles and move on as a great nation. Even with all this optimism, it is important to note that the U.S has created most its own issues and problems and so it needs to learn some lessons from the fall of the Roman Empire for it to remain stable.
Before anyone can conclude that the United States is on the same path of falling like Rome, it is imperative to look at the similarities and differences which exist between the rise and fall of the Roman Empire in 365 A.D. and the United States of America within the twenty-first century. Of course, there are many similarities than differences between the present American Empire and the then Roman empire such that a majority of people tend to believe that America is on the verge of collapse like the Roman Empire. The most obvious similarity is military strength. In deed, it is clear from history that Rome was the superpower of its time. On the other hand, the United States of America is perceptibly the unrivaled superpower in the contemporary world.
The military of the Roman Empire received the best training and the finest equipment that the entire world had ever seen during their time. In addition, the Roman Empire military received the biggest budget from the government of the time as compared to all other militaries in other civilizations. The United States of America on the other hand is just as dominant as the Roman Empire was. Apart from being unrivaled in its technological development, it has a huge military budget that is not matched by any of the other powerful countries in the whole world today. In fact, its military budget is larger than that of all the other nine powerful countries of the world such that the U.S can deploy its units almost anywhere on the globe within a very short time (Gill, 2010).
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Nevertheless, there are several notable differences between the two empires. First and foremost, the U.S did not form any formal colonies during its emergence, a thing that the Roman Empire often did. Furthermore, up to this moment in time, the United State of America has never shown any signs of deploying any ruling consuls in other monarchies as did the Roman Empire. It is however notable that the U.S and Rome have had their share of conquering and colonizing as evidenced in their written histories throughout the centuries. Another vast difference between the U.S and Rome is that the former was instituted on the basis of rebellion against another empire, i.e. the British Empire, for the purpose of freedom and self governance, while the latter embraced their status as the masters of the whole world. Compared to the Romans, very few Americans can claim to brag of the rights on their own imperialism. The American situation is an evident paradox of a country that embraces democracy and the ideals of life, emancipation and the quest for happiness, yet the rest of the world views it as a nation which forces its way of life on other nations so as to become their master.
In my view, the U.S is far away from being another Rome. The Roman Empire needed expansionism so much so as to maintain its excess’s. On the other hand, the U.S has never expanded its territories since it admitted Alaska and Hawaii in the Union of 1949. Nevertheless, America seems to be a country with an insufficient electorate which needs to be corrected. In addition, many Americans no longer care about their country as a whole, but about what it can do for them as individuals. This thinking is much worse than that of the Romans and it may ultimately lead to what happened to Rome.
According to Yingling (2010), it is becoming undoubtedly very evident that the U.S. is even more Roman than the way people perceive it to be. Just as the Romans configured a pattern of how imperial business was supposed to be conducted, the Americans in the U.S today are employing similar tactics without fail, only that they do not recognize the Roman roots of these tactics. For instance, as aforementioned, the Roman Empire had the greatest military strength, well known to the rest of the world such that it was certainly feared by all other civilizations of the time. Secondly, the Romans had a very good infrastructure which included roads, bridges, aqua ducts and several other engineering achievements which enabled their military to traverse the land very quickly. The U.S seems to have borrowed these tips from the Roman Empire. Rome understood very well that if it was to last as a world power, then its people had to excel in wars and cultural battles which often existed in political circles, bearing in mind that the Roman Empire extended over several continents with vast cultural divides (Murphy, 2007). Rome’s greatest downfall came about as a result of seducing its own people. The Roman Empire used to provide its citizens with baths and central heating as a means of enslaving them. Unfortunately, these citizens never realized that they were being enslaved by the magnificent things that were being provided to them. In the modern-day world, the U.S offers its people several things to seduce them such as my personal favorite, Wal-Mart and Starbucks for 24/7 shopping, and entertainment joints such as Disneyland, just to mention a few.
It is therefore apparent to construe that the American and Roman models of governance and the practice of capitalism are developed from the principles of growth through the utilization of the labor force with the appeal of good and enjoyable life as an individual’s main goal. This scenario explains why it is essentially possible for someone to rule others by making them to work for him/her, a situation which is also similar to using the remote control of a television. According to Gill (2010), this state of affairs has contributed to the throw away society which is a true reflection of the U.S. Once more, this is not in any way different from the way the Romans viewed most of their conquered subjects.
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It can be argued that the United States of America uses the above mentioned technique with so much ease (Murphy, 2007). This is because of its foreign policy which dictates and advocates for the presence of homogeneous thinking and implementation of the American ideals, with very little consideration of the economic and political differences of the conquered societies. The fiasco in Iraq is a perfect example of the total lack of forethought towards a nation that is divided by frequent warring factions. It is interesting to note that the fall of the Roman Empire came about primarily because of a lack of forethought as well. The Romans assumed that social, cultural and economic diversities could be simply bridged through implementing the Roman way, but this was mistaken. Likewise, it can be argued that the United States of America, with regard to the Iraq war, has learned that the American way does not work all the time. Simply put, it is significant to note that human beings have an innate desire to do things in their own peculiar ways. As a result, if someone ignores to the social, cultural and economic fiber and essence of a people, then there is the danger of an ultimate failure in any attempt to establish a society out of such people, or form a government which does not address these significant aspects of a society.
