Inequality Was One of the Main Reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire … and Inequality in America Is MUCH WORSE than In Ancient Rome

American Inequality Twice As Bad As In Ancient Rome

A study by two historians finds that inequality in America is worse than in ancient Rome:

The Roman Empire, a society built on conquest and slave labor, had a more equitable income distribution [than America today].


To determine the size of the Roman economy and the distribution of income, historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen pored over papyri ledgers, previous scholarly estimates, imperial edicts, and Biblical passages. Their target was the state of the economy when the empire was at its population zenith, around 150 C.E. Schiedel and Friesen estimate that the top 1 percent of Roman society controlled 16 percent of the wealth, less than half of what America’s top 1 percent control.

The study – published in the Journal of Roman Studies in 2009 – is receiving widespread attention this week.

Inequality in America has only gotten worse since 2009.  

Inequality Contributed to the Fall of Rome

I’ve previously noted that extreme inequality causes depressions as well as violence and unrest.

No wonder the CIA keeps track:

Since too much inequality can foment revolt and instability, the CIA regularly updates statistics on income distribution for countries around the world, including the U.S.

Indeed, the widening gap between rich and poor and the disappearance of a middle class is widely accepted as one of the prime explanations for the fall of the Roman Empire.

Note:  Contrary to what mainstream Republican leaders may say, most conservatives realize the danger of runaway inequality and do not accept rampant levels of disparity between rich and poor.

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  • The toxins of power are more powerful now.

    We have better tools to deal with those toxins, tools we are not even concerned with yet.

  • I teach history and study the fall of the Roman Empire. The history cited was before the height of corruption. Similarities of corrupt Rome to the US today include the purchasing of elections run by and for a plutocracy, the devolution from a republic form of government to a dictatorship pretending to have a constitution, and “defensive” wars for empire.

    We have better education than the Roman people to understand and stop the 1%’s crimes against our Constitution, the murder of our soldiers and fellow humans in offensive and unlawful wars, and the plundering of our economy through criminal fraud by plutocrats.

    It’s game-on to have a brighter future for 100% of humanity, or to suffer the same collapse as Rome.

  • The problem is, the inequality is rising fastest with males as opposed to females. Not to say females need to be behind men, but most of the jobs lost in the last decade are male-majority occupations. Now while the average male professional or manager would see nothing wrong with dating his female receptionist, few female professionals or managers would date a male receptionist. So many highly skilled women are left with a choice of dating men with lousy jobs and earnings, or are left with players who will use them for a while and dump them for a younger, cuter single female.
    Guess many women who want kids in the USA will have to turn to sperm donation and many men will be lonely and living with their mothers.