Victor Davis Hanson
Why do once-successful societies ossify and decline?
Hundreds of reasons have been adduced for the fall of
One recurring theme seems consistent in Athenian literature on the eve of the city's takeover by Macedon: social squabbling over slicing up a shrinking pie. Athenian speeches from that era make frequent reference to lawsuits over property and inheritance, evading taxes, and fudging eligibility for the dole. After the end of the
For Gibbon and later French scholars, "Byzantine" became a pejorative description of a top-heavy Greek bureaucracy that could not tax enough vanishing producers to sustain a growing number of bureaucrats. In antiquity, inflating the currency by turning out cheap bronze coins was often the favored way to pay off public debts, while the law became fluid to address popular demands rather than to protect time-honored justice.
After the end of World War II, most of today's powerhouses were either in ruins or still preindustrial --
In comparison to
The gradual decline of a society is often a self-induced process of trying to meet ever-expanding appetites, rather than a physical inability to produce past levels of food and fuel, or to maintain adequate defense. Americans have never had safer workplaces or more sophisticated medical care -- and never have so many been on disability.
For hundreds of years, the outmanned legions of the tiny and poor
Given our unsustainable national debt -- nearly
Americans have never led such affluent material lives -- at least as measured by access to cell phones, big-screen TVs, cheap jet travel and fast food. Obesity rather than malnutrition is the greater threat to national health. Flash mobs go after electronics stores, not food markets. Americans spend more money on Botox, face lifts and tummy tucks than on the age-old scourges of polio, small pox and malaria.
If Martians looked at the small box houses, one-car families and primitive consumer goods of the 1950s, they would have thought the postwar
By any historical marker, the future of Americans has never been brighter.
Yet we don't talk confidently about capitalizing and expanding on our natural and inherited wealth. Instead, Americans bicker over entitlement spoils as the nation continues to pile up trillion-dollar-plus deficits. Enforced equality rather than liberty is the new national creed. The medicine of cutting back on government goodies seems far worse than the disease of borrowing trillions from the unborn to pay for them.
History has shown that a government's redistribution of shrinking wealth, in preference to a private sector's creation of new sources of it, can prove more destructive than even the most deadly enemy.
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- The End of Youth
- Immortality: Holding Back the Years
- The Age of Aging
- Feel Like retiring? Forget It!
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- Capitalism Is Not Dying
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- Beyond the Post-Cold War World
- Moscow - Beijing Ties: An Axis of Necessity
- UN Arms Treaty May Succeed Despite Iran, North Korea, Syria and NRA
- Grief Without Borders
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- Pope Francis Ties with Jews, Muslims Could Strengthen Vatican
- Pope Francis Staunch in Conservatism and in Defense of the Poor
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- Dam Construction Raising Regional Tensions
- Haiti's Man-Made Hell
- The World's Struggle to Kick the Habit
- United States and Israel Push The Boundaries of International Law
- Military Interventions Rarely Fulfill Their Goals
- Why Do Societies Give Up?
- War is Like Rust
- War's Lingering Phantoms
- Lasting Peace
- Controlling Lucifer
- United States to Join Global Race for Talent -- Big Time
- Asteroid Safely Passes Earth
- Meteor Causes Panic in Russia
- Pope Benedict Becomes First Pope to Resign in over 600 years
- Pope Benedict to Step Down
- World, Religious Leaders React to Pope Resignation
- Two Africans Among Candidates for Next Pope
- German-Born Pope Brought Conservative Views to Vatican
- Asteroid to Pass Very Near Earth
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- When Soft Power Fails
- Hogging the Global Pie
- Avoiding the Wars That Never End
- I Am Because You Are
- The Death of Depth
- Lance Armstrong Admits Using Banned Substances in Run to Seven Tour Titles
- Lance Armstrong Admits to Doping in Oprah Interview
- The Geopolitics of Shale
- Intelligence and Human Networks
- The Really Important News of 2012
- Falling Birth Rates Portend A Very Different World
- What Hemingway Can Teach Us About New Year's Predictions
- Sacred Space
- Financial Nerve Centres at Risk of Flooding
- The Growth That Never Was
- A Gospel of Wealth
- Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich
- The Cyber Menace
- Cyber Threats: Establishing the First Line of Defense
- Arming The Information Highway Patrol
- Keeping the Global Ship on Course
- Global Governance at Heart of Failed Foreign Policies
- Global Terrorism: Piles of Skulls
- When Terrorists 'Killed' in Drone Strikes Aren't Really Dead
- Stripping Down to 140 Characters
- Revolution through iDemocracy
- What Tyrants Fear Most: Social Media
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