It has been many centuries since the fall of the Roman Empire and a lot of time has passed to discover why it actually fell. Historians, intellectuals and theorists, being what they are, are still debating over the one, if any, of the diverse causes that precipitated the eventual downfall. However, they all agree that the main event that signaled the beginning of the end was actually on or about September 4, 476, AD, when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed by Odoacer and the faro hit the fan.
Some possible explanations laid blame to the decay of morals, financial instability, the decline of society -- economic and military issues, divisions within the empire, hoarding, price-gouging and cheating by the publicans and a monumental government deficit, just to name a few.
The price of real estate rose faster than the Tiber in Spring, the upkeep on the palaces became too high, wasteful government spending, the manufacturing of togas had to be outsourced to other empires and the Senators in the Senatus spent too much time coining Latin phrases, filibustering, orating and inventing silly laws instead of worrying about the middle class.
So now fast forward 2,484 years to September 2008 and the headlines scream: Lehman Brothers has gone belly-up; AIG is next to be bailed by the feds; Bank of America bails out Merrill Lynch; the federal government bails out Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae; the military is advancing instead of retreating; Politicians are getting fat on pork bellies, the oil companies are gouging our eyes out and the middle class can’t breathe.
So I have to ask myself: why did Lehman Brothers go down the tubes? Maybe it’s because the CEO, Richard Fuld, was awarded a $22 million bonus in 2007 and their 25,936 employees were awarded an aggregate bonus of $8.7 billion. Yes, you heard right, $8.7 in 2007. That is a lot of gift money. I don’t know about you, but at the end of the year I’m just happy that I still have a job.
Not for nothing, but didn’t they think that maybe, possibly, quite conceivably they just might need that money? And wouldn’t it have been financially prudent to put that cash back into the company so that it could weather the stormy ups and downs of business and give their employees a holiday party instead?
Why is it that all these financial geniuses couldn’t predict that they just might need to have a little cash socked away in the undies drawer for just such a rainy day?
When it all comes down to the final analysis, Rome fell because of stupidity. The Roman Senators enjoyed their billion pieces of gold bonuses and didn’t care a fig about the vox populi; real estate prices fell lower than dropping toga hemlines, and brokers were selling swamp land in Mesopotamia at a sub-prime lending rate. They all laughed and Nero fiddled while Rome burned. They were all too high on Grappa and too willing to live for the moment to see or care about the curves down the Appian Way.
So did we take a lesson from them? Nope, just goes to show that thousands of years of civilization have passed and we haven’t learned a thing. We’re still stupid.
Anyone have a fiddle?
E-mail “Not for Nuthin’” at JoannaD@co
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