Does history repeat itself? (FB Ali)


Does History repeat itself? Many thinkers, from ancient times to modern, from Polybius to Hegel and Santayana, have thought so. Karl Marx, alluding to Hegel’s formulation, sarcastically added the well-known bit about “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”. Whether one believes in this theory or not, it is interesting to look at the many parallels that exist between Ancient Rome and the United States of America today.

Both were republics, governed by elected representatives. Their involvement in wars gradually changed this into rule by monarchs. Their early rulers, tempered by their wartime experiences, generally governed wisely – Octavius/Augustus on the one hand, Roosevelt/Truman/Eisenhower on the other. However, they were followed by others of a different type, the successors becoming increasingly warped as time passed, and more and more power seeped into their hands. As power accumulated with the monarchs, conspiracies and coups multiplied. Emperors were assassinated, presidents were forced from office.

As the powers of the monarchs increased, and their quality deteriorated, the weirdness of their antics manifested themselves more and more. There was Tiberius and his ‘minnows’ in the Blue Grotto; and Clinton sporting with Monica in the Oval Office. Caligula made his horse a Consul; Trump makes his son-in-law his policy chief. Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Trump tweets all the time. Clumsy Claudius was a figure of fun for many in Rome; George Bush Junior was (and is) the same for many in the USA (for example, see David Letterman). But the snickering of their people did not stop either of them from launching wars and bringing death and destruction to many lands.

 The early rulers shared power with the elected representatives, but gradually all power passed into the hands of the monarchs. As this process occurred, more and more of this power seeped down into the hands that carried the weapons, and they began to play an increasing role in affairs of state. In Rome it was the Praetorian Guard, in the USA it is the Pentagon and the Deep State. With this power these entities began to interfere in government, even to the extent of enthroning and removing monarchs.

As conditions deteriorated in the country, and its entanglements abroad increased, the need arose to keep people amused (though perhaps bemused would be the more accurate term). Bread and circuses in one case; cheap junk food and 24-hour TV in the other (as William Astore notes in the Huffington Post). Such times also bring forth the critics and warners. In Rome there were Tacitus, Cicero and Seneca; today the USA has its Patrick Lang, Andrew Bacevich and Tom Engelhardt (we even have a 'Publius Tacitus' on this blog, sounding much the same warnings). Unfortunately, then as now, they are largely voices crying out in vain, drowned out by the noise of heedless revelry, and the beating of the drums of war.

For the rest of the world, in both ancient times and now, the mark of the imperial power is the wars being waged in their midst or around them, or the imperial soldiers in their camps and cantonments around the world. The people see their governments bow and scrape before this imperial power; those that dare to stand up to it either lie shattered (as does Libya) or are hemmed in on all sides and under imminent threat of attack (as in Iran’s case). But, while rulers and governments tremble, on the fringes of the empire the “barbarians” muster and rise up, and push back against the relentless outward pressure of the empire.

In Rome’s case, the “barbarians” finally beat the legions and conquered Rome. How will they fare this time?

One big difference now is that, if it goes down, the empire has the power to take the world down with it.

Will the end of the American empire signal the demise of our world?

This entry was posted in As The Borg Turns, Borg Wars, History, Iran, Libya. Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Does history repeat itself? (FB Ali)

  1. Grimgrin says:

    If the US is still in its equivalent of the Julio-Claudians, then the empire has a good long way to go yet, and it’ll be a relative eternity before the last light goes out. Though I don’t think the US is there yet. Just as Rome was an Empire long before it got an Emperor, I think the US is still an Empire without an Emperor.
    If I’m making a parallel, I’d tend to place the US in the late Republican period, where the norms and rules are being broken apart. What I see in Roman histor was a constant bending. The Populares bend things their way, the Optimaes bend things back, and with the constant bending, the contentions and traditions, the iron that stabilized the republic starts to snap. Once all the conventions are gone, then it all just degenerates into a raw scramble for power. That’s what I’m seeing in the US now.
    It’s also worth remembering with gloomy predictions that you never quite know when a Trajan or a Diocletian is going to show up and turn the inevitable collapse on its head.

