Rome Exchanged Freedom For Autocracy. Is The U.S. Headed Down That Path?

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This message comes from on point sponsor, indeed if you're hiring with indeed you can post a job in minutes set up screener questions than zero in on your shortlist of qualified candidates using an online dashboard get started at indeed dot com slash NPR podcast. From WBU are Boston NPR. I'm David Folkenflik in. This is on point to walk around. The federal part of Washington DC is to a team constant glimpses of ancient Rome. There's the fiscal seat of all three branches of government the White House. The supreme court building the US capital the national archives. The all draw inspiration from Roman architecture, the very name of the US Senate taken from Rome, and that's no accident the founding fathers of this country looked to Rome for inspiration. Not the empire the Republic for hundreds of years, the Roman Republic flourished based on checks and balances compromise an annual votes, but by one hundred and thirty before the communist era Romans were losing faith in the system and the center could not hold my guest today. An historian and author says all is not well within our current political system and in order to move forward. We must look back this hour on point the end of the Roman Republic as cautionary tale. Join us what questions do you have about the Roman repub-? And how it affected our form of government? What lessons can be applied to our modern day. Join us anytime it on point Reto dot org or Twitter and Facebook ad on point radio. I'm really excited for our guest with us from LA Hoya, California's Edward watts. He's a professor of history at the university of California, San Diego and past director of the center for studies there, his new book is mortal Republic, how Rome fell into Turney Edward. Thanks for joining us today. Thanks, david. I'm really happy to be here. You know, you right at the very end of your book not to give away the ending, but you write Rome's Republic than died because it was allowed to its death was not Neville. It could have been avoided and you say when citizens take the health and durability if the Republic for granted that Republic is risk. This was as true in one hundred one thirty three BC or eighty two or forty four BC as it is in eighty two thousand eighteen or nineteen in ancient Rome in the modern world. A Republic is a thing to be cherished protected and respected if it falls an uncertain dangerous and destructive future lies on the other side. I wanna keep. That in mind. But I, you know, I think a lot of people there movies made about ancient Rome, their TV shows that are great, you know, thrillers, Robert Harris, all kinds of books written about this. And yet we often think of it in terms of the empire and much less about the time of the Republic room had a five hundred year Republic preceded by kingdom and followed by that famous empire. I guess one of the first question I wanna ask you to dress. His how did the Republic emerge in what what problem was it solving? Yeah. I think that's a great question. I mean, I think that the the great thing about Roman history. Is you have a tremendous amount of it. That's state survives for over twenty two hundred years and the last fifteen hundred of it it is an empire. And that's what we tend to think about, but the Republic was very significant sort of segment of Roman history. And it's a five hundred year period in which Rome, emerges from basically, a sort of small city state into a state that controls nearly the entire Mediterranean. And the basic idea behind that Republic was Rome coming out of the end of its monarchy had assist them in which there were certain elite families that needed to figure out how they wanted to effectively govern this territory in a way where they shared power with each other. But very quickly it became clear that this was not something that the general sort of Roman society would accept and for about two hundred years in the Republic, you have a sort of broadening of the number of people who are sort of taking that effective role in dictating policy until you reach about the two eighties. When the Republic takes probably what we would call. It's it's sort of well highest four in that moment, what you have is a system in which basically every male citizen has a voice in what's going on with. Let's not let's look Paul one sec, though, tell me why it was that. There was a transition from the kingdom of room. Like, you know, there was. A kingdom. Why did it then go to go? You know, why did it? They need to make transfer to to to what you're describing here the evolution of some sort of participatory system. Well, it's when the Roman monarchy starts what it seems like it functioned as was basically a sort of elected monarchy where members of the elite families would come together and choose one of their own to be king, and that person would serve as long as he was alive. And then it would go back to the elite families, but the last kings didn't actually ever take the choice back to the elite families. And so the monarchy became something that was out of the control of those elite families, and the initial sort of pushed to the Republic was these elite family saying we want to take back power. And we don't even want to king at all. Instead, we're going to create a system where our voices are basically collectively determining what's happening in the state and the reaction to that came from people who did have a seat at the table when the monarchs were there. But didn't when this new sort of political structure was created, and what you see throughout the sort of first couple centuries of the Republic is that base of who needs to have their voices. Listen to expanse. You know, progressively until basically all male citizens have a voice that is in some way being channeled through representatives in that Republic and the key part of that Republic is it is never designed. So that every one of those voices is equal. It's not a democracy. It's instead a Representative system in which everybody has a voice to choose the people who will actually make decisions and that will be able to sort of render judgment on the behavior and conduct of those people when they're of office is up in the book. There is a crazy quilt of checks and balances I mean, you're not talking