Sunday, September 27, 2015

Obama as Nero

The burdens Obama has placed on America are great so the question is how lasting they are.  After Obama is gone, will America's freedom and prosperity continue to deteriorate or will they bounce back?  Much will depend on the resolve of the president who replaces Obama.  A timid Republican would not attempt to wind back the clock and even the banishment of crybaby Boehner has not banished Republican timidity. Leftist expectations still rule America in many ways.

Only Trump would appear to have the independence and resolve needed to put the destructive policies into reverse.  Otherwise the great weight of regulations (from the EPA and elsewhere) that now exist will continue to exercise their destructive force and will slowly smother America.  But Trump so far has only an outside chance so what if Hillary or some milksop Republican is elected next year?  Will that be the final nail in the coffin?

Perhaps not.  For a long time, many people, including America's revolutionaries, looked to ancient Rome for lessons.  Many of the ancient empires of the Far-East were big, powerful and long-lasting but only Rome seemed to be "like us".  So does Rome have lessons that could encourage us today?  I believe it does.

When Caesar's conquests expanded the Roman republic into the Roman empire, he inherited a great legacy of balanced and substantially democratic government from his predecessors.  The Senate was democratically elected by the upper class and there was also a "tribunis plebis" to represent the ordinary people of Rome.  And government functions were split up so that much power could not be concentrated in one man's hands.  By disobeying the Senate and crossing the Rubicon river with his army, Caesar offended against that division of power.  So they killed him.

But Humpty Dumpty could not be put back together again. Armies had become too powerful. Caesar had replaced democratic government with military rule and military rule would continue.  At that juncture, however, Rome was extraordinarily fortunate.  The victor in the military struggles to replace Caesar was the man we now  call Augustus.  That August in our calendar follows July celebrates the memory that Augustus followed Julius Caesar in ruling Rome.

And Augustus was wise enough to draw from the Roman past many lessons about government.  Although the Senators had murdered Caesar, Augustus did not abolish the Senate but converted it into a sounding board for his policies.  They had no power during his reign but still had influence.

He expanded the borders of the empire but through strong and wise rule gave the core of the empire a long period of peace and prosperity.  He adapted the wisdom of old, Republican Rome to form a strong new system of governance for the Roman empire.  And he ruled Rome for 45 years until his death at age 75 in the year 14 AD.

And that long rule set the precedent for how Rome was to be governed thenceforth.  Rome was again ruled not only by men but also by a system of government, a system that had deep roots in the Republic but had been successfully and convincingly made the new normal by Augustus.

Romans now expected their governments to be of a certain type  -- an Augustan type. The reign of Augustus was immensely influential in the minds of Romans -- and later emperors were judged by that criterion.  Rulers who did not provide government along roughly Augustan lines did not last.  A powerful SYSTEM now ruled Rome and Rome prospered greatly under it, even undergoing further expansion of the empire.  So even rather bad emperors such as Nero still kept the system going to some extent and Rome survived him well.  The empire kept expanding and reached its greatest extent under emperor Trajan some decades later.

So I think we can now see the parallels.  Like Nero, Obama has been destructive but American political forms and expectations have been preserved.  The system that is America still exists much as it always has done.  There is a strength in America in the form of the customary systems of law and government that continue to exist. And those systems rest on nothing so fragile as laws.  They exists in the expectations that Americans hold about how things should be done.  Those expectations have given prosperity and substantial freedom to Americans in the past and will continue to do so.  America can withstand its traitor president -- JR.

Note:  I refer to Nero above only because he is well known -- but there were of course other bad emperors

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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