  2. Cortes says:

    The Emperor Gaius (Caligula was a nickname (“Babyboots”) conferred on him when he was shown to his father’s troops dressed up as a tiny legionary) has had a very bad press. See:
    re his horse, for example. His wit was perhaps his undoing.
    The comparison with Rome has been building since the days of Harold Macmillan who’s supposed to have envisaged a new role for post-imperial Britain as “Greece to their Rome ” in reference to the USA of JFK.
    Suetonius, Tacitus and the rest were doing what anyone with the most meagre amount of common sense would do: telling history that their rulers could feel comfortable with.
    If it’s true that President Trump is hostage to his security services then perhaps the situation is similar to Claudius’s.

  3. LeaNder says:

    Great contribution FBI Ali.
    Could the inner “barbarians” receive whatever type of echo to their outer “barbarian” counterparts? … And not least who are they/or how expansive can this group get beyond the familiar sleeper individuals or cells?

  4. Lars says:

    A very good macro analysis of the current state of affairs based on a historical context. Of course, as far as the US, there is a growing resistance to our latest Emperor wannabe and his enablers. Whether this will make the pendulum swing too far is yet unknown. The good news is that our Constitution, by design, tries to avoid mob rule and a monarchy. It may be out of whack right now, but historically, it has had a tendency to revert to norm.
    You would think that a nation that prevailed in WWII and put men on the moon could create a functional political system. My personal remedy would be to avoid electing anyone who wants the job. Let’s draft our political leaders.
    As pointed out, there could be a serious correlation between what happens in the US and what will happen in the rest of the world. It a more connected and interdependent world today and that may be what eventually causes the proper remedies, as the economic fallout from dysfunction becomes apparent. At least I hope so. We will soon know whether we learned anything in the last 100 years.

  5. divadab says:

    The Roman Empire never went away. It evolved. So will this one. The key is incorporating the barbarians into your polity. But which barbarians? Choose wrong, go the way of the Byzantines.

  6. David E. Solomon says:

    FBI Ali,
    This is a really terrific piece.
    As an historian of ancient history, I have always thought history was cyclical.
    In my later life, I spent years at Standard & Poors, Bank of New York, and other banking institutions as a computer project manager and programmer. It is amazing what you come to realize when you get a deep exposure to banking, and in particular bonds and bond trading.
    Over the last couple of weeks I have been trying to maximize our income without taking on too much risk. In order to do that, I have been searching though bonds on offer from the brokerage firm my wife and I use.
    It is really unnerving to see the names of long dead banks and other financial institutions attached to a great many of these bonds which were simply repackaged and once again foisted off on the general public.
    I am rambling a bit, but the point really is that Rome used their wars to cover the instability of their financial condition.
    The ancient world also devalued their respective currencies by mixing more and more tin in with their coins.
    I am not advocating for a return to gold as a currency backing, because in the end nothing has any intrinsic value. The only value is the value we assign to it by common agreement.
    This brings me to the current state of the economy. It is nearly ten years since the last financial debacle and the next one cannot be far off.
    This time, the major culprit will be automobiles. The bankers have done the same thing this time with automobile loans that they did last go round with homes. Sub-prime automobile loans (which have enabled the auto market to grow and the cars to grow in size with the individual girth of the drivers) are now nearly as large a problem as they were for home loans in 2008.
    In addition, the banks have once again repackaged these loans so that they could get the credit agencies to improve the bonds ratings without paying any attention to the underlying value of the originating loans.
    This is also happening in other spheres of the banking world.
    The proven way to take attention away from a deteriorating financial situation is to start wars.
    This is a very unfortunate time.

  7. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Thank you for this post. Several times in recent months the blogger Charles Hugh Smith has recommended the book The Fall Of The Roman Empire: A Reappraisal, by Michael Grant, as a reference with which to compare the present day decline of western societies with that of ancient Rome. After at least his third mention of it I finally checked out the single copy available in our county library system and, after getting about half way through it, have found it indeed sobering. Writing over forty years ago, Grant was already seeing striking parallels, and they’ve become only more glaring over time. In a single volume of 325 pages, which include a lot of pictures of Roman relics, reading Grant’s book is a much less ambitious undertaking than Gibbon’s classic and, of course, it takes advantage of two centuries of subsequent research. I recommend it highly for anyone who would like to follow up this topic. It is available at reasonable prices from used book sites.

