At some point, every thinking man and woman has thought about it. The United States, so big and so powerful, at some point has to fall just like ancient Rome. Some view it as inevitability; others view it as a cautionary tale that prevents us from plummeting to our downfall.
The United States is clearly the world’s most dominant superpower. Militarily, the United States spends more money than all other countries combined. Economically we have the largest GDP of any country in the world, and are three times larger by GDP than the next nearest country (China). Culturally, our businesses like McDonalds and Starbucks, and popular culture stars like Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake, dominate the global marketplace. Technologically, the best companies in the world like Apple, Google, and Facebook are all made in the United States.
Without a doubt, the United States is the Rome of its time.
However, while all may seem well from that perspective, all is not well. Economically, our growth has become stagnant. Our national debt has skyrocketed to some $17 trillion, standing taller than our 2012 GDP of $15.68 trillion. In practical terms, if everyone worked the entire year and gave everything that every company, man, woman, and child produced, we still wouldn’t have enough money to pay off all of our debts.
Other countries whose national debt exceeds their GDP are Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Eritrea, Jamaica, and Grenada. This is hardly a group of global power economic players, yet that’s the class we’ve put ourselves into.
Remember Greece? Remember the massive amounts of bailouts that they needed, and that they continue to still need?
That’s the class the United States has put itself into. American businesses are starting to take notice. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, U.S. corporations have a record $1.73 trillion of cash sitting on their balance sheets as of the end of the first quarter in 2013. Cash as a percentage of corporate assets has more than doubled to more than 12 percent, from less than 6 percent in the 1990s.
So why are companies hoarding cash?
The answer is very simple. They are preparing for disaster. Back in 2008, companies got a brief taste of what a United States financial collapse would look like. The United States equities markets plunged over 50 percent, national unemployment nearly doubled during 2007-2010, and heavily leveraged companies like Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, and Washington Mutual all fell to bankruptcy. Everyone saw the impact it had on their lives when basic essentials like eggs, milk and other food items went to all-time highs. They saw gasoline skyrocket to levels that eclipsed the worst crises of the 1970s. These were all signs that our demise was possible if not near.
Noted Yale literary critic Harold Bloom recently opined that, “Twenty-first-century America is in a state of decline. It is scary to reread the final volume of Gibbon these days because the fate of the Roman Empire seems to continue even now. We have approached bankruptcy, foreign wars we cannot pay for, and defrauded our urban and rural poor. We have no Emerson or Whitman among us.”
Next month from July 10-13 at Planet Hollywood Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas, the popular FreedomFest conference and its 3,000 attendees will explore this very topic of a potential United States decline. During the conference, Steve Forbes, Professor Carl Richard, Jim Rogers, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will take on the topic in a spirited debate, “The Future of the West: Are We Rome?”
FreedomFest, which is organized by famed libertarian economist Dr. Mark Skousen, will explore this topic as well as how liberty and free markets can end our current crisis, the role of capitalism in freedom, healthy living, the impact of the United States’ global cultural dominance, and more.
Prominent speakers at the conference also include John Browne (former Member of the British Parliament), Bert Dohmen, Doug Casey, WND’s own Joseph Farah, Art Laffer, Grover Norquist and others.
While the conference is sure to provide many viewpoints, the question remains: Will America fall the way of ancient Rome? There is certainly a case to be made for it.
But there is also a case to be made against it. Structurally, the United States is not a geographic superpower like ancient Rome was. Ancient Rome spanned from the western tip of Europe to North Africa, all the way into Asia. While the United States does have a military presence all over the world, it is not responsible for all of these countries and principalities the way ancient Rome was.
From a political perspective, the fall of ancient Rome was linked to the fall of the republic. The United States still remains politically strong from the perspective of being able to change power between parties of competing political ideologies and the respect for its institutions. Recently, when the Supreme Court ruled on the Obamacare case, people could have taken to the streets and revolted. States could have simply ignored the Supreme Court ruling. The people could have shown no respect for the institution. However, that did not happen. The people, while not agreeing with the court, have ultimately respected the court and have accepted Obamacare as the law of the land even though the majority of Americans do not support it.
This is political strength that ancient Rome never had.
So will the United States fall the way of Rome?
Ask a pundit, and you’ll get both answers. Ask a small businessman who has to cut his employee hours and benefits and you’ll get one answer. Ask a government employee and you’ll get another one.
Regardless of what you may think on the issue, there is one thing that remains undeniable. The United States must not be complacent. Our nation has major weak points militarily, financially, politically, culturally and technologically despite our overall might. While you cannot protect against everything, you can’t let all of those factors attack you at once.
It is much easier to topple a republic than to build one, easier to destroy than to create. That’s the message that as Americans and business owners we must take to heart. We have created this great nation, and it is through our creativity that we will avoid its destruction.