three branches of government. You're talking a lot of them. And it seems as though there's there per mutations. Never Lucians at a certain point, you know, expanded from Romans to include a talion like there's there's a bunch of different folks, you know, those who are governed outside this the city state of Rome itself, there's a bunch of different voices there. But really looking at Rome itself and understanding it's it's. Males in Rome. But, you know, they're slaves, and they're all kinds of other classes of people looking at Rome itself. It's fascinating to see what you're describing is this exp. It's expansion of the franchise in some way, the expansion of voice in some way. Can you give us a feel for what checks and balances looked like in the Roman Republic? So there were some legal checks and balances, but most of these checks and balances were sort of understood norms in the same way that we you know, we function in a way where a lot of our checks and balances are legal and a lot of the things that restrain conduct are also just norms. So in in Rome, for example, the Senate is legally empowered to do very little, but it renders judgment, and it sort of gives advice on just about every sort of piece of legislation that's coming through. And generally speaking for most of the history of the Republic when the Senate said this was a good idea people tended to listen and the representatives and people when they voted on these things tended to sort of follow the advice of the Senate, but they weren't legally oblige. To do that. They just did. Because that was how things were done seen just seen as disruptive to not not take that into account. It was seen as. Yeah. Breaking with the pattern that had created stability and functionality in a state that in ancient terms was incredibly successful. And I think this is part of the thing that Americans probably can take away from from the Roman lesson Romans came to see that their state had succeeded. You know, the the Roman Republic by the time. It starts reaching these crises in the second century was far and away the most successful state in the Mediterranean, probably that the Mediterranean really had ever seen in a sort of functional way. And so they began to sort of a sumo that this was how things should work, and these unwritten norms were sort of for a long time supported by the fact that they seemed like they were working, you know, they seemed like they were governing system that was functioning very well, remind do one favor doing one two Redwood. Mind who it is that the that the the Senate is advising or is providing a check on even through this norm who are exercising. The major decisions of how Rome is run and how how its holdings are governed. So every year there's a series of elections to elect magistrates who hold everything from, you know, control over the weights and measures in the marketplace to proposing legislation to conducting military campaigns, most of these figures have to interact with the Senate when there's a policy decision that has to be made. And they they seek advice from the Senate. And generally they tend to not pursue. A course if it's not endorsed by the Senate, but their functions vary. So there are people caught tribunes of the plebs who represent a certain segment of Roman society. Basically, everyone who's not of the hereditary restock recy-, and they propose laws in an assembly that's voted on by by Romans, you know, by by gender. Romans regular Romans. But generally speaking, if those laws are not sanctioned by the Senate, if the Senate doesn't approve of those laws, they aren't voted on. They don't go forward. They aren't sort of brought to the point where they can be implemented to the Senate has this effective sort of ability to to render its opinion in a way that's meaningful and generally respected, and you have these councils figures, right who are enormously powerful. And yet they were twinned. So that my recollection was does that one could always veto a decision by the other. Yeah. This is the basic principle of Roman magistrates everyone with the exception of an emergency office called the dictatorship. Every single one of them is at least paired and every single one of them is subject to a veto by their by their twin by their pair. And the idea there is basically to create a sort of understanding that it's better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing and. It's better to do nothing than to do something that has a very narrow base of support. And so the whole system is geared towards this idea of promoting consensus by encouraging compromise. And if you haven't compromised enough to bring about consensus, you can't do anything, and you need to keep talking and keep working and keep trying to promote some kind of consensus that can go through without receiving a veto from your your fellow magistrate. We've only got about a minute so left but sketch out the kinds of challenges that these guys were having to find these consensus on, you know, remind us of what the evolving Republic had to address and brief amount of time just broadcast. So basically, what we understood what we have to understand what the Republicans it starts something basically the size of Rhode Island, and when it ends its nearly the size of the United States. And so the Republic hostak in front these problems of how you expand dramatically and allocate resources in a way that's fair and equitable. We are discussing the Republic of ancient Rome in the lessons. It holds for a Republic today. We hope for you to join our conversation. What questions do you have about these roots of Representative government? What can we do as citizens to preserve the system? We've got what inspiration? Do you think the founding fathers turned to them? I'm talking with Edward watts of the university of California at San Diego and his book, mortal Republic, how Rome fell into Turney. I'm David Folkenflik in. This is on point. This message comes from on points sponsor, indeed when it comes to hiring. You don't have time to waste you need help getting to your shortlist of qualified candidates fast with indeed toast, a job in minutes. Set up screener questions then zero in on qualified candidates. And when you need to hire fast, accelerate your results with sponsor jobs. New users can try for free when you sign up at indeed dot com slash