  8. Trinlae says:

    Since you brought it up, here’s a 1961 harbinger recording of JFK addressing the press on the topic of secrecy:

  9. Old Microbiologist says:

    Related to what you say. It goes beyond politics and wars and can be seen as a decay of society in general and follows a trend. A more comprehensive look at this can be read here:

  10. eakens says:

    I agree with you that subprime auto lending is a risk, however I disagree that it is anywhere nearly as big of a problem as homes. The entire auto loan market is about $1T, with only about 15% of it being sub-prime. Even if you assume another 10% slips as the economy turns into sub-prime, that entire market represents $250B. Let’s assume collateral value drops by 50% (which would be massive), that’s a $125B to bail-out the entire subprime sector. The FED creates that in less than 2 months.

  11. Degringolade says:

    I guess that I will only disagree with you on which empire, the East or the West “Chose Wrong”.
    The Western Empire chose the Germans and collapsed in the fifth century. The Eastern empire chose a smattering of different “barbarians” and lasted until the thirteenth.
    So, why are you “harshing” on the Eastern Roman Empire? Eight centuries is an excellent run.

  12. Will.2718 says:

    Too long, for sure. I stopped it before getting into the two Third Romes. The Holy Roman Empire and Holy Russia.
    On the topic of cyclical currents in government, this is a good start:
    “The political doctrine of anacyclosis (or anakyklosis from Greek: ἀνακύκλωσις) is a cyclical theory of political evolution. The theory of anacyclosis is based upon the Greek typology of constitutional forms of rule by the one, the few, and the many. Anacyclosis states that three basic forms of “benign” government (monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy) are inherently weak and unstable, tending to degenerate rapidly into the three basic forms of “malignant” government (tyranny, oligarchy, and ochlocracy). “Ochlocracy” refers to mob rule, not the concept of democracy created in the late-18th century.”
    Republican Rome started out as a reformation after the abuses of the last king, “Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. Lucius Junius Brutus led the revolt that overthrew the last king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, after the rape of the noblewoman (and kinswoman of Brutus) Lucretia at the hands of Tarquin’s son Sextus Tarquinius.”
    The Republic had many checks and balances. The executive power was divided among tribunes and two Consuls. The two Consuls were appointed for only a year. After the Punic Wars, the Republic’s holdings encompassed much of Hispania and near North Africa. Julius Casesar added Gaul, Egypt, and others had added more. The Republican system became unwieldy. There has been the dictatorship of Sulla for a time during the Social Wars. Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger, of the Brutus gens, fearful that Casesar was headed toward a kingship and wishing to preserve the republican ideals of his ancestor, was one of the assassins of Caesar (et tu Brute).
    After the conclusion of the Civil Wars, Octavian founded the Principate. He was the Imperator, or Commander. He did it with kid gloves & sheathed his powers. He was simply the Principes, the first among equals. It was not quite a monarchy, successors were named, and often adopted. There were low spots, the year of the three emperors, the year of the five emperors, Commodus, ElGalbus, etc. Eventually, also divided rule was tried- a system of an Augustus and Caesar ruling together. The ‘barbarians’ were incorporated- Flavius Stilicho, perhaps the most famous commander. The Western Rome eventually fell and the Senate sent the diadem to Constantinople saying there was no need of two emperors. In the next century the Eastern Emperor laid more waste to Italy trying to reconquer it, than the Barbarians had ever done. Yet, Rome continued to exercise tremendous power & influence, but not in the traditional secular way.
    The decline of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Persian Empire was not at the hands of the northern or eastern barbarians but from a Black Swan Event (to use Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s term)- an unexpected, unpredicted event of cataclysmic consequences. (Rumsfeld’s Unknown Unknown). The Byzantines withstood defeat by the Goth’s at Adrionople & rise of Muhammed & Islam and the unification of the Arabians. They lost much territory, lost Crete, Cyprus, withstood several sieges, a Latin plunder & rule (to come later from 1204-1261), but still held on. But a fatal blunder, as Col. Lang once said, cost them. They has weakened the Armenians by moving some of the Armenian lords from their mountain home to Eastern Syria-Anatolia. This left an easy invasion path for the Seljuk Turks. After the battle of Manizerkt (1071), they lost Anatolia. And finally, Constantinople to the Osmanli Turks (Ottomans) on May 29th, 1453.

