From the Guardian:
Decline and fall of the American Empire
“Let me put an alternative hypothesis. America in 2011 is Rome in 200AD or Britain on the eve of the first world war: an empire at the zenith of its power but with cracks beginning to show.
The experience of both Rome and Britain suggests that it is hard to stop the rot once it has set in, so here are the a few of the warning signs of trouble ahead: military overstretch, a widening gulf between rich and poor, a hollowed-out economy, citizens using debt to live beyond their means, and once-effective policies no longer working. The high levels of violent crime, epidemic of obesity, addiction to pornography and excessive use of energy may be telling us something: the US is in an advanced state of cultural decadence.”
Hardcore libertarians often downplay the importance of cultural practices (pornography, obesity, crime etc.) as indicators that societies are declining. Bad economic policies usually follow once the culture is diseased. To quote Will Durant (featured in Gibson’s “Apocalypto”): “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”