Welcome to Rome, Circa 450 AD

posted at 7:55 pm on July 5, 2010 by Anchoress

In the late 1970′s the genial science historian James Burke wrote and presented a ten-part series entitled Connections, which became appointment-tv for my husband and me. He had a way of applying past lessons to present circumstances that was both fascinating and entertaining and sometimes–as in this video–loaded with the prescience that comes from actually listening to history.

At about the 3:30 mark, you find Burke once again presenting past as prelude:

” The last time a world empire fell apart, it was about 1500 years ago. Then, the empire was Roman…. … What led the Barbarians walk over Rome is something that won’t take you a second to sympathize with. The taxes were too high, to pay for the army that was losing all the battles, and a bunch of freeloaders in government, and of course, and to pay for thousands of civil servants.”

Stick with this all the way through; you will be very, very surprised as to where it leads. Well, regular readers of The Anchoress might not be.

Elizabeth Scalia is guestblogging for the week. This is cross-posted at The Anchoress with additional and related links.

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Connections was date night tv for me and the Mrs. when this originally aired. Burke is a genius.

cannonball on July 5, 2010 at 8:01 PM

The taxes were too high, to pay for the army that was losing all the battles, and a bunch of freeloaders in government, and of course, and to pay for thousands of civil servants.

That all fits. Because of incompetent and mad generals now, but maybe that was the same back then.

Luka on July 5, 2010 at 8:02 PM

LOVED Connections. My husband and I watched it faithfully every week. Excellent post. Scary, but excellent. This President is giving me nightmares. Honest-to-god nightmares. The last time that happened was under Carter.

BrideOfRove on July 5, 2010 at 8:03 PM

Connections had me on the edge of my seat the first time I saw it.

Absolutely fascinating and brilliantly presented – some of the best TV evah.

It’s time for re-runs!

turfmann on July 5, 2010 at 8:05 PM

Gosh, and those monastaries were centers of morality, frugality and individual liberty all through the Middle Ages.

/s

mankai on July 5, 2010 at 8:06 PM

That was very informative and entertaining. Thanks for posting this!

I keep wondering if we are going to go the way of SkyNet, Planet of the Apes, Deep Impact, or some other disaster (natural or otherwise), that will turn the young new century into something not seen in centuries.

In any event, I pray we never have to find out the hard way if the Church is capable of saving humanity’s bacon again.

itzWicks on July 5, 2010 at 8:11 PM

Hope you enjoy this…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7kixg7E3Pk

:)

mankai on July 5, 2010 at 8:12 PM

In any event, I pray we never have to find out the hard way if the Church is capable of saving humanity’s bacon again.

itzWicks on July 5, 2010 at 8:11 PM

Seconded. The Cat-lick Church ran up a list of human rights abuses and scams long enough to gift-wrap the planet during the Dark Ages. I am really not eager to experience the right-wing theocracy that I see support voiced for here and elsewere…the only thing worse than tyranny ‘for your own good’ is the tyranny of a hijacked religion!

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:23 PM

You know…

I could see being able to survive after the fall of the United States using water power.

… Oh, wait!

Seven Percent Solution on July 5, 2010 at 8:24 PM

I dunno if I’d call Burke a genius,simply on account of I’ve always associated “genius,” per se, as a creative act. Regardless, the man’s intelligence and astuteness is undeniable no matter how you cut it.

Rome was probably the first documented case of an empire falling to movement of the Overton Window. Sad that we haven’t learned anything from history.

gryphon202 on July 5, 2010 at 8:24 PM

…the only thing worse than tyranny ‘for your own good’ is the tyranny of a hijacked religion!

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:23 PM

Like Environmentalism…?

Seven Percent Solution on July 5, 2010 at 8:25 PM

Using Rome as a negative example for a society because Rome fell is not informative. There’s no positive counterexample of a society that did everything right and never fell. They all fell.

We should steer clear of trying to argue for good things with bad arguments.

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 8:26 PM

Seconded. The Cat-lick Church ran up a list of human rights abuses and scams long enough to gift-wrap the planet during the Dark Ages. I am really not eager to experience the right-wing theocracy that I see support voiced for here and elsewere…the only thing worse than tyranny ‘for your own good’ is the tyranny of a hijacked religion!