  13. The Beaver says:

    Brig. Ali
    Thank you for this piece.
    Just want to share the following also:
    A collection of people classified as interventionists (t0 name names, Bill Kristol, Thomas Friedman, and others) who promoted of the Iraq invasion of 2003, as well as the removal of the Libyan leader, are advocating the imposition of additional such regime change on another batch of countries, which includes Syria, because “it has a dictator”.
    These interventionistas and their friends in the U.S. State Department helped create, train, and support, Islamist rebels, then “moderates”, but who eventually evolved to become part of Al-Qaeda, the same Al-Qaeda that blew up the New York City towers during the events of Sep 11 2001. They mysteriously failed to remember that Al-Qaeda itself was composed of “moderate rebels” created (or reared) by the U.S. to help fight Soviet Russia because, as we will see, these educated people’s reasoning doesn’t entail such recursions.

  14. gnv377 says:

    Byzantium (actually Reastern Roman Empire) lasted more like 1000 years, it ended in 1453

  15. Tom Cafferty says:

    Scientific American reports that atmospheric CO2 just breached 410ppm. Not seen in the last 4 million years.
    I think Mother Nature gets to play barbarian this time around when she decides to breach the gates of planetary coastal cities with storm and water.
    Trump has the “wall” thing right, but it’s sea walls he should be focusing on.
    We might get to see the presidential palace at Mar-A-Lago laid to waste. Now wouldn’t that be something.

  16. Will.2718 says:

    thnx Chuck, just snagged the book from Alibris.

  17. Will.2718 says:

    Meant to say the Armenian lords were relocated to Western Syria/Anatolia. And ever since Latin I class when I found out Julius Ceaser was pronounced Yulius Kaisaar, I struggle to spell the name. A lot of the Greek & Latin names pronounced with a ‘c’ are really K’s. Kikero, Kyprus, Kyklos, etc. Likewise, the J’s are Y’s. A really good read in Alternative History is Turtledove’s “Agent of Byzantium.” In that time stream, St. Mohammet is a Byzantine saint, and the Empire keeps Egypt & the Levant.

  18. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Only over Antarctica.
    Here is a history of CO_2 over the last 500 million years:

  19. Babak Makkinejad says:

    And their solidi coinage was never debased.

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You might find this book instructive:
    The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline

  21. David E. Solomon says:

    Yes but sub-prime auto lines will also do a huge amount of damage to the market for all automobiles (not to mention the giant trucks that just about everyone in rural areas of this country, like ours, insist upon driving).
    So do we once again bail out the manufacturers?
    Last time we bailed out the banks and the auto producers. Many of the bankers deserved to go to jail, but of course that did not happen. Instead we put the burden of their respective bailouts on the shoulders of the common people.
    Goldman Sachs backs many of Trump’s properties and they certainly poured enough money into Hillary’s and Bill’s pockets.
    I have been around long enough to remember the savings and loan crises, and other gems. The only time we every stop the bankers is when we can find someone like Madoff who did not even bother to follow the pretend rules of banking and investment vehicles.
    That said, my wife and I sit with a fairly large chunk (at least for us – small for most upper middle class people) of Goldman Sacks long dated bonds. I intended to sell them before Trump revealed in his first one-hundred days that nothing has actually changed. Only the names of the players have changed.
    Ah well, at least we are elderly and do not have offspring to consider.

  22. The Beaver says:

    BTW: The 1/4 Turkish British MP , also the FM , BoJo has this this to say:
    “The essential thing will be to have a political process that preserves the institutions of the Syrian state while decapitating the monster”, he said.
    And yet he bends over backwards for the GCC. Nice he must think that it is 1920 all over again.

