ON-Lion Letter

"More than 2,000 years before America's bailouts and entitlement programs, the ancient Romans experimented with similar schemes," begins an August article in the Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in Atlanta, by Lawrence W. Reed and Marc Hyden.  "The Roman government rescued failing institutions, canceled personal debts, and spent huge sums on welfare programs.  The result wasn’t pretty."

Reed is president of FEE, which is supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and Hyden works for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

"Roman politicians picked winners and losers, generally favoring the politically well connected -- a practice that's central to the welfare state of modern times, too," they continue in "The Slow-Motion Financial Suicide of the Roman Empire."  "As numerous writers have noted, these expensive rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul efforts were major factors in bankrupting Roman society.  They inevitably led to even more destructive interventions.  Rome wasn't built in a day, as the old saying goes -- and it took a while to tear it down as well.  Eventually, when the republic faded into an imperial autocracy, the emperors attempted to control the entire economy.

"Rome fell to invaders in 476 AD, but who the real barbarians were is an open question," Reed and Hyden conclude.  "The Roman people who supported the welfare state and the politicians who administered it so weakened society that the Western Roman Empire fell like a ripe plum that year.  Maybe the real barbarians were those Romans who had effectively committed a slow-motion financial suicide."

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