Fall of The Roman Republic Was First The Fall Of Civilized Debate


One can learn a lot by studying the fall of the Roman Republic… which took a century (roughly from 144 BCE to 44 BCE, when Caesar was assassinated). What happened? A failure of civilized debate. The conflict arose because many of the wealthiest families in Rome, leveraging the Punic and Macedonian wars, had become wealthier than the absolute wealth limits of the Republic. This was caused in part by escaping Roman laws overseas, in other jurisdictions (the laws of the city of Rome covered the Latium, but not all of Italy, let alone Provence, Gaul, Spain and Africa). 

The Gracchi and their friends tried to re-impose wealth distribution, by extending it well beyond the territory Rome controlled juridically. The analogy with the present situation where wealth is hidden in Delaware and overseas, and controlling world politics that way, is absolute. 

The “Optimates” (the self-described “best”) opposed wealth redistribution, or any decrease of their political power. They bought tribunes of the people to block reforms completely in the assembly… 

The Optimates claimed that the Gracchi, their friends, and later Marius and Caesar were “populists”, who destroyed the Republic. Instead of having a civilized debate, misinformation and disinformation were weaponized. Ultimately the Optimates tried to kill everybody opposing them, and were in turn destroyed by a vengeful army.

The lesson is that one should keep debating in a civilized manner. Unfortunately, censorship is widely practiced, and it helps polarize the population, increasing conflict instead of mitigating and resolving it.  

Many on the left have used censorship in recent years, disallowing, for example in media of record, comments they could neither appreciate nor understand. The same methods can be used by right wing extremists, and will be, because they will leverage precedent.

Patrice Ayme

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