In response to:

Why Do Societies Give Up?

Kenneth L. Wrote: Feb 14, 2013 12:14 PM
More important, I think you misread Hansen's article. Plutocrats have never been numerous enough to support an indolent middle class. The problem Greece illustrates, and the problem we are approaching very quickly, is that we will collapse into hunger and violence as our own productivity declines to the point we can't support ourselves because we have cultivated such a large underclass of folks who expect everything to be provided for them. If you know anybody under the age of 30 you know what I mean.

Why do once-successful societies ossify and decline?

Hundreds of reasons have been adduced for the fall of Rome and the end of the Old Regime in 18th-century France. Reasons run from inflation and excessive spending to resource depletion and enemy invasion, as historians attempt to understand the sudden collapse of the Mycenaeans, the Aztecs and, apparently, the modern Greeks. In literature from Catullus to Edward Gibbon, wealth and leisure -- and who gets the most of both -- more often than poverty and exhaustion implode civilization.

One recurring theme seems consistent in Athenian literature on the eve of the city's takeover...