The United States of America also employs a similar misguided foreign policy in its dealings with China. China is well known as a communist and socialist nation that is progressively turning its back on its soul towards embracing capitalism, which indeed is its biggest nemesis. From the viewpoint of the United States of America, the complete absence of moral values and the violation of human rights only strengthen the demise of implementing the American ways in a nation which is very different from it, which does not even value its basic immutable rights (Gill, 2010). These two examples, among many others, bolster the argument of why the United States of America might be treading on a similar path that was used by the Romans, which ultimately led to the collapse of their own empire. If nothing is done, then in due course, as the United States keeps on forcing its way of life on other diverse cultures, the end result might be its own downfall.
Nevertheless, having said that Rome and America share many militaristic and economic similarities, it is now imperative to find out if this resemblance is mere coincidence, or if America is truly doomed for the same fate. First of all, it is important to note that Rome did not fall because of only militaristic and economical issues. These two issues stemmed up from a much wider problem which the United States should pay adequate attention to since it mirrors the American state of affairs, more than militaristic and economical issues (Yingling, 2010). Prior to the fall of Rome, the national pride of the Romans and their patriotism had reduced to a relaxed and false sense of security. Romans believed that they would never fall. They believed that they were invincible and superior to the rest of the world and that their empire would last forever. In addition, they had begun to forget the virtues and morals which they once believed in and fought for, such as the significance of hard work and the family. Their high esteemed passion to protect their empire also reduced and, perhaps, they only protected it out of fear and not patriotism.
Similarly, most American people have forgotten the virtues and morals of the founding fathers of their nation. They have lost much of their patriotism towards America as a nation. America feels the same sense of false security which the Romans felt 365 years A.D. Many Americans feel that they are, and will always be invincible. This kind of thinking would not stop America in following the footsteps of Rome. Nevertheless, there is still some hope of survival and indeed, America can overcome its obstacles and move on as a great nation. The solution lies in going back to the values and morals of the founding fathers of this great nation, and above all, the morals and values of religion. According to Murphy (2007), history should certainly be a guide to understanding the present, and not an impediment.
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One of the lessons which America can draw from the Roman experience is that liberal democracies do not make for good neighbors. For instance, the liberal democracies of Greece led to incessant warfare. On the other hand, the rise of the Roman Empire had known nothing but constant wars, often between opposing democratic nation states. The peace and prosperity which existed in Rome, before its downfall, was a result of the subordination of liberal democracies to a broad imperial rule. As such, Rome’s mission of bringing peace was through taking up the burden of imperial rule. America ought not to follow the same path.
The second lesson which America can draw from the Roman experience is that it is very difficult to transfer institutions of freedom. The Roman Empire was a liberated nation, or simply a democratic republic, under law. It is important to note that Rome could not transfer this liberty to other parts of the world. The Romans came to appreciate the fact that freedom is not a worldwide value. America ought to understand that it cannot neglect the responsibilities of self-government and concentrate on matters of security as did the Roman Empire.
The third lesson which America can draw from the Roman experience, and which the Romans also learnt is that a constitution which is designed for a small city-state cannot be used to govern a world empire. When Rome was established in 753 BC, and when it became a republic in 509 BC, it was a very tiny republic by the Tiber River. Its constitution could therefore not bear the burden of the world empire which it became. In fact, the military dictatorship that was exhibited by the Roman Caesars was due to the decisions that were made by the Romans themselves. The Romans chose to remain a superpower rather than a free nation and that’s why they accepted the military dictatorship which was exhibited by Julius Caesar and his subsequent successors. In fact, this leads us to the fourth lesson which America can draw from the Roman Experience: there is no drawing back once a nation takes the path of becoming a superpower, and on its way, this nation arouses too much hatred. Romans chose to follow the path of being a superpower to the end. This led to another burden which the U.S can learn from Rome: what matters in the end is the legacy which is left behind. Even though the Romans called their city the city of eternity, they certainly knew that one day Rome would be no more. Nevertheless, Rome left behind a legacy: a legacy of law, architecture, artistic creation and above all, spirituality.
Americans must therefore ask themselves if they are actually willing to follow the empire path. They must ask themselves if they have the treasury of moral courage which the Romans had to neglect in order to undertake the burden of building a world empire. In addition, they must ask themselves which kind of legacy they want to leave behind. In order to overcome the Roman path, America should focus on making peace and strengthening its foreign policy especially on militaristic actions and stop the mere foreign policy of Americanization of the whole world. One of the things that Americans can do so as to allow democracy to prevail is to utilize their freedom of speech and expression so as to pass this point directly to their government.