Bread and Circuses: The Last Days of the American Empire
By Jack Curtis
March 29, 2013
Pan et Circenses (Bread and Circuses) famously described the relationship between the Roman Emperor and his people in the decadent years of the Empire, and they seem fairly applied to America today. We have, in line with our technological advancement, upgraded (if that is the term) to food stamps (47.5 million and counting) and sports, but the broad scenario hasn’t changed.
The Romans devalued their denarius by reducing its silver content; we devalue our dollar by issuing more of them against an unchanged amount of real wealth. To wit: Gas was 20 cents a gallon in the early 1930’s; a new 1937 Chevrolet could be had for $725 and a 1940 haircut was $0.50. Imperial Rome failed to manage its finances; imperial America’s debt, deficits and inflation are just an updated rerun.
None argue Rome’s status as an empire; the universal presence of Roman legions and Roman-appointed governors left no debate. While many deny American imperial status, those have some questions to answer. U.S. forces are based all over the world with somewhere between 700 and 1,000 overseas locations. Ron Paul, during the 2012 Presidential debates, put it at 900 bases in 130 countries. Too, the U.S. presence is not identified solely by armed forces; it sends dollars widely as well. The 2012 Census report of Foreign Economic and Military Aid totaled some $45 B, handed to 70 such major (and numerous minor) recipients as Pakistan, Egypt, Russia, (Russia?) Zimbabwe and the Gaza Strip. If the U.S. is not an empire, it certainly seems to act like one. And as Rome’s empire finally exceeded its finances, so now with America. One cannot finance an empire with deficits.