  23. Eadwacer says:

    I prefer Terry Pratchett’s version: Sometimes History doesn’t repeat itself. Sometimes it picks up a club and says “Weren’t you listening the first time?”

  24. VietnamVet says:

    FBI Ali
    Excellent Post.
    Yes, there is an American Empire. It is facing a black swan event this year if Le Pen (right) or Mélenchon (left) is elected President of France. Most recently, the fall of the Soviet Union was due to the party elite finding a way to cash out and the people feeling that they no longer had a vested interest in their government thanks to the gulf between reality and the propaganda. This is occurring, once again, in the West. The consent of the governed is being withdrawn.
    The trillion-dollar question is if a North American Free Trade & Political Alliance will arise after NATO collapses. If a War with Russia is started because it stabbed the West in the back or if California leaves; it is all over. If mankind survives, a resource depleted North America will devolve into cartel cities and no man’s land between.

  25. Chris Chuba says:

    The Romans, were obsessed w/maintaining order and perceived threats to their stability, it wasn’t all about plunder. They instituted free trade between their realm that allowed trade to bypass the home province of Rome that worked against their interests. I’m mentioning this because many go nuclear at comparing the U.S. to an empire in any way, shape or form. It’s not all about economics.
    Here is my main point. In the latter stages of the empire, the Romans had difficulty keeping a standing army large enough to control their provinces so they started raising legions by granting citizenship to barbarians with dubious loyalty. If Trump introduces a ‘visas for military service’ program to staff our military then we have arrived.

  26. Ante says:

    I believe I made a comment a couple weeks ago that went something like, ‘our elite see the US as the Roman Empire and Russia as its Persian Empire.’
    The only way to stop decay, decline, defeat, is to ally Rome with Persia and replace their oligarchies with representatives of their peoples’ interests.
    I’m not sure who’s going to do it, I don’t have the time, but it needs to be done. We need leadership that sees the end of the human world if global warming is allowed to continue unabated, and that civil unrest and anarchy will be a result of present distributions of wealth in some countries and the coming weather related famines.
    I don’t see any popular movement strong enough to do even a little bit of this, instead it will continue on and in the not so distant future, the teeming masses will clash against each other as they try to find the remaining/emerging fertile non desertified farmland.

  27. David E. Solomon says:

    Reader’s of FBI Ali’s post might well want to take a look at this article in the current issue of Harper’s Weekly.
    I think it is very pertinent to his posting.
    Although I would say that the author probably ascribes more intelligent thought to the majority of the global elites than they deserve.
    Nevertheless, we are all clearly deeply in trouble.

  28. Colonel,
    Your site goes from strength to strength. There must be any number of us grateful to you for keeping it going. When I’ve mastered the mechanics of the process I must put through a contribution to its running expenses. It was so strange, a while back, to find a site of such quality among the lunatic mess of the internet and it’s never been more needed than now.
    If I may, I’d also like to respond to two of your contributors and commentators.
    Cortes – I’m afraid your quote is authentic. “Greece to their Rome”. Such a sad cliche. Others are –
    “Orderly management of decline”
    “We must educate our masters”
    “Punching above our weight”
    “Keeping a place at the top table”
    English administrators and politicians actually believed in these cliches. Maybe some still do. It was no way to run a country. As we’ve found out. Please don’t think, though, that most of us here take these cliches seriously.
    Nor, on the first, did the Romans. They were hard nosed bastards for all their PR and thoroughly deserved their comeuppance. I don’t think the Americans do and I hope they don’t get it.
    FB Ali – A penetrating if gloomy comparison but are you being just a shade downbeat? 2016 did happen, after all, even if Donald Trump turned out wrong. The Trump movement, the Sanders movement, Brexit. That’s a pretty good haul. We’re not done yet.

