John Stossel

Doesn't that sound like today's anti-capitalist politicians?

Diocletian was worse than Nixon. Rome enforced controls with the death penalty -- and forbid people to change professions. Emperor Constantine decreed that those who broke such rules "be bound with chains and reduced to servile condition."

Eventually, Rome's empire was so large -- and people so resentful of centralized control -- that generals in outlying regions began declaring independence from Rome.

At FreedomFest, Matt Kibbe, president of the tea party group FreedomWorks, also argued that America could soon collapse like Rome did.

"The parallels are quite ominous -- the debt, the expansionist foreign policy, the arrogance of executive power taking over our country," says Kibbe. "But I do think we have a chance to stop it."

That's a big difference between today's America and yesterday's Rome. We have movements like the tea party and libertarianism and events like FreedomFest that alert people to the danger in imperial Washington and try to fight it. If they can wake the public, we have hope.

The triumph of liberty is not inevitable, though. And empires do crumble.

Rome's lasted the longest. The Ottoman Empire lasted 623 years. China's Song, Qing and Ming dynasties each lasted about 300 years.

We've lasted just 237 years so far -- sometimes behaving like a republic and sometimes an empire. In that time, we've accomplished amazing things, but we shouldn't take our continued success for granted.

Freedom and prosperity are not natural. In human history, they're rare.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate