No, America Won’t Fall Like Rome

In fact, we’re going to fall a lot harder than they ever did

Jared Barlament

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Roman ruins in Batna, Algeria (photo by Jamil Kabar on Unsplash)

People these days like to equate the USA with the late Roman Empire, and they’re not totally wrong to do so.

The similarities are clear —

There’s the culture of decadence (which, mind you, is not the same thing as accepting polygamy or homosexuality and cannot at all be called the main culprit of Rome’s collapse no matter what crackpot neocon pseudo-historians may say), where the elite spend egregious sums of money on frivolous things with no regard to the worsening poverty of the masses.

There’s a central government so occupied by internal power struggles (whether between parties or military factions) and foreign entanglements that necessary public functions become privatized (whether by corporations or wealthy landowners).

There’s seismic shifts in demographics gone pretty much unaddressed by social policies; age-old religions which helped define the early state suddenly falling to the wayside and mass-scale immigration flaring racial tensions.

Some claim Rome’s inability to continue expanding its territory as the main cause of its rot and fall, saying the state was fundamentally dependent on “forever expansion”. We could say the same of America and the insanity of forever economic expansion.

And others claim the slow decay of state institutions caused by the proliferation of bureaucracies and corruption of officials made the Roman government so overblown, inefficient and unnavigable that it collapsed under its own weight. I hope I don’t have to explain the connection there.

All in all, sure, sounds convincing enough.

And yet, whether you’re trying to forecast America’s future with the example of Rome’s republic or its empire (that is to say, with a descent into fascism or a total state collapse), there’s one very glaring difference.

graffiti at the Michigan Central Station, Detroit, MI (photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash)

The problem with the comparison between the United States and Rome is that Rome was never intrinsically linked with an ideology other than…

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Jared Barlament

Author and essayist from Wisconsin studying anthropology and philosophy at Columbia University.