  29. turcopolier says:

    English Outsider
    I celebrate things Virginian. I am grateful to TTG for this piece. celebrating Earth Day in Stafford. IMO something began to die in the US at the crest on Cemetery Ridge. It is nearly dead now but not altogether. pl

  30. Jack says:

    In addition to auto sub-prime debt, there’s also the retail sector junk bond issuance. Many covenant lite deals were done as LBOs by the PE folks. Neiman Marcus is a good example as they chose their PIK option to preserve liquidity. What happens to the debt underpinning commercial real estate deals anchored by retail when store closings accelerate?
    As buybacks have increased in lieu of capex many S&P 500 companies keep leveraging their balance sheet. IBM is a good example with 20 consecutive quarters of YoY declines in their top line yet hitting EPS “expectations”. This is all part and parcel of the consequences of Fed balance sheet expansion and rates pinned to the floor. The good news however is that US banks are much better capitalized than in 2007. IMO, the risks this time is not the banks but the ETFs funneling into risk assets. Investors expect liquidity in these instruments where the underlying assets maybe much less liquid. The mindset is the same as 2007 however with keep partying as long as the music is playing. The belief is that the unlimited balance sheet of the Fed can arrest any break and reliquify any market. One of these days that premise will be tested hard.

  31. Jack says:

    FB Ali
    In reading your excellent note I am reminded of a quote by Rudi Dornbusch.
    “The crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought.”

  32. divadab says:

    “The Western Empire chose the Germans and collapsed in the fifth century”
    I beg to disagree- the Western Empire went on from strength, conquering and peopling north and south america, and continuing to define civilisation, although fraying around the edges a bit at present.
    The heart of the Byzantine empire is controlled by Islamofascists, and has been since 1453, as you note. The remnant of the Byzantines is the Orthodox world, centred on Russia.
    Are you saying that the Orthodox world is more successful than the western, Roman, world?

  33. divadab says:

    Nope. The western empire continues in the form of the modern West – the Eastern Empire, tho its heart was conquered by Islam, continues in the Orthodox world centered in Russia.
    Empires evolve and transform – I would argue that the US empire under which we live in unprecedented general prosperity and abundance is a continuation of the ROman Empire – both consciously, in the deliberate adoption of Roman ideas, themes, and institutions, and unconsciously in the ideas generally held by the people.

  34. divadab says:

    “If Trump introduces a ‘visas for military service’ program to staff our military then we have arrived”
    There is already immigration preference for foreigners who volunteer and serve in the military. SO I guess we have already arrived.

  35. Bill H says:

    My best friend in the Navy, who was lost at sea with the USS Thresher, was from Richmond. We served together ashore for almost two years and at sea for three years, and I was best man at his wedding just before he got orders for Thresher and I got orders for Rasher. He was one of the finest men I ever served with. He was a free spirit, a straight shooter, and a more courteous person never lived.

  36. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I cannot comment about Byzantium, but the Persian Empire of the Sassanian Dynasty deserved to be erased from the face of the Earth; it was corrupt at all levels. When Muslim Arabs attacked, the entire house of cards collapsed since no one wanted to fight for it.

  37. Babak Makkinejad says:

    “something began to die in the US at the crest on Cemetery Ridge”.
    Likely the same sentiment that was shared by Sherman: “Damn all those who brought war to our country.”

  38. Phodges says:

    Ce and ci are soft, all other uses of the letter c it is hard. Check out the Romani in Gibson’s Passion of the Christ for a good approximation of what ROman Latin probably sounded like!

  39. Phodges says:

    Joseph Tainter has produced an excellent monograph
    The common theme being that these societies had survived many times events of the type to which their fall is attributed, and that it was the failure of political structure which eventually took away their resilience to otherwise nonfatal challenges.

  40. different clue says:

    English Outsider,
    Trump,Sanders, Brexit … show that some people are searching for a way out. If they discover they have picked a blind alley, they will turn back and keep looking for other ways out.

