Watching the Olympics and thinking about the Fall of Rome

During some some history of the West class, probably sometime in highschool, we studied Rome. One think I remember is how Rome's constant wars bankrupt the state and left the populous too poor to buy bread. To keep the people from rioting, the government gave out free food and held games to keep them distracted.

I remember wondering Why do they have all those foreign wars? and how does it bankrupt the state? At the time, I understood that looting was making some people rich – like Caesar and his fellow Centurions. And it was also making them powerful. Later – much later, like last week – I began to realize that there were other people making money by making roads that went to Gaul or Hispania, armaments, and war support equipment.

Money that could have been spent to make Rome stronger, making Rome a better place to live, was actually spent to make Rome only look stronger. Money that could have been spent on schools or aqueducts, was being spent on the greatest army the world had ever seen and a wall in England.

So I sit here, watching the Olympics, thinking about all the money we spent on Iraq and Afghanistan. All the money we will spend on Iraq and Afghanistan this year and next year and into the foreseeable future. I have heard the arguments for being in Iraq and Afghanistan and they are alway presented in an vacuum. Nobody ever says Should we spend the money on drones for Afghanistan or schools for Los Angeles? Should we build more F22s or start rebuilding our infrastructure?

President Obama has signed legislation lifting the cap on
government borrowing to $14.3 trillion except for Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps; and I am beginning to wonder how this is different from the Roman Senate handing out bread and putting on games in the Coliseum?

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