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:23 PM

As long as I can ignore the numerous times that the church had to defend itself against Muslim invasion, you almost make sense, Libtard.

gryphon202 on July 5, 2010 at 8:26 PM

…the only thing worse than tyranny ‘for your own good’ is the tyranny of a hijacked religion!

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:23 PM

The tyranny for the greater good has quite a high body count. How many were killed in the Soviet Union just in the Stalinist era? 30 million?

Wethal on July 5, 2010 at 8:27 PM

We should steer clear of trying to argue for good things with bad arguments.

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 8:26 PM

Using the term “bad aruments” assumes that there is a good-argument counterpoint. How would you suggest we argue for freedom, oh wise sage?

How about the fact that Rome’s fall corresponded with its descent into despotism? And that we’re going down the same road with parallels simply too numerous for me to mention in this format and forum?

We’re watching history in the making here. With your head up your ass is not a good vantage point.

gryphon202 on July 5, 2010 at 8:28 PM

gryphon202 on July 5, 2010 at 8:24 PM

If you think the dark ages were really dark, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Read and you might learn something – the only thing dark about the dark ages was the survival and procreation of idiots like you.

Fuquay Steve on July 5, 2010 at 8:29 PM

As long as I can ignore the numerous times that the church had to defend itself against Muslim invasion…

gryphon202 on July 5, 2010 at 8:26 PM

Count those out. Although morally speaking, the Crusades were utter disasters, they were defensive wars that I absolutely can understand the need for. And it’s not like the Muslims were winning any prizes for their actions either!

(minus the “Childrens Crusade”, which was about the most retarded military campaign ever launched.)

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:30 PM

I am really not eager to experience the right-wing theocracy that I see support voiced for here

Sounds scary.

Would you paste a couple examples?

artist on July 5, 2010 at 8:31 PM

I was expecting to see them eating wafers and one monk whisper to another, “why is it called Green?”.

Renee on July 5, 2010 at 8:32 PM

I enjoyed Connections because it was sucha different way of looking at history than what I’d had in college, including the timelines that imposed an order hat wasn’t necessarily there.

It was the unpredictability of aodd connections tha I enjoyed. No doubt there were historians who took issues with Burke’s thesis, but there certainly was an argument for the inability of humans to control economic and political developments – highly relevant to day with a president who wants as much of the economy and citizens’ lives under “control”. Hey, he even thinks he can “control” how the climate changes.

Wethal on July 5, 2010 at 8:32 PM

Thanks for this video. I’ve been reading again St. Augustine’s, City of God, for the very same “past is prologue” reasons. Augustine offers a neat perspective, being the Bishop of Hippo, because the Fall of Rome had not yet “occurred” in North Africa. He had many Christians asking questions about what one should do, as Christians, when faced with such things as rape, pillage, and Romans who found refuge in the Churches. Also, G.K. Chesterton’s biography on St. Francis of Assisi provides some interesting insight on the time between the fall of Rome and the Middle Ages as well as the rise of monasteries, focusing of course on the Franciscan order.Again thank you for this post and video!

Weight of Glory on July 5, 2010 at 8:34 PM

I’ve never understood Leftist antipathy towards corporations. They are simply a means of organization. But then I think of Leftist antipathy towards guns, and I can kind of make a connection.

Anyways, nice video. Seems like a series I will have to watch now. Education from the 70′s FTW!

Aquateen Hungerforce on July 5, 2010 at 8:35 PM

That was excellent viewing. I have great admiration for the Benedictines.

Monasteries kept Western civilization alive during the darkest of ages.

onlineanalyst on July 5, 2010 at 8:41 PM

gryphon202 on July 5, 2010 at 8:28 PM

Rome “descended” into despotism long before it fell. In fact, it was an Empire far longer than it was a Republic (if you count the continuance of the Eastern Roman Empire).

Aquateen Hungerforce on July 5, 2010 at 8:41 PM

gryphon202 — How would you suggest we argue for freedom, oh wise sage?

I like to tell people it’s wrong to force people to do things against their will. I like to point out that the anti-freedom people want to enforce their will on others with threats, and if the threats don’t work, then they’ll use violence. Most people don’t think of themselves as evil, but it’s hard to reconcile do-gooderism with the threats and violence needed to enforce it on people.

gryphon202 — How about the fact that Rome’s fall corresponded with its descent into despotism?

How about every other society that fell? What wrong choice did they make? Since all societies fell, where is the evidence that there’s a right choice based on history?