  41. different clue says:

    David E. Solomon,
    I would suggest also looking at student loans. I believe they are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy, thanks to Joe Biden and his supporters in the House and Senate. That was a major part of his Bankruptcy Deform Act . . the non-dischargeability of student loans in bankruptcy.
    Then too, any so-called “asset-class” which may be bundled up and re-divided into pieces for selling on downstream to sucker-investors may cause a collapse if a big enough percentage of the so-called “assets” become “non-performing”.
    A good preventive reform against any more such “sick paper” collapses in the future would be a rigid ban on selling any loan of any sort to any buyer. Him that originates a loan must be legislatively forced to keep the loan on his own books till the loan is paid off or defaulted on.
    I think of it this way. If one cow in a million has mad cow disease, and every cow is turned into a separate batch of separately sold hamburgers . .. maybe a thousand people will get mad cow disease. Whereas if the whole million cows are sent to one central factory and ground up into one big mass of hamburger meat, that one-cow-in-a-million worth of mad cow meat will be carefully mixed throughout the entire million-cows-worth of hamburger meat. Millions of people will get mad cow disease from that one mad cow.
    And so it was with the 2008 collapse. Mad cow assets were ground up together with sane cow assets and a uniform mixture of mad cow securities was sold to millions of people.

  42. different clue says:

    David E. Solomon,
    No, we did not bail out the auto producers. We crammed them down.
    Hundreds of dealerships were forcibly closed. All the stock shares of old General Motors went to zero I believe. The little glowing core of post-cramdown Chrysler was merged into Fiat.
    Only the banks were bailed out. Their mad cow assets were bought by our government at “mark-to-bullsh*t” prices. They were collectively given several trillion “dollars worth” of newly-emitted “free money” by the Federal Reserve. Not one Fire Sector perpetrator lost its job. Not one Fire Sector perpetrator even had to give back its bonuses. Can we say the same for the grand leading auto execs of the cramdowned auto companies?
    Then too, the auto companies actually make real things. What do the FIRE sector perpetrators make? “Money”?

  43. different clue says:

    Babak Makkinejad,
    No, not over Antarctica. Over Mauna Loa, the big volcano of Hawaii, where the CO2 skyload has been measured for several decades now.

  44. Keith Harbaugh says:

    One of the great failures of post-1960 intellectual life, in my opinion,
    is the devaluation of Arnold Toynbee as an honored thinker.
    His twelve-volume A Study of History
    and its abridgment into two volumes by D.C. Somervell
    were highly esteemed in the 1950s,
    a period and situation I have personal memory of.
    It emphasized the cyclic nature of history; see the web page linked to above.
    America’s situation since, say, 1989,
    I especially recommend the section “The Suicidalness of Militarism”
    and its discussion of
    Κόρος, Ϋβρις, Άτη
    i.e., surfeit, hubris, disaster.
    What better describes what has happened to America?
    As to why Toynbee was devalued by the academics,
    I have little doubt it is due to three ideas or statements of his:

    1. the idea that Western civilization was of value;
    2. his statement that today’s Jews are a “fossil” (his word) of the Syriac Civilization; and
    3. his explicit comparison, in Volume XII, Reconsiderations of A Study of History
      of the Jews treatment of the Palestinians to
      the Nazis treatment of the Jews.

    For an interesting expose of the relation between Toynbee and at least some of the Jewish community, see

  45. Lyttenburgh says:

    Actually agree with this.
    “The early rulers shared power with the elected representatives, but gradually all power passed into the hands of the monarchs. As this process occurred, more and more of this power seeped down into the hands that carried the weapons, and they began to play an increasing role in affairs of state”
    One moment please. This is, actually nit quite true. From the very beginning the power in Rome was concentrated in the hands of those who were wielding weapons. All Roman elite was warrior elites. Rome had to wage constant wars with its neighbors, even if it was a republic. In his career, it was virtually unheard of for a potential Senator or Consul not to take part in this or that military campaign.
    But that was early to mid. Republic when the Patricians were indeed a warrior elite. By the time of the Later Republic not only some of Plebeians became all things considered their equals, but it also became possible to make a career and reach significant positions in the government without first serving in the military – for real – and participating in campaigns. Julius Caesar unexpectedly blossomed into becoming a true military talent very, very late in life.
    At the same time… was it really like this in the North American Republic? The elite, was it formed by participating in wars and skirmishes, which there were plenty? No, of course not – for only a few it was a profession or a true calling.
    MIC is not a Praetorian Guard. MIC is the whole strata of the old Republican warrior-elite, a self-perpetuating class of soldiers gone powerful civilians urging the state in the direction of their liking. This is not Ceasarism – yet. But close.

