reply to post by ZeroReady
Food for thought
1 — Staggering Increase in the Cost of Elections, with Dubious Campaign Funding Sources: Our 2012 election reportedly cost $3 billion. All of it was
raised from private sources – often creating the appearance, or the reality, that our leaders are beholden to special interest groups. During the
late Roman Republic, elections became staggeringly expensive, with equally deplorable results. Caesar reportedly borrowed so heavily for one political
campaign, he feared he would be ruined, if not elected.
2 — Politics as the Road to Personal Wealth: During the late Roman Republic period, one of the main roads to wealth was holding public office, and
exploiting such positions to accumulate personal wealth. As Lessig notes: Congressman, Senators and their staffs leverage their government service to
move to private sector positions – that pay three to ten times their government compensation. Given this financial arrangement, “Their focus is
therefore not so much on the people who sent them to Washington. Their focus is instead on those who will make them rich.” (Republic Lost)
3 — Continuous War: A national state of security arises, distracting attention from domestic challenges with foreign wars. Similar to the late Roman
Republic, the US – for the past 100 years — has either been fighting a war, recovering from a war, or preparing for a new war: WW I (1917-18), WW
II (1941-1945), Cold War (1947-1991), Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam (1953-1975), Gulf War (1990-1991), Afghanistan (2001-ongoing), and Iraq
(2003-2011). And, this list is far from complete.
4 — Foreign Powers Lavish Money/Attention on the Republic’s Leaders: Foreign wars lead to growing influence, by foreign powers and interests, on
the Republic’s political leaders — true for Rome and true for us. In the past century, foreign embassies, agents and lobbyists have proliferated
in our nation’s capital. As one specific example: A foreign businessman donated $100 million to Bill Clinton‘s various activities. Clinton
“opened doors” for him, and sometimes acted in ways contrary to stated American interests and foreign policy.
5 — Profits Made Overseas Shape the Republic’s Internal Policies: As the fortunes of Rome’s aristocracy increasingly derived from foreign lands,
Roman policy was shaped to facilitate these fortunes. American billionaires and corporations increasingly influence our elections. In many cases, they
are only nominally American – with interests not aligned with those of the American public. For example, Fox News is part of international media
group News Corp., with over $30 billion in revenues worldwide. Is Fox News’ jingoism a product of News Corp.’s non-U.S. interests?
6 — Collapse of the Middle Class: In the period just before the Roman Republic’s fall, the Roman middle class was crushed — destroyed by cheap
overseas slave labor. In our own day, we’ve witnessed rising income inequality, a stagnating middle class, and the loss of American jobs to overseas
workers who are paid less and have fewer rights.
7 — Gerrymandering: Rome’s late Republic used various methods to reduce the power of common citizens. The GOP has so effectively gerrymandered
Congressional districts that, even though House Republican candidates received only about 48 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 election — they
ended up with the majority (53 percent) of the seats.
8 — Loss of the Spirit of Compromise: The Roman Republic, like ours, relied on a system of checks and balances. Compromise is needed for this type
of system to function. In the end, the Roman Republic lost that spirit of compromise, with politics increasingly polarized between Optimates (the
rich, entrenched elites) and Populares (the common people). Sound familiar? Compromise is in noticeably short supply in our own time also. For
example, “There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s combined.”
As Benjamin Franklin observed, we have a Republic — but only if we can keep it.