The case for a choice being the right choice based on historical example is not a good case. Why choose an unsupportable (or barely supportable) argument when there are so many good ones available?

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 8:42 PM

The Eastern half of the Empire. in Constantinople, survived for another millennium, until barbarians from Islam~ spreading an imperialistic ‘holy’ terror~ overwhelmed the city and extinguished that last beacon of ancient Rome.

But, by then, the rest of Europe and Britain had advanced to military parity with Islam’s incursions, and after the Fall of Constantinople, were motivated to resist with more unity.

Which threw back the Mohammadens at the gates of Vienna, and kept them out of Europe for then next several centuries.

Until post-WW II multicultural delusionalists forgot their own history and invited-in their ancient Muslim enemy to share in a peaceful post-nationalistic continent, showered with “human rights”.

Which Islam scorns and condemns.

profitsbeard on July 5, 2010 at 8:43 PM

Connections is a brilliant series. Burke has it right. Unless things change….and soon, we are headed in the same direction as the Roman Empire. Rot happens from within. Americans had better wise up and get rid of this current band of crooks and bureaucrats that run our country and bleed us all dry. Unlike Ed Morrissey (God bless your optimism, Ed. You bring me back to Earth often) I’m not so optimistic.

simkeith on July 5, 2010 at 8:43 PM

A great book on the subject is The New Deal in Old Rome: How Government in the Ancient World Tried to Deal With Modern Problems by H.J. Haskell. It’s worth checking out if you have the chance.

Glenn Jericho on July 5, 2010 at 8:44 PM

I am really not eager to experience the right-wing theocracy that I see support voiced for here and elsewere…the only thing worse than tyranny ‘for your own good’ is the tyranny of a hijacked religion!

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:23 PM

Yup, so much better to have the left-wing Theocracy of Thuggery and Idiocy that has hijacked liberalism. Like we have right now in 2010! Yes, that is working out very well.

Tav on July 5, 2010 at 8:44 PM

(minus the “Childrens Crusade”, which was about the most retarded military campaign ever launched.)

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:30 PM

History has quite a few exmaples of what in hindsight seems stupidly, incompetently, wastefully suicidal. The Charge of the Light Brigade. Pickett’s Charge. Gallipoli.

Wethal on July 5, 2010 at 8:47 PM

The parallels between Rome and the US are a frequent theme of mine in the comments here on HA, what I try to get across in my commentary is the gravity of what became of the world as Rome exited stage left(pun intended).

It is a time refered to as the Dark Ages, and with good reason. Make no doubt, these are the stakes today if we fail to wrest control of our nation back, if it is not already too late.

By the by, “Connections” was a fantastic series and far and away better than the tripe on TV now.

Archimedes on July 5, 2010 at 8:47 PM

Yup, so much better to have the left-wing Theocracy of Thuggery and Idiocy that has hijacked liberalism. Like we have right now in 2010! Yes, that is working out very well.

Tav on July 5, 2010 at 8:44 PM

I never said I liked that either, bud.

I’m wondering if there really is any possibility of a return to reason in November and/or 2012, or if I should just prepare for the nation to fall off the log one way or another.

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:49 PM

Wethal on July 5, 2010 at 8:47 PM

Yes there are. And the Children’s Crusade is not one of them.

Thankfully the pointy-hat in charge at the time had the smarts to realize that wars need to be fought by adults…or all of Europe would be bowing to Mecca by now.

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:50 PM

Part of the charm of Connections was Burke himself, his sense of humor, and his ingenuity in taking the show on the road (literally), as well as the wonderful models and other visual effects he used.

Wethal on July 5, 2010 at 8:51 PM

History has quite a few exmaples of what in hindsight seems stupidly, incompetently, wastefully suicidal. The Charge of the Light Brigade. Pickett’s Charge. Gallipoli.

Wethal on July 5, 2010 at 8:47 PM

Oddly enough, Harry Flashman was present all all of them.

Inanemergencydial on July 5, 2010 at 8:52 PM

More like Rome circa 56 A.D.

In 450 A.D., Rome had exhausted her options, and had a couple of centuries of mostly miserable governance reinforcing some larger historical trends. That is why the Western Empire fell.

But in 56 A.D., she was just entering on a time of troubles that quickly resolved itself into a 100+ year period of triumph and prosperity.

So breathe into a paper bag and calm down, people.

Replace Nero with Vespasian, and we’ll be back on track.

