Many modern historians argue that the modern United States is following a similar path to that of the Roman Empire in its decline. Respond to this argument. Agree/Disagree? Why?

1 Answer | Add Yours

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is, of course, largely a matter of opinion.  It is not possible to objectively determine whether the US is declining and, if it is, whether it is declining for the same reasons that Rome declined.  The most logical way to answer the question is to look at the factors that are usually given for the fall of Rome and to think about whether the US suffers from these same problems.  The link below lists the following causes of Rome’s decline:

1. Barbarian Invasions, 2. Decline in Morals and Values, 3. Environmental and Public Health Concerns, 4. Excessive Military Spending to Defend the Empire, 5. Inferior Technology, 6. Inflation, 7. Political Corruption, 8. Rise in Christianity, 9. Unemployment, and 10. Urban Decay.

Let us look at each of these in turn.

  1. The US is clearly not being invaded by barbarians or anyone else.  We do have many immigrants coming to our country, legally and illegally, but I do not believe they are damaging us in the way that the barbarian invasions damaged Rome.
  2. There is no way to prove that our morals and values are declining. I do not think they are so I do not see this as a parallel between us and Rome.
  3. While we have environmental issues, our public health may be better than it ever has been.  Life expectancy is high, so it is hard to see this as a source or decline.
  4. There may be something to this as we spend a lot of money to keep up our military. 
  5. It is hard to argue that our technology is inferior, so I do not see this as a worry.
  6. We do not have excessive inflation today.
  7. While there are different ways to define political corruption, I think it is hard to argue that we are corrupt.  Even with the rise of “Super PACs,”  I do not believe that many public officials are bought and sold.
  8. Christianity is not on the rise in the United States.  It is about at historical levels and is, if anything, on the decline.  Furthermore, Christianity does not undermine the foundations of our society the way that it did in Rome.
  9. We have fairly low unemployment compared to most other countries.  Our unemployment is a little higher than it was 10 years ago, but it is hardly high enough to cause serious trouble to our country.
  10. People are flocking to most of our cities today.  There are some, like Detroit, that are in trouble, but most American cities are booming. 

Overall, I see few parallels between the US today and Rome.  I do not think that we are in decline.  If we are, however, I think it is largely due to forces like globalization, not to any of the forces that caused Rome to fall.  If we do decline, I think that we will decline to a position where we are still very strong, but are not the leader of the world.  I see no reason to expect a collapse like that of Rome.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,988 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question