  46. Interesting post and thread! I am predicting defeat of Theresa May and some of the British Isles petitioning for U.S. Statehood, as well Puerto Rico and Cuba all in this century. And perhaps the Northern States of Mexico.

  47. shepherd says:

    I don’t mean to be critical, as I always enjoy your contributions, but the problem with this and almost any other comparison of the US to Rome is that it is unaware of the actual history. There is no history repeating itself, because this is not the history of Rome. It’s a popular myth. Every emperor mentioned here actually lived in a time of Rome’s ascent not decline.
    Tiberius was the successor to Octavian. He did not come later, he’s the stepson. At that point, Rome had not yet occupied Britain. Hadrian’s Wall wouldn’t be built for over 100 years. Tiberius seems to have been an extraordinarily capable, able general, who should be mentioned in any list of great military leaders. Roman emperors were very often the top military men of their time, especially after Nero.
    The stories about Tiberius and others were written a hundred years after his death and don’t necessarily reflect reality. They were probably created to show why newer, better leadership was needed (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian), not to show that Rome was in decline, which it wasn’t.
    The empire reached its greatest range and power under Trajan, who ruled in the first part of the 2nd century AD. A hundred years later, under Septimius Severus, the Roman Empire extended from Hadrian’s Wall to the Tigris. A hundred years after that, under Constantine, it still had roughly the same borders. Its relatively swift, Western decline occurred only after that, and so could not possibly have anything to do with people living 300 years earlier. Needless to say, the Eastern Empire (which is the true political descendant of the Empire) lasted until the 15th century AD, more than a millennium later.
    The actual history of Rome is much more about things like religion, organization, legal structures, manpower, and external pressure. The colorful stories about the Julian line occupy a small part of its long, successful history.

  48. Jack says:

    What the Roman analogy shows is that even after decay sets in the empire can continue on a lot longer than many expect.

  49. Zaki says:

    History does not repeat itself…. please give one example… . American are no Romans, most of them are much smarter than some of themselves.

  50. David, thank you for your comment. You support a comment I made above on the post about the Senate being called to meet at the WH in regard probably to a military plan in the Pacific.
    Sometimes I do feel that politicians fight wars when they don’t know what else to do about a failing economy.
    The opening of this post about the cyclical, or repetitious, nature of history mentions several thinkers/philosophers; however it fails to mention my favorite book about the way time revolves.. Most know it in English as the book of Ecclesiastes. Some know it as the Preacher, and those who have really studied the book know the name Qoheleth.
    All is vanity. There is nothing new under the sun. (And the word “vanity” might have just as accurately been translated as “wind” as I recall.)
    And,I am quite happy that my car, a 2010, is completely paid for, and that I seldom drive it nowadays, though it is in very good condition. But I do know quite a few people who have let their credit scores tank and who can still drive “new” cars when they need them because they get them at those places that charge enormous interest with no down payment and no credit check required.

  51. shepherd says:

    I’m sorry, my schedule does not permit me to come here very often, so my replies are always late. The point I’m making is somewhat different. There was no rot. That’s a literary trope that doesn’t reflect reality.
    Rome was a massive empire ruled primarily by laws, not men. Rome excelled at law, not literature. Among an emperor’s other powers, and occupying the great bulk of his time, was serving as the Supreme Court of Rome, interpreting law.
    If an emperor wished to go against the collective cultural and legal momentum of Rome, his reign was short. He could not effectively rule, and the system spit him out. This is what you see with men like Nero, who lacked any military credentials or taste for ruling. This is not rot but a sign of health: Rome ridding itself of a bad leader. What followed, the Year of the Four Emperors, was a series of military confrontations, mostly between men of considerable accomplishment, in which the best, Vespasian, won. In other words, far from rotting, Rome replaced a weak ruler with a much stronger and more capable one.

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