Roman Civilization: Paul Vockler, Reagan, Team Obama; First Hubris then Nemesis

Uninformed students often ask the most brutal questions, this is because their assumptions aren’t biased by contrived artificial understandings of social authority.  Leave it to the uninformed to ask a brutally direct question:  just how can anyone explain the rise of Imperial Rome?  How is it a small trading post alongside a ford called the Tiber River explain Roman Civilization?  Damned good question.  A sufficient answer will not push the classics of Livy, Gibbon or Polybius.  This is the fatal mistake, to squash any insight by smothering it in the affirmation of ‘authority’.  If truth be told, one should spend less time studying the classics than the ocean floor immediately surrounding Rome and its neighboring cities.  Why?  Because the social authorities don’t offer sound empirical or explanatory reasons, instead they offer myth.  It is by studying the wrecked ships throughout the Mediterranean seaboard that we find sufficient cause.

Yes, the mythical and historical accounts of haughty Kings, the gradual entrenchment of a republican constitution that checked executive authority guaranteeing representation was true, so are the glorious military triumphs told by Livy and Polybius about how Africanus mastered Hannibal after his initial defeat at the hands of a great General.  He too was stimulated after meeting a superior foe.  Yes, Roman resilience was discovered in her enemies inability to tear away tribes whose allegiance to Rome remained unquestionable.  We can discover a true field of honest inquiry in the classics as they peddle the Stoic philosophy of how Rome fell because its civic virtue was destroyed. All that the classical authorities tell is true enough, but for today’s sensibilities, it misses.

We must recognize that the past two decades has been an unrivaled success for the study of early Rome.  When we check out the most significant writing about the social and political conditions that stimulated Roman Civilization we discover a rising Malthusian population threat similar to the one that stimulated the rise of Hellas under Pericles.  It was a political, cultural problem of population dynamics, rapid urbanization in agrarian political economies that stimulated the Romans to pursue economic policies that lead to her unrivaled success.  This was done by Paul Vockler under Reagan!  Something team Obama refuses to acknowledge!

The work of the late great British historians Keith Hopkins, Walter Scheidel, Peter Garnsey, Richard Saller and Peter Temin all reveal what Arnold Toynbee wrote throughout the 1940’s:  Roman Civilization was a repeat of the rise of Grecian Civilization, the only difference being that Rome did not fall under the fatal demise of a Peloponnesian Civil War.

Why?

Because Romans were taught by the students of Greeks.

And what were they taught?

They were taught that the fatal flaw leading to Civil War was how the Athenians arrogated to themselves the primacy of leadership after their success in mastering the challenge thrown down by Persia.

Why did the Athenians do that?

Because the Athenians could never resolve why they arrogated to themselves primacy of the City State over unified Greek Nationalism.

How did the Romans not fall prey to this challenge?

They created a new philosophical, juridical understanding of citizenship: they created federalism or what was termed ‘Cosmopolitianism’ under the aegis of Augustus.  They simply divided one’s allegiance to Rome, one had dual citizenship.  Just read the letters from St. Paul!

It was this dual citizenship that the American Founders titled ‘Federalism’!  Catch how the political, social, psychological insights of the classics is valid today.  Human nature hasn’t changed, and for that, the classics are indispensable.

Under Scheidel, Roman conquest created favorable conditions for rapid production and growth for trade.  Roman hegemony moved along with the development of the market!  We can look to the writings of Michael I. Rostovtzeff (1870-1952) author of the magisterial “The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire” (1926) to discover how education without superior technology that is present today was still prescient.

How can Team Obama with three weeks left win?  They can read Dr. Temin’s classic study of “A Market Economy in the Early Roman Republic” (2001) to discover what Vockler and Reagan implicitly understood about the American political economy resonating with ancient Rome:  conquest (economic growth) lowered transaction costs and risk, easing the flow or all information, standardizing the media of all exchange.  This permitted different regions of the Roman Empire to harness the powers of comparative advantage; in a word, economic growth!

We can quarry these ancient insights into understanding how the social, political and economic insight a decentralized digital economy along the lines of American federalism can indeed cut the deficit while raising revenue.  The Romans did it!!  Just read “Keith Hopkin’s “Taxes & Trade in the Roman Empire”  (1980) or Moses Finley’s “The Ancient Economy” (1973) and you’ll discover what the Chicago School of Economics via the Austrian School already knew..

When the Spanish discovered that the world was indeed round, that a trade route to the west Indies was completed, the Mediterranean became a Muslim lake!

Churchill was right; want to become a statesman?  Read history!

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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