The Roman Forum was Ancient Rome's city center.
Looking Back to The Future
By Bonnie Wayne McGuire
he Roman Empire collapsed in famine. the French were dying of hunger when Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States. As late as 1846, the Irish were starving to death; and no one was particularly surprised because famines in the Old World were the rule rather than the exception. Then suddenly, in one spot on this planet, people became so prosperous that the pangs of hunger are forgotten. Most historians know that those who forget the past are bound to repeat it.
Someone once made a disparaging remark about my interest in ancient history, as though it has little connection with the present. It surprised me, because I thought most people realized that our own culture (and law) evolved from the Romans. So I replied, "It's the same-o-same-o. Different time and people, but the same old human problems."
Part of the problem with our ignorance is that much of history has been rearranged, or omitted by the spin doctors of the media promoting their political goals. Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wisely admitted that "Those who control the past control the future." They structure the entire framework in which we think.
During 1966 I heard a remarkable lecture by Dr. Warren H. Carroll from Columbia University. He was introduced to us by Howard Jarvis, the co-founder of California's tax reduction movement that created Prop 13 protecting property owners from excessive taxation. Dr. Carroll wrote the book "The Last Crossroads" in which he describes the familiar pattern followed by most known civilizations. They rise with self-sufficient people who farm, build and mine. Society grows around this nucleus. Their freedom to prosper attracts more and more people. A government of law and order is set up and taxes are levied upon the productive, stable element of society. Eventually, large population centers develop into city-states. As people get farther away from the land they forget where the basic raw materials for food, clothing and building come from. People become more dependent and government grows more oppressive to those carrying the biggest burdens. They become discouraged and leave. This results in mass starvation and drastic population reduction as the civilization collapses. When Senator Moynihan spoke to Third World countries concerning global famine he said, "Food growing is the first thing you do when you come down out of the trees. The question is, how come the United States can grow food and you can't?"
Some historians note that owning private property and weapons were considered the essence of freedom by the early Europeans, known as "free necked " men. They were the landholders and tillers, who had weapons to check lawless outrage. Those in cities lacked the self sufficiency to realize full freedom.
Studying the rise and fall of civilizations is like watching a time-lapse film in which the characters race around the world like a rabbit pursued by a pack of hounds. Productive people fleeing from a system that confiscates all their wealth. The highlight of Dr. Carrolls talk was his comparison of the assassination of President John Kennedy with that of the Roman Empire's leader, Julius Caesar. Shortly after Caesar's death, the Roman government pivoted to a position of unlimited power over the lives and earnings of it's citizens. This dramatic change allegedly happened during a period of seventeen years.
Dr. Carroll predicted that our technology made our civilization move faster, so we would reach that state nine years following JFK's assassination on November 22, 1963. Like you're probably feeling, I'm a little skeptic. Kennedy was replaced by Lyndon Johnson, who launched his "Great Society" giving government a bigger role in our lives. It defied JFK's "Ask not what your government can do for you..." Then in 1970 the Environmental Handbook was distributed in high schools for the first national teach-in. After Kennedy's death we began our own descent into the total state where even the air is taxed.
Dr. Carroll also predicted that a Kennedy would become president to begin the American Empire consisting of three totalitarian centers. Washington, Moscow and Peiping. Although he may have missed the mark on this guess, consider the symbolism of our times. The Kennedy's were politically assassinated in all respects, but their martyred images were successfully projected by the media, who symbolized presidential candidate Bill Clinton as the new JFK. Their blitz was so affective that many young voters called him "their Kennedy!" Although Clinton basked in JFK's image, his economic plan casts an opposing shadow over what Kennedy believed.
On December 14, 1962 Kennedy made a speech at the Economic Club of New York outlining his proposed massive tax plan designed to spur economic growth. It was quite long, but basically cuts taxes and discourages government spending. "Our tax system...exerts too heavy a drag on growth in peace time. It siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power...The Federal government's most useful role is not to rush into a program of excessive increases in public expenditures, but to expand the incentives and opportunities for private expenditures...When consumers purchase more goods, plants use more of their capacity, men are hired instead of laid off, investment increases and profits are high...
"The right bill next year will in do course increase our Gross National Product by several times the amount of taxes actually cut. Profit margins will be improved and both the incentive to invest and the supply of internal funds for investment will be increased. There will be new interest in taking risks and increasing productivity and creating new jobs and new products for long term economic growth..."
This speech was predicate for the Kemp, Roth, Reagan (ERTA) tax rate reductions of 1981. It was an Act "to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 to encourage economic growth through reductions in individual income tax rates, the expensing of depreciable property, incentives for small businesses, and incentives for savings, and for other purposes. At right, President Ronald Reagan signs the bill at his Rancho del Cielo in 1981. This is supply side economics, better known as Reaganomics, or trickle down economics raucously impugned by the new Democrats pretending to represent the philosophy of former President Kennedy. The Democrats of the sixties sound more like the conservative Republicans of today. It just goes to show what Dr. Carroll was talking about when he said President Kennedy's assassination, like Julius Caesar, was the pivot that made us take a different path. Looking backwards really shocks me, but it reveals the problem, just like turning a picture upside down shows where it's out of proportion.
While this picture looks dark, remember that the reasoning mind of man can alter, or overcome any pattern which results from unreason, given time and full understanding. The total state can be changed if enough people realize and stop it, and if it hasn't become self-perpetuating until it is only possible to influence government by first becoming part of its bureaucratic structure.
The only and proper functions of government are to protect the life, liberty and property of individuals with military defense and police, and to settle disputes among individuals in impartial courts practicing objective law. The remedy to our present dilemma is to first limit growth, then roll back all laws and activities in government that regulate production, restrict trade and redistribute wealth through taxation.
History never stands still and government is no exception. It must grow or shrink. The roll back would preserve our freedom and western civilization. As you can see, those who know a lot about history can almost predict the future. They're not seers, or prophets. They simply know human nature and notice the patterns of civilizations forever fulfilling the natural laws of cause and effect. (Written July 29, 1993).