Success and Decline of the USA: Polybius Had already Seen Its Causes
20 Gennaio 2021
Dear Stilumcuriali, Dr. Leo Conti offers us this reflection on the state of affairs in the United States, and its close link to the loss of faith, and the destruction by the Democrats of the system of balance between the various powers. Enjoy your reading.
Success And Decline Of The United States:
Polybius Had Already Seen Its Causes
(Dr. Leo Conti – Washington DC)
Raffaele Cantarella’s manual has accompanied my generation’s studies of ancient Greek literature in Italy. The few but dense pages in which Cantarella summarizes how Polybius addressed the question of the rise and fall of great powers in the ancient world is both a precious introduction to the thought of that great Greek historian from twenty-two centuries ago, and a stimulating starting point to assess the meaning of the inauguration of a (depressing) Democrat administration on January 20.
According to Polybius, Rome rose to power in the ancient world thanks, first of all, to its constitution, which admirably balanced monarchy (the consuls), aristocracy (the senate) and democracy (the people). In America too, attentive observers (including foreign short-term visitors such as Alexis de Tocqueville) have always attributed great significance to the coordination between federal and state levels, and to the equilibrium among legislative, executive and judicial powers, which is today known worldwide as the system of checks and balances. The problem is that Democrats have been disputing this very constitutional set-up, turning into a joke the way elections are conducted (the true backbone of any workable political system), contesting the electoral college system for presidential election (which guarantees, along with the equal number of senators, the same dignity of smaller and larger states alike), and circulating proposals aimed at increasing the number of justices sitting on the Supreme Court, a move that would likely transform this court into a highly politicized organ, thus frustrating the very concept of balance of power.
The other (not so hidden) secret of Rome’s success was, in Polybius’s view, its military organization, regarding both its technical aspects and, above all, its underlying virtues of honor, sacrifice, and devotion to the Roman motherland. Here too, there is some analogy with the pride and affection that Americans have historically nurtured for their armed forces. However, here too, there is an obvious conflict with what Democrats have been preaching for years, most notably: (a) the world apology tour, which Obama undertook at the beginning of his presidency and which, in its absurdity, shows how it is preferable to apologize for one’s own sins than those of the others, (b) Democrat persistence in advocating transgender policies among the troops, as if military success depended on them, and (c) the war waged by Democrats and their supporters against patriotism, as evidenced by the destruction of monuments and the attempted cancelation of American culture, with its past re-written through the deforming lenses of an allegedly persistent systemic racism (a figment of their imagination) and the nonsensical insistence on an ill-defined white supremacy, as if this were the main issue in today’s America.
Polybius himself warned against the risk that the very rich heritage of Rome may end up vanishing, according to the law that, in this world, nothing lasts forever: “There is no need to remind us that whatever exists today is subject to decadence and change; the very necessities of nature confirm this truth. And there are two directions from which the natural corruption of any political organism proceeds: the one coming from without, and the one coming from within”. Rome itself, with all its glory, did not escape from this trajectory, and the same will, sooner or later, be the destiny of the United States. Has the time of irreversible decline already arrived?
A crisis of faith in God and search for truth has been going on for decades, leading to moral decay in the United States (and within the Western world generally), from divorce to abortion to contraceptive hedonism to euthanasia to homosexualism. Trump’s brilliant presidency marked a reaction by the best part of America against surrendering to decline (make America great again). Will the new Democrat administration now wage the final blow to the United States? Will Biden be a new Scipio Aemilianus (as much as he is implausible in this role of tragic nobility) who cries on the ruin of the United States, destroyed, unlike Carthage, not primarily by an external enemy but by Biden himself and his acolytes? Or, despite the Democrats, will America rise again, trusting in the assistance by the Mother of God? The answer that Americans will give to this basic question will mark, in large part, the very future of the whole Western world.
 Tocqueville discusses the federal constitution in part I, chapter 8, of his famous Democracy in America from 1835, emphatically considered to be “at once the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America” (at page xvii in the introduction by Mansfield and Winthrop to the English translation, published in Chicago in 2000).
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