This article went viral: “Peak Civilization”: The Fall of the Roman Empire
A silver mask that had belonged to a Roman cavalryman of imperial times. It was found on the site of the battle of Teutoburg, fought in September 9 a.d. This year, 2009, marks the 2000th anniversary of the battle that led to the annihilation of three Roman legions and changed forever the history of Europe. It was a tremendous shock for the Romans, who saw their mighty army destroyed by uncivilized barbarians. It was not yet the peak of the Roman Empire, but it was a first hint that something was deeply wrong with it.
Yes, but unlike Iraq, Rome lost because it was unable to win despite wanting to; America lost, not for a want of winning, but because winning would cost more to the economy in terms of less defense spending, than losing. America at any time could have turned Iraq or Afghanistan into a glass parking lot and ended it there. Spreading democracy is like trying to treat gangrene with tweezers, instead of just chopping off the limb.
Many draw parallels between Rome and America, as if America is following similar trajectory of collapse. I take a contrarian view arguing such collapse won’t happen. I cannot prove this with the rigor of a mathematical proof, but I know it to be true anyway. Even Rome did not go away; it still exists, rather it converted to Christianity and split in two. America, similarly, despite demographic and social changes, will exist as a global superpower that exerts its influence through its military, culture, and multinationals even though America, culturally and demographically, will not resemble how it was a century ago. In some sense, due to globalization, America is moving in the direction of anarcho-capitalism, as these autonomous corporations detach from the state, that in the past would have restrained them, but now the state exerts a much weaker pull. Yet America in terms of growing entitlement spending and left-wing culture is becoming more socialist.
You look at the data–innovation (such as in Silicon Valley), global influence, stock market gains, bond yields, real GDP growth, military might, etc.–and it shows America, at least relative to the rest of the world, is nowhere near collapse. It’s not even dipping, which first has to occur before collapse. The closest it came recently was 2008, but somewhat miraculously pulled itself out, and the post-2008 recovery is not the longest economic expansion ever, but I predict it has much further to go, perhaps forever if AI, financial engineering, fed & fiscal policy , globalization, and the increasing power of autonomous corporations are able to make business cycles a thing of the past. Arnold Kling is correct in a podcast that ‘business cycles’ are an outdated concept; there is no macroeconomic precedent for them, but rather it is a contrived idea popularized by books and bad economics, specially, the Austrian business cycle theory, that the economy must be cyclical.
Also, a single data point (the Roman Empire) is hardly sufficient to predict the future, especially for something as dynamic as an entire nation. It reminds me of the same people who in 2008 used a single data point (the Great Depression) to predict a similar outcome for financial crisis, which didn’t happen as shown the unending endurance of the post-2008 recovery.