Friday, April 21, 2017

Trump's Rome

There are parallels between the last days in Rome and the fall of the American Empire. Eric Morse writes:

Applying ‘Fall of Rome’ memes to U.S. politics has been a popular pastime since at least the 1990s, but suddenly we are faced with a president who is meme incarnate. It’s less fanciful than it might seem; of all the sovereignties in history, Rome and America are two that fully believed themselves to be founded in the rule of law.

Looking back at the slow collapse of the two-party system, the extreme polarization of American society and the ever-more-blatant misbehaviour of public figures over the past 20 years, perhaps no one should have been surprised. In many ways it’s more reminiscent of the century-long collapse of the Roman Republic. But the U.S. presidency has been getting more imperial as the legislature has become more deadlocked, irrespective of the incumbent.
What sets this incumbent apart is his sheer, stunning incompetence — a Roman Circus on Pennsylvania Avenue. And the man at centre of it all is, unselfconsciously, loving every minute of it.

Trump can tweet. But he can't legislate. And therein lies the difference between him and several nutbar emperors. At least they knew how to get things done:

The Romans were far better at practising power politics than theorizing about it, but here a fascinating third-century-BC Chinese authority steps in to help out. ‘The Six Handles of Lord Shang’ tells us that:

“Allowing a man to live or killing him, enriching him or impoverishing him, honouring him or debasing him, these six handles are what the ruler grasps.”

The Romans were past masters of all six handles. They also understood (more or less as Vladimir Putin does) that they have to be used in a measured fashion. What they did do — as the Empire went on and the ruler’s direct power was increasingly threatened with suffocation by the bureaucracy — was keep a careful, slightly arbitrary hand on the structures of rule, sufficient to keep even the highest and cagiest bureaucrats off-balance.

As crazy as they were, Nero and Caligula  kept things going for quite awhile. But, under Trump, the decline of the United States should come quickly.

Image: You Tube


The Mound of Sound said...

There are several parallels in the decline of Rome and events in the U.S. today. You can also see in U.S. governance, eerie parallels to the latter years of previous empires, especially the Dutch and the British, only with a thick layer of bellicosity atop the American experience. I doubt that Trump will take down the American empire but I believe he'll leave the U.S. far weaker than he found it. Perhaps the damage is already irreparable as some contend. If they're right, the Cheeto Benito will do little to patch it up.

Owen Gray said...

Despite Trump's claim that he's a builder, Mound, his real talent lies in tearing things down. He has never been who he claims to be.

Anonymous said...

Hillary strikes me as more of the Nero type. Her stake to power was entitlement and dynasty.

Of course, Nero was the last of Augustus' bloodline and Augustus was a leader of significant merit. Hillary was the last of a line of liberal sellouts beginning with her hubby who accomplished nothing and practically destroyed the Democratic party across America.

The establishment is reeling because Trump is shutting down their outsourcing schemes and has stopped the military industrial complex from digging up the Cold War with Russia. Their fake-news journalists are jumping out of their skins to write hatchet jobs in response. If Trump is really so bad, why don't they just do their jobs and let the truth reveal itself? My guess is that they're too far gone to even consider the possibility.


Owen Gray said...

It seems to me they are doing their jobs, CC. That's why Mike Flynn is gone and the the Russia connections won't go away. What Trump calls fake news is turning out to be good journalism. The New York Times and the Washington Post are going to keep digging.

The Mound of Sound said...

CC and his fantasies. "The establishment is reeling," really. The establishment isn't reeling. It's taken up residence in the White House and it's on a roll. CC has swallowed the hemlock, big time.

Anonymous said...


Trump wishes to increase military spending.
Nothing has changed within the USA.

Never ending war is the basis of US emotion!!


John B. said...

Let's not try to get everything done all at once, now. We've been at it for more than a generation, so a little more time and attention to detail isn't going to hurt. We can put the outsourcing schemes on hold as required while we continue to deregulate, dismantle and get some privatizing balls rolling . And we think we can see to it that the military-industrial complex doesn't become overly troubled over anything in the mean time.

It'll get even better once we pull the pin on this "Trump" thing and eliminate the petty annoyances that came with the bargain. At least we might thank him for starting the rumour that some other unspecified combination is the "establishment". But of course, given the probable circumstances, that might be rather indelicate. We'll see when the time comes. It should all be too easy considering that the hard part was over once we convinced half the voting public that we were "conservative".

Owen Gray said...

Language is used so haphazardly these days, John. Like Mr. Trump, a great many people call themselves "conservatives." But they don't know what conservatism means.