This article has a great deal to recommend to it, regardless of which side of the political fence you’re on. I’m going to post its end, though, instead of its beginning as I feel it’ll provide the most insight for those who don’t have the chance to read the full article:
In all, it has become the background drone of our politics, the dull hum of impending doom. Let’s understand why this thinking appeals. Envisioning decline is addictive. It offers us the chance to imagine our times as extraordinary and to cast ourselves in heroic roles to meet them. And the thrill demands a higher dose of doom each year.
But let’s also understand what this thinking does. If our republic is at stake, then it’s reasonable to treat an elected president as illegitimate. If our republic is at stake, then it’s fair to nullify laws that offend us. If our republic is really at stake, then defaulting on our debts to save it—paying any price at all—is a bargain.
To study the Roman Republic’s last years is to watch this pattern play out in a distant mirror. And to study the years of its strength is to come into contact with an entirely different cast of mind. This is the awareness that the norms that grow up over generations of experience embody more wisdom than we know, are worthy of respect for their complexity and their practicality, and, if radically disturbed, will react in unpredictable ways. It’s the calm faith that our times are likely to be no more or less extraordinary than any other times. And it’s the conviction that vigilance is liberty’s price, but paranoia is its solvent. These are all fundamentally conservative insights, and they sit uncomfortably with radicals of any age. The Romans had a name for this cast of mind: mos maiorum, “the way of the elders.”
Rome’s tragedy is that the men who saw and sold themselves as guardians of the way of the elders did more than anyone to undermine it. Our hope is that we have what they lacked: the example of their failure.
Read the whole thing. Comments welcome.