The Judge on the Decline and Fall of Roman Empire and Future of America

Uploaded by KramerDSP on 03.10.2011

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: Does the government work for us or do we work for the government? What
can history teach us about war and debt?
Tonight, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and the future of America.
The Roman Empire began as a kingdom in 753 B.C., and by 500 B.C. it had a representative
form of government. A few hundred years later came Julius Caesar, a Roman general who bucked
the Roman Senate and started a civil war that ended with him as the Emperor. By the second
century A.D., the Roman Empire encircled the Mediterranean and went up to Britain.
Also by the second century A.D., the output from Roman silver mines had peaked. Silver
was used to mint Roman currency. It was also traded for silk with India and China. The
Romans were duped by their lust for luxury. While silk was perceived as a luxury good
by the Romans elites who imported it, it was worth much less than the silver being exported
in exchange.
So what did the Roman Emperors do once the availability of silver for currency began
to decline? They debased the currency. They minted coins with less silver in the coins
than the face value of the coins indicated. The Roman government literally stole money
from the populace by literally taking the value out of the coin. They couldn’t borrow
money from China to fund their wars in France. So they operated under the fiction of debased
currency instead.
This didn't last long and eventually it became well known that Roman currency was being debased,
and its value sunk like a rock in a pond. Stated differently, the government lied, cheated,
and stole from its own people; and when they discovered this, massive inflation ensued.
When the value of the coins they were minting began to eat into the economic power of the
Roman elites, they turned increasingly to the military. The Romans had this crazy idea
that they could become rich by fighting wars. They actually thought that by taxing people
and using the taxes to buy military hardware and using the hardware to conquer foreigners
and instilling Roman culture in them, they--the Romans--would be prosperous.
Instead, they spent themselves into a decline they couldn’t get out of. The Romans elites
had become accustomed to a lifestyle only available to them from cheap labor and government
theft; and the masses were kept placated by the bread and circuses the Roman Emperors
gave away due to the wealth they had stolen through inflation and taxes.
Sound familiar? It should. The United States is the most powerful force in the world since
the Roman Empire. We have 900 permanent military installations around the world. And we are
going down the same road as the Romans. We are expanding our empire through wars of choice,
devaluing our currency, and allowing the government to bribe us with the money it has stolen from
But, unlike the Romans, the Federal Reserve doesn’t even pretend the dollar is backed
by anything other than the government’s word. The government’s word: Who would trust
that? And yet, that doesn’t curb the Federal Reserve's ability to debase the currency by
printing trillions of dollars of it.
What's more, the U.S. government devalues its currency at a rate the most ambitious
of the Roman emperors couldn’t imagine, because the federal government can also borrow
against its future. In Roman times, there were no such things as credit cards.
But the federal government has a credit card. Right now it has used up its $14.3 trillion
dollar line of credit. President Obama wants to extend that for nearly the hundredth time,
up to 17 trillion, so we can go down the Roman road of decline a lot faster.
We have wars of opportunity in five countries, none of which were declared by Congress. We
have a President who tells the people he is bringing the troops home, and generals who
don’t like it, and economists who advise the President tell him that war is the health
of the state. We have a President who, as I speak, is dining at the most expensive restaurant
in New York City, with folks who are playing $38,000 a plate, whom he once called fat cats;
while one in seven Americans is on food stamps and one in ten adults is out of work.
Will we learn from history or will we join the Romans in the dustbin of history; a history
of once great peoples who spent themselves into oblivion? Want to spend ourselves into
oblivion, like the Romans? Just raise the debt ceiling and keep borrowing. Want to stop
the madness? Just say no to more debt. It’s up to us. It’s up to you.
From New York, defending freedom; so-long America.