Whiffs of the fall of Rome

The Fall of the Roman Empire that highly intelligent film of imperial demise directed by the gifted, if flawed, Anthony Mann, ends with an auction of the emperor's throne. This is seen as the beginning of the end.

When I was last in Washington, I recall a discussion of the 'price' of ambassadorships. That becoming an ambassador has often involved service to the relevant political party in the United States (which has included fund-raising) is a long living truism but that a particular country comes with a particular price is (if true) a new departure (or descent)!

The end of Rome is an increasingly tempting analogy for the United States. An analogy promoted by the on-going events in Congress and between Congress and the office of the President. That certain factions within the former (whether conservative or liberal) can imagine technical default (and the uncertain consequences to the world financial system) as a result of political ideology not involving the measured sense of re-crafting both budget and system is indicative of how far the US is traveling on the path to terminal decline.

The fact that they got to this budgetary impasse by fighting wars (from Vietnam onwards) while believing nobody should sacrifice anything (not least the wealthy) is another indicator of imperial over-reach (and accompanying political fantasy).

It is all rather depressing and however much you hope that sense will prevail, there is no obvious purveyor of it.

The best analogy I heard today of the now agreed non-deal in Congress was of 'the can being kicked further down the road'! Nobody wants to be the first to genuinely pick it up, and dispose of it correctly, especially when it can be used as an object of political play.

This is wholly understandable given that genuinely thinking through the mess we have got into, and building support to address it, is such a complex challenge (both for the problem's own complexity and for the air of political unreality it inhabits) no wonder nobody rises to it.

Better wait for collapse to shake us to our senses. Oh Lordy...the pain of that!


  1. The 'can being kicked down the road' (or into the long grass) is a metaphor that has been in evidence for a few weeks - it has become a 'meme' (as I think it is called) and actually quite an accurate one - something that nobody can ignore or pretend is not there, but that nobody wants to take possession of.

    At least the USA is less interested in 'bread and circuses' than Rome was during its decline - unless perhaps the circuses are represented (horrible thought!) by foreign military adventuring.


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