HTL on July 5, 2010 at 8:56 PM

Okay, but does the Rome over-extension argument really apply to the United States in 2010?

The federal government is spending roughly 21-22% of our GDP. Add another 5-8% for states and cities and we’re still around 30% of GDP allocated to government activity.

Does anyone know what percentage of GDP did Rome have to allocate to maintain its civil service, military and other endeavors? I have to guess it was well over 50% of their domestic product.

We’re (and the rest of the world) headed for collapse if this continues. But I don’t think we’re there yet.

SteveMG on July 5, 2010 at 8:58 PM

Connections is available @ Ambrose Video for $99.99 per season(3).

marinetbryant on July 5, 2010 at 9:07 PM

:)

mankai on July 5, 2010 at 8:12 PM

Enjoyed it…

… Thanks!

Seven Percent Solution on July 5, 2010 at 9:08 PM

The last time a world empire fell apart, it was about 1500 years ago.

Somebody better inform the Brits they still have their empire.

TheBigOldDog on July 5, 2010 at 9:09 PM

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.” Benito Mussolini

Speakup on July 5, 2010 at 9:09 PM

SteveMG – Okay, but does the Rome over-extension argument really apply to the United States in 2010?

It’s a pretty open question.

A much better argument against high levels of debt is that debt is an obligation that needs to be paid in the future. We are spending the money now and asking future taxpayers to pay for it.

Those future taxpayers are not old enough to vote yet. So the debt is taxation without representation. We are selling out the next generation(s) for the benefit of our current ruling class.

I’m not sure why we’d want to use a dubious argument about surface similarities to Rome when the other arguments are so much more compelling.

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 9:16 PM

TheBigOldDog — Somebody better inform the Brits they still have their empire.

Also the Soviets.

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 9:18 PM

Replace Nero with Vespasian, and we’ll be back on track.
HTL on July 5, 2010 at 8:56 PM

So we can look forward to having our urine taxed?

Bishop on July 5, 2010 at 9:27 PM

Using Rome as a negative example for a society because Rome fell is not informative.

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 8:26 PM

Yes it is. Almost everything can be informative if you look properly.

Tav on July 5, 2010 at 9:33 PM

I never said I liked that either, bud.

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:49 PM

I’m not your bud, valley boy.

Tav on July 5, 2010 at 9:40 PM

FYI : ‘Connections’ DVDs are available via Netflix.
I just added all of them to our queue.

pambi on July 5, 2010 at 9:42 PM

Very funny, Bishop. Of course, the tax was originally imposed by Nero, and was really just a user fee intended to pay for the maintenance of the Cloaca Maxima.

So as silly as it sounds, it really wasn’t a bad idea. But you can make anything sound silly, if you focus on the trivial and take things out of context.

In reality, Vespasian was an excellent administrator and stabilized the Empire for another 100+ years. Including its peak under Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines.

I still haven’t heard anyone (including the author of this post) respond to the major point, which is: what makes you think we are at 450 A.D., as opposed to 56 A.D.?

HTL on July 5, 2010 at 9:45 PM

Many companies, Apple Computer for example, begin not so much as an obvious road to riches, but simply as a way to turn the hobby, the passion, of two smart guys into something that would also pay the bills. Like the Benedictines, they followed their charism, and there was no stopping it. The first step was open-minded curiosity.

RBMN on July 5, 2010 at 9:47 PM

Yes it is. Almost everything can be informative if you look properly.

“Informative” was probably not the best choice of a word. It’ more accurate to say it’s not a good argument (which I also said).

Clearly, if everyone will look at something the same way (“properly”) and agree on a uniform thought-process with no deviations, then arguments that follow that thought process are all seemingly brilliant (and/or obvious). I don’t think that is useful for persuasion though.

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 9:49 PM

yes, it is such a shame that the slave state of Rome fell, what with their abject disregard for the sanctity of human life and the coliseum games
But thank God they were replaced by the Catholics who sold us those great indulgences
That helped move the condition of humankind forward

Observation on July 5, 2010 at 9:51 PM

Using Rome as a negative example for a society because Rome fell is not informative.

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 8:26 PM

Only if you haven’t bothered in the least to examine why Rome fell.

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 9:51 PM

A much better argument against high levels of debt is that debt is an obligation that needs to be paid in the future. We are spending the money now and asking future taxpayers to pay for it.

Broad brush strokes sometimes give us at least something to consider.

