This is a reprint of a post I did back in November of 2007. With the political landscape of today it is even more relevant.
I am reading The Columbia History of the World right now (maybe that explains the lack of whimsy - 1100 pages plus written in textbook form) I am reading now about the Roman empire/republic. I came to a passage that almost shocked me with it's relevance to my thoughts of today. Here it is: (and I quote giving all rights to the book)
Rome ceded more easily to the demand for citizenship because her supply of citizen soldiers had continued to dwindle, and her mob of citizens without property, to grow. Of the attempts to reverse these changes the most famous were those of the Gracchi brothers in 133 and 123. Relyng on bourgeouis support, they advocated extension of citizenship to the allies, resettlement of small farmers on public land (hitherto rented to senators at minimal rates) resumption of colonization, and provision of grain at less than market rates to feed the Roman poor, pending their settlement. The longest-lived of these measures was the last: most of the Roman mob preferred poverty and indolence in Rome to the hard work of a small farmer, and when one party began to bribe them with public money, the other could not offer less, so cheap grain gradually became free grain, and other "relief" measures went on increasing through the centuries until the imperial government broke down.
Besides tbe run-on sentences that are a trademark of the book, this is great stuff and parallels today in the US (and other parts of the world). Read and re-read the passages; substitute food stamps for provision of grain at less than market rates and welfare/entitlement programs in the last line. Now, if you will remember my last post - the bulk of all taxes (government money) comes from a small minority of the population. To put it another way, almost half of the adult population PAYS NO INCOME TAX! In fact, a lot of them get tax credits that actually make their contribution a negative.
Here is the point. All politicians have been trapped in the "government money" grab. A large portion of people vote for the candidate that can get federal funds to be spent in their constituency. A lot of voters will vote for the candidate that they feel will "give" them the most.
With less than half of the people paying all the income taxes, what motivation would the majority have to bother themselves with what the taxes are? Democrats have been the traditional party of tax and spend, but unfortunately of late the Republicans are catching up (and even surpassing) fast! Read the Roman history lines again. The part about when one party began to bribe them with public money, the other could not offer less... really brings home our situation today.
I could ramble on and on but I hope this makes my point. Solutions anyone....??
I have heard throughout my life that the Roman Empire fell due to corruption. From my studies over the years, I can say that is mostly true. However, I do not feel the social and moral corruption was as big a problem as their government and politial corruption. The US has been called the modern Roman Empire or "new Rome". I fear we will suffer the same fate as old Rome.