How Fiscal Insanity Destroyed Rome… and Now America

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

“In the end, there was no money left to pay the army, build forts or ships, or protect the frontier. The barbarian invasions were the final blow to the Roman state in the fifth century, [caused] by three centuries of deterioration in fiscal capacity…”


— Bruce Barlett, “How Excessive Government Killed Ancient Rome,” Cato Journal (1994)

At this year’s FreedomFest in Vegas, July 10-13, our theme is “Are We Rome?” (at Caesars Palace, of course!) Like most Americans, I’ve been fascinated with comparisons between the United States and Ancient Rome. Are we heading into decline and fall due to deterioration in our spendthrift government and our secular culture? Will we be run over by barbarians from abroad?

We created this haunting and moving 2 1/2 minute video preview, “Are We Rome?” at our website. You can watch it here: More than 500 viewers saw it yesterday!


Three Causes of the Collapse of Rome

Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Business School (where I used to teach) has just released a new important book on fiscal imbalance, and why it could lead to America’s downfall. It is called “Balance: The Economics of Great Powers From Ancient Rome to Modern America” (click here to order on Amazon). He has a chapter on “The Ruin of Rome” and identifies three events that brought down the greatest empire in ancient times: excessive debt (to pay for the welfare state and foreign wars), inflation (debasing the Roman silver coinage) and government strangulation of the economy (wage-price controls). Sound familiar?

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Here are just some of the experts who will speak at this year’s big show on the Rome theme:

Carl Richard, professor of ancient studies, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, author of several books on Ancient Rome and Greece, including “We Are All Romans”… “The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment”… “Twelve Greeks and Romans Who Changed the World”… and “Romans Bearing Gifts: How the Ancients Inspired the Founding Fathers.” Professor Richard is our resident scholar at FreedomFest this year.

Steve Forbes, author, “Power Ambition Glory: The Stunning Parallels between the Ancient World and Today.”

Lawrence W. Reed, president of FEE, “The Fall of Rome and Modern Parallels.”

Ed Hudgins, Atlas Society, offers a similar comparison between the West and the fall of Rome in his session “Are We Rome?”

Marc Eliot, Hollywood’s #1 biographer, on “Ben Hur, Spartacus, Cleopatra, Gladiator: Epic Films of Roman Times.”

Paul Cantor, University of Virginia professor of English literature, on “Empire and the Loss of Freedom: What Shakespeare’s Rome Can Tell About Us.”

Doug Casey (author and investment writer) vs. Harry Veryser (economist at the University of Detroit-Mercy and Catholic historian) will debate “Did Christianity Cause the Fall of Rome?”

Pat Heller, Liberty Coin Co., “The Rise and Fall of Rome’s Money — And What It Means for America Today.” He has samples of Roman coins to show attendees.

David Boaz, Cato Institute, “George Washington, a Modern-day Cincinnatus: The Man Who Would NOT be King.”

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Jo Ann Skousen, professor of English literature at Mercy College and director of Anthem film festival, on “Greek and Roman Mythology in 50 Minutes.”

Jim Gwartney and Randy Holcomb (Florida State economists): “The Decline of Economic Freedom in America: Are We on the Path to Rome?”

Tom Palmer: “Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar” and “Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Citizen” — Tom is always knowledgeable on all things historical.

J. C. Bradbury, top sports economist (Kennesaw State University), on “Who Are The Modern-Day Gladiators? Sports as an Alternative to War.”

Valerie Durham, Isadora Duncan dance instructor, “Music and Dance in Roman Times.”

In addition, I will be giving a pre-conference session on “The New Deal in Old Rome,” discussing inflation, taxation, war and how the welfare state brought down ancient Rome — will it bring us down too?

Who knows? Perhaps Sen. Rand Paul will appear in Vegas in a senator’s toga and recreate the Roman Forum!

Already more than 1,600 attendees have signed up, and we are close to selling out. If you want to join us, call Tami or Donna at 1-866/266-5101, or go to

You Blew It! Another Blow to Your Privacy

“It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.” — David Hume

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 (aren’t all infamous cases decided by one judge in a country of millions?) that the police can collect DNA samples from people arrested for “major crimes” such as murder.

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The Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals that collecting a person’s DNA cannot be done without a warrant. Otherwise, it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against reasonable searches (the right to privacy amendment).

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy equates DNA with the routine practice of fingerprinting subjects. DNA is a form of modern fingerprints.

But there is a danger here. As the Wall Street Journal noted (in an editorial surprisingly in support of the ruling), “the concentration of government does erode liberty.”

In 1970, Congress passed the RICO act to impose criminal and civil penalties against organized crime. Since then, the RICO statutes have been extended to all kinds of criminal behavior outside organized crime, such as insider trading and Major League Baseball cases.

I suspect it won’t be long before the police are stopping pedestrians for cheek swabs… just in case they may have committed a crime. In New York’s high-crime areas, police are already stopping people and frisking them without a warrant… why not a DNA test?

The end of your privacy and rights is near.

To read my e-letter from last week, please click here. I also invite you to comment about my column in the space provided below.

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Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

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