If Rome’s debt and over-extension was due to just that – too many commitments chasing too few resources – then they needed to reduce their commitments. Since their resources were exhausted.

If our debt and over-extension is due to other reasons – we’re devoting less than 30% of our GDP to the state while Rome was allocating, what 50%? – then the commitments are not necessarily the entire problem, resources are part of the problem.

I’m more sanguine about our problems because we still, although the day is getting late, have the resources to address them. First, of course, we need to get this economy growing again.

SteveMG on July 5, 2010 at 9:54 PM

HTL on July 5, 2010 at 9:45 PM

You need to emulate Vespasian by having a sense of humor.

Bishop on July 5, 2010 at 9:58 PM

Clearly, if everyone will look at something the same way (“properly”) and agree on a uniform thought-process with no deviations, then arguments that follow that thought process are all seemingly brilliant (and/or obvious). I don’t think that is useful for persuasion though.

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 9:49 PM

No one said that there was only one uniform way to look at something. It that was your “take-away” then you completely missed the point.

Tav on July 5, 2010 at 10:08 PM

Humor. It is a difficult concept.

HTL on July 5, 2010 at 10:09 PM

I’ve heard the argument that the best thing to happen (for America) is, California, Illinois, New York, etc. go bankrupt. That way, they can no longer compete (for credit) with borrowers in the private sector. Private borrowers would make much better use of the credit, and once all other options are gone, for the states, they’ll finally have to hack away at their budgets. They won’t have any other choice.

RBMN on July 5, 2010 at 10:14 PM

lovin’it

Another demonstration that people are still composed of sheep, wolves and sheep dogs.

Thanks Lord for a conscience. Bite’em is a pleasure this old dog seldom enjoys but maybe McDonald allows sharper teeth.

Caststeel on July 5, 2010 at 10:26 PM

Reminds me of Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization. Fantastic read with the same historical premise.

somewhatconcerned on July 5, 2010 at 10:58 PM

yes, it is such a shame that the slave state of Rome fell, what with their abject disregard for the sanctity of human life and the coliseum games
But thank God they were replaced by the Catholics who sold us those great indulgences
That helped move the condition of humankind forward

Public education system still churnin’ ‘em out I see. The Romans created an empire that lasted over a thousand years, made amazing advances in art, poetry and architecture, and gave us the foundation of modern government, but all the post-modern idiocracy can see in them is a “slave state”. Ditto Catholicism. 2,000 years of history but according to this cretin sees is ‘selling’ indulgences.

combatwombat on July 5, 2010 at 11:08 PM

Only if you haven’t bothered in the least to examine why Rome fell.

It wasn’t just one thing.

Arguments that seem to say the Roman government would still be around without choice A and/or choice B are (to be very generous) academic.

Personally, I’d like conservatives and folks who promote freedom to have strong arguments rather than weak ones.

Kohath on July 6, 2010 at 12:26 AM

combatwombat on July 5, 2010 at 11:08 PM

“Observation” is a new troll. I spotted it on another thread. Don’t feed it, and it will go away. :-)

Mary in LA on July 6, 2010 at 12:34 AM

I should learn to qualify: I think “Observation” is a new troll. This looked pretty trollish to me.

Mary in LA on July 6, 2010 at 12:36 AM

It is called “bread and circuses” spending.

crosspatch on July 6, 2010 at 12:39 AM

The final scene (part 5) with his holding up the computer keycard is pretty moving.

eforhan on July 6, 2010 at 1:06 AM

Also the Soviets.

Kohath on July 5, 2010 at 9:18 PM

In the 70′s the Soviets still had their empire.

AbeFroman on July 6, 2010 at 2:07 AM

With proper decision-making and management, there is nothing about our current debt that is really un-manageable.

It’s just that most of us have real misgivings about the management and decision-making.

trigon on July 6, 2010 at 2:16 AM

Rome fell because of high taxes in their provinces? It took 600 years for it to fall. And the provinces were bled dry over and over again all throughout that time. From the Punic Wars to the civil war following Caesar’s death to the centuries of rule by emperors and relocation of the heart of Rome to Constantinople. All of that was financed by conquest and ruinous taxation, enslavement and cruelty of conquered peoples. But suddenly, in 450AD the barbarians decided that they’d had enough taxation?

