The Ultimate End of the United States

14 04 2011

At the front of the chamber of the House of Representatives, on either side of the national flag, are two symbols of power, known as fasces.  These are relief sculptures of the image of an axe embedded in a bundle of sticks and tied together with a strap.  For those who know history, this comes as an obvious reference to the old Roman Empire.  Wherever Caesar went, the fasces were carried before him as a symbol of power.  In the image, here, is also another symbol of power derived from the Roman legacy.  Just to the left and in front of the fasces is a mace with the image of an eagle atop it.  Hitler was in love with this symbolism and used it often, but what he did with it is not relevant, here.  These may be fascist symbols, or they may not be, depending on what meaning we ascribe to them, but one thing they do reference is Rome.

The United States is currently the oldest existing democracy in the world.  This representative democracy was, in fact, modeled after the old Roman design, and for good reason.  The Romans were the first to successfully establish a government that actually served the people.  The ancient Greeks tried democracy, but their efforts were short-lived.  Prior to the Romans, every government had existed for itself.  The citizenry existed to serve the government, and not the other way around.  A king was, essentially, the most successful thief and the most powerful warlord.  He took from the people, and then he took the people.  The people had their property, but the king owned both the people and their property.  Rome turned the entire system on its head.  One can read in the First Book of the Maccabees how the Jews were amazed that a city-state across the sea was managed by consent of the people.  Such a thing was stunning in its uniqueness.  The people of Rome were actually quite content with their way of life, especially compared with nearly all previous civilizations.  Therefore, the Roman model had to be the best possible choice for the creation of a new and happy nation that was to be called the United States of America.

France followed closely after.  Nation after nation followed in the footsteps of the United States.  This experiment has proved successful, at least thus far.  It is still a young nation, and we would like to keep it that way, but all people are mortals, and everything they make is destined to die.  We do well to know our weaknesses.  Democracy may have many moral weaknesses, but only two of them are truly mortal.

The first and greatest weakness of democracy is the tendency for the strongest political leaders to become stronger, while the weakest leaders become even weaker.  In the case of Rome, as with us, the strongest person in government is always the head of the executive branch.  We know him as the president.  They knew him as Caesar.  Our founders attempted to counter this by giving most of the powers of governance to the legislative branch.  It was a nice gesture, at best.  Congress makes a preferable seat of power, because it divides that power among many people.  No single person has enough of it to dominate the whole country.  The most powerful branch, in this case, is also the weakest.  It’s a delicate balance.  Everyone in power has that power because they strove for it.  We can guarantee that they will continue to fight for more power.  Therefore, the people with the most power will continue to take it from people with less of that power.  The legislature, as a whole, may be more powerful than the presidency, at least initially, but the president has far more power than any member of Congress.  The same was true for Caesar.  Consequently, both Caesar and the president naturally tend toward acquiring more power.  Responsibilities originally assigned to the legislature gradually migrate over to the executive.  For example, the act of declaring war, once a legislative function, has given way to “police action,” otherwise known as the president sending troops anywhere to fight for any reason he wants.  Eventually, the president could become powerful enough to remain in power indefinitely, and he might find that he can do exactly as he chooses with his nation.  Rome turned this course over hundreds of years.  Nazi Germany did it in a matter of a few years.  Most Middle-Eastern “democracies” started out this way.  When it happens, whether it changes over the course of several terms, or only one, we will find ourselves as Rome, engaged in expansion, foreign wars, and pretty much all manner of insanity associated with self-aggrandizement, the symptom of someone’s bloated ego.  The nation may not be a kingdom, but it will behave as one.

The second weakness of democracy, the one that actually might make the nation cease to exist, is the tendency to spend itself into oblivion.  Rome fell to the tyranny of the imperial Caesar, but it continued to exist for several years before ultimately crumbling under the weight of its own debt.  That is the hallmark of democracy, unfortunately.  We can see it everywhere we look.  Some nations rushed into it.  Others took their time.  All of them are headed in the same direction, and all of them have the same destination.  Rome died the slow death of depleting funds.  Government suffered from what might be called the grab-bag mentality.  It’s our own hand, even now.  Everyone wants as much as they can get.  No one wants to give more than they must.  Cutting taxes looks good.  Creating programs looks good.  No democracy ever seems to shrink its role, and no democracy ever does naught but slide further into debt.  The third-party payer weakness can be seen in the insurance industry, driving up the cost of health care, and it can be seen in the loan industry, driving up the cost of homes.  Wherever people are detached from their own expenditures, costs are sure to soar.

Even beyond the money issue, we have the problem of diminishing priorities.  Every priority that we have, even our highest priorities, are hurt by every new priority we add.  Each time we add an objective, all previous objectives become a little more neglected as a result.  Hence, even if the national defense is still our highest priority, the addition of environmentalism takes away from our ability to defend ourselves.  On a personal scale, we might consider the automobile: if we want it fast and relatively safe, then we run on gasoline.  If we want it to burn cleanly, then we run it on methane, but then it is less safe and less strong.  Occasionally, people kill themselves while pumping natural gas, while gasoline rarely causes injury during fueling.  We could make the car more efficient by making it smaller and lighter, but then, again, it has a weaker engine, and it gets deadly in a collision.  Each new priority added weakens all preexisting priorities.  As a nation gets older, it continues to add priorities.  Each priority costs something, whether money, human resources, natural resources, or just attention.

We need to be aware of our weakness as a democracy, and we need to vote accordingly.  This means we need to keep our debt in check.  We absolutely need to curb our innate tendency to always add new programs.  We’ve got to focus on the fundamentals, the things that government must provide.  Lastly, we need to vigilantly reign-in the presidency.  This great experiment will eventually come to an end, if only because it was made by humans, but it doesn’t have to end today, or tomorrow, next year or next century.  It doesn’t have to, but it will if we don’t learn from history.

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