MJBrutus on July 6, 2010 at 6:29 AM

The Cat-lick Church ran up a list of human rights abuses and scams long enough to gift-wrap the planet during the Dark Ages. I am really not eager to experience the right-wing theocracy that I see support voiced for here and elsewere…

A few points:

1) You’ll never be taken seriously when you write like a disgruntled 12-year-old. It’s Catholic, regardless of whether or not you like it.

2) If you have to go back to the Dark Ages to find these abuses, then your argument has no present-day application whatsoever. The Dark Ages are, you know, the past.

3) “Theocracy” is an argument the left has been hysterically using for years…it ain’t happened, not in the way you claim, and never will.

englishqueen01 on July 6, 2010 at 6:32 AM

Fuquay Steve on July 5, 2010 at 8:29 PM

I believe scientists proved that the Dark Ages were actually dark. I can’t remember which volcano caused it but the tree rings show that the earth was allowing much less sun through causing poor crops and mass starvation for several years.

Not lying to you. Google it yourself.

BrideOfRove on July 6, 2010 at 7:30 AM

Not all countries rise and fall. Super powers, however, do. We tie our progress to Rome because the type of government and the mistakes are similar. According to our own history, we tried to put into place a consititution that – if faithfully followed – would make it impossible to follow Rome’s mistakes. Unfortunately, greed for power and other people’s money and stupidity always find a way. it’s like water. If you don’t maintain the dam, it crumbles.

BrideOfRove on July 6, 2010 at 7:35 AM

Nobody commented on the TV host’s 1970′s men’s fashion catastrophe, the Leisure Suit???
:-)

albill on July 6, 2010 at 7:37 AM

Burke’s arguments only sound weak because of the limitations of TV broadcast time. Here’s what he said in his accompanying book (still in print);

At almost the same time as the Barbegal mill was being built, the Roman Empire was splitting into two halves, one administered in Rome, the other in Constantinople, the new city built by Constantine on the Bosporus. From this point on, Rome had to support herself without the wealth of the eastern part of the Empire on which she had previously been able to draw. Yet the vast bureaucracy which that wealth had spawned and the 300,000-strong army it had funded were both still there, and the only way to support them was by raising taxes.

So began a chain of events which was to lead to the fall of the Western Roman Empire withing less than two hundred years, destroyed by its own taxation system. Higher taxes devolved on to tenants of either land or buildings as higher rents. After a time the tenants had less surplus with which to support their families, so the birth-rate fell. at the same time, administration and collection of the new taxes demanded more bureaucrats, and in order to support them taxes had to rise again, so the population declined further. it was this descending spiral that ruined the West, as the economy faltered and began to grind to a halt.

In the fifth century, as the legions began to withdraw to protect Rome, the Germanic tribes which had been in contact with the Empire for over two hundred years gradually consolidated their position. In the province of Gaul they had held high administrative posts since the fourth century. When the so-called barbarians invaded in the fifth and sixth centuries they were fighting Romanized Franks and Burgundians, not Romans. And with the armies gone and the local populations so long forbidden to carry arms (italics mine), resistance was apathetic. Small city-states sprang up. The great estates, established as part of the imperial economic structure, had no further raison d’etre, and they gradually ran down. the imperial roads were too expensive to keep in repair when there were no legions to use them. They served no local purpose, and life had become local, so they too fell into disrepair. Economic activity dropped sharply as the province split into tiny self-sufficient units under local kings, and especially during the plagues of the sixth and seventh centuries when the population of Europe was halved.

-Burke, Connections (1st Ed.), pp 82-84.

Please note that the birth-rate in the “developed world” has been falling steadily for the last half-century. According to the Worldwatch Institute, it will fall below the 2.3 to 1 ‘replacement rate” in Europe and North America within the next decade.

At the same time, governments in the nation-states in question have become larger and more expensive, demanding a larger chunk of GDP each year to pay for them- in the form of higher taxes.

BTW, the reason the Barbegal mills were built in the first place was to supply government-funded bread to the plebeians, who wanted it for free. And the government supplied it- and yes, you guessed it, raised taxes on the citizenry to pay for it. After all, the representatives needed the plebeians’ votes to stay in office, didn’t they?

The only thing missing from the parallel is armed invasion by aggressive “barbarians”. (Or is it?)

In all other respects, as the Anchoress said in French, is “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

There’s a lesson in this (besides the obvious economic and political ones). Namely, that a book will always be able to tell you more than a TV adaptation of same. Plus, you can carry the book around with you, and refer to it without the need for electricity, either from mains of batteries, as long as you have enough light to read by. This is why books will always be superior to more “modern” data-retrieval systems.

You can thank Johannes Gansfleisch and Aldus Manutius for this. But that’s another story. (You’ll find it on pp. 100-105 of Burke’s book.)

clear ether

eon

eon on July 6, 2010 at 8:30 AM

The Cat-lick Church ran up a list of human rights abuses and scams long enough to gift-wrap the planet during the Dark Ages.

I find this name for the Catholic Church offensive and I’m not even Catholic.
As for “human rights abuses and scams” of the church during the Dark Ages, I have no idea what you’re talking about.
If anything, the Church preserved Western Civilization and culture during the “Dark Ages.”

I am really not eager to experience the right-wing theocracy that I see support voiced for here and elsewere…

Dark-Star on July 5, 2010 at 8:23 P

Gee, that’s peculiar!
I’ve never seen anyone here voice support for a “right wing theocracy.”
You’re delusional.

Jenfidel on July 6, 2010 at 9:05 AM

The military channel has a show akin to Connections called Weaponology; they explore the linage of weapons and elite units.

Cr4sh Dummy on July 6, 2010 at 9:37 AM

BrideOfRove on July 6, 2010 at 7:30 AM

I wasn’t referring to the climate but rather the human spirit. If I was referring to the climate then the dark ages re-occur on a daily basis (most frequently between the hours of 8:30 pm and 6:30 am). As for scientists proving “The Dark Ages” existed, bully for them. Now if they can prove how the automobile brought about those dastardly Dark Ages we’d have something useful. I’m sure there is a grant available out there that will provide funding for such a “study”.

Fuquay Steve on July 6, 2010 at 10:03 AM

Fuquay Steve on July 6, 2010 at 10:03 AM

This is an interestingly random exchange here … I’m in. The dark ages are, in fact, proof that climate change – something that happens constantly as the ice age and currrent non-ice age indicates – does have a profound effect on economics and general world development. The issue is not climate change. The issue is anthropomorgic caused, dramatic climate changed, which cannot be proven. Even the Dark Ages was finite and reversible so if you believe the scientists studying the sun and our solar system and agree with their theory that the sun has been dormant and the mean temp of all the planets has adjusted in synch relative to their distance from teh sun, we are a negligable, microscopic spec of an influence on our planet and only the height of conceit could make the case that we matter at all when it comes to our climate. Can we polute small areas? Sure.

But this is way off topic.

The Catholics clearly caused the Dark Ages through demon worship and the result was Torquemada. I think we all can agree on that.

BrideOfRove on July 6, 2010 at 11:39 AM

Hhhhhmmmmm….Victor Davis Hanson also had some of the same conclusions about the Roman Empire regarding taxes, civil servants, the arrival of diversity and multi-culturalism that fractured the single language and culture of Rome. He also stated that there were more “takers” than “producers” in the system. Another relatively unknown contribution was “inflation” of the silver coinage. The Roman government started to add base metal to silver coins but kept the same face value. As a consequence, merchants started to demand higher prices to be sure that they received proper payment for goods and services. And they did in advance as there was erosion of trust in the coinage/currency.
Sound familiar at all?

Amendment X on July 6, 2010 at 12:45 PM

and a bunch of freeloaders in government, and of course, and to pay for thousands of civil servants.”

I don’t see the distinction.

mugged on July 6, 2010 at 4:27 PM

Dark-Star,

There were creatures just like you back in 450AD-they did not last long, though. Most of them were dead or sold into slavery within 5 years of the collapse of the empire. They were fine examples of the theory of evolution-a creature that is not smart enough to realize the dangers surrounding it, who actively encourages and nurtures those dangers to grow and is not capable physically or psychologically to defend itself against said dangers outside of indignant, petulant squawking does not survive very long.

Just remember, honey, when TSHTF it is every man, woman child and critter for itself. Weak, clueless fools like you will make for very easy pickings and there will be no one coming to your aid. Perhaps archeologists in some future time will dig up your bones in the ruins of your parent’s basement-then you might actually contribute something useful to humanity.

Nahanni on July 6, 2010 at 4:32 PM

Dark Star and fellow travelers your anti-Catholic bigotry is rank and unbecoming not to mention ignorant.

Mason on July 6, 2010 at 4:42 PM