NPR, podcast, terms, conditions, and quality standards apply. Human behaviour doesn't always make a ton of sense at least on the surface. I said, would you mind the fight give the dogs a little piece of cracker with some hot sauce on and without and see what they choose hidden brain a spicy podcast about science psychology. And why people do what they do. This is on point. I'm David Folkenflik. We're discussing the fall of the Roman Republic. You can join our conversation. What parallels? Do you hear the modern age what differences strike you as more important? Follow us on Twitter and find some Facebook ad on point radio. I'm talking with university of California, San Diego historian, Edward watts and his new book mortal Republic how Rome fell into tyranny and Boyer Wiegand calls. I'd like to take one first from Tampa, Florida. Jim go ahead. What what's your question for Edward? I I had a question and I wanted to get his take on it womanhood tree, and is kind of a subject of interest to me and particularly listen like Mike Duncan's history of room. But what I wanted to ask was is how he felt that you know, Rome during the Punic wars. It's it's it's winning of wars against Hannibal and everything and the expansion and wealth coming into the empire, and it's it's an equal distribution among its citizens. You know, how that helped lead to the rise of populism with the grat guy brothers, and and ultimately Caesar and the end of the Republican how that compares to our own times. And I personally think that that our Republic will survive this that it's it's less of a tribulation and other ones we faced. But I wanna know what differences between us in Rome might help sustain us where where Rome didn't survive as thanks so much for that. Jim won't professor what let's talk a little bit about that the Punic wars. How did that expand? Or was that part of the expansion of both the rooms wealth is Jim about and also how did that help, you know, lead to a rise in sort of populous strains among political figures of the Roman Republic at that time? Yeah. I mean, that's a that's a wonderful question. I think that what we see in the aftermath of Punic wars rum, of course, defeats Carthage. And then a lot of resources become come begin to come into the Roman state in ways that Rome begins to figure out how to process and one of the things that emerges in the middle. Part of the second century is a financial sector in Rome where you have buying and selling of loans in a way, that's not dissimilar to what we had say the United States with the the subprime mortgage crisis. Whether it does is it produces a tremendous amount of wealth, very quickly that becomes concentrated at the top rung of the Roman economic strata. And this. This for about a generation the Republic struggles to figure out how to deal with this after about a generation of this when the sort of prospects of people in the middle are stagnating and the fortunes of the Roman one percent are really sort of continuing to accelerate. You have an emergence of a sort of populist strain that looks to address in some ways the tangible consequences of this. But it also looks to address the emotional consequences of this this feeling of disempowerment on this feeling that the system can actually respond affectively to their needs. It takes about a generation from the sort of beginning of this wealth gap to the moment where Romans become really willing to listen to this kind of way of of promoting change. But once it's in the Roman system, it continues to sort of come back as a strain of Roman political discussion through basically, what ends up a century later. In the wars that the conclude the Republic, but I think the question of what's different about the United States from Rome. You know, I think that we can see some similarities to what's going on in Rome in the second century with what's going on now. But what I would say is why we can't yet say the United States has reached a point like Rome was in the forties BC when you have Julius Caesar, and you have Pompey, and you have Mark Antony and the civil wars that ultimately lead to the to the empire the process by which Rome got to that point took a very long time. You know, the problem start emerging in the second century the empire as. Let's be clear that's the second century before the combinator before what we signed the birth of crisis being cracked second century BC and the empire emerges as a solution to these problems in thirty. So it's a very long process of trying to sort of figure out these problems in a Republican context before ultimately Romans effectively turn away. We've got a call now from Omaha Nebraska James, thanks for calling in. Hi, I would love to explore more this concept of how the Republic was enrolling Bill to provide for consumers in my area. For example. The US Senate has the filibuster which is meant to limit the -bility just to make a ad hoc choices, there's a call these days to eliminate the for the BUSTER, so we can make more decisions quicker in our congress seeming to bypass ideas, consensus, can you export some more of those reflective ideas. Now, the people in Rome wanted consensus. Thanks so much for that. Call James Edward t tell us a little bit about the way in which. As James asks the way in which decisions were made done. We're reached consensus was achieved. And yet the way in which perhaps the population dinner didn't feel that their sentiment was absorbed into that process. Yeah. I think that again, man, that's a it's a wonderful thing to think about because the Republic has a lot of mechanisms that are legal, but not also, but also informal that promote this consensus, the legal mechanisms are things like the paired magistrates where your colleague can veto what you want to do. And if he does it doesn't happen. And so you have to propose legislation and basically come up with a policy that has this broad support or it won't go anywhere, and that's a legal mechanism, but the formal mechanisms are things like getting the Senate to sign onto something. And so if a Representative wanted to propose legislation and the Senate felt that would be too disruptive. The Senate would say so and then in, you know, formerly you could still bring it to a vote, but informally it it just wouldn't really be a good idea. It would be seen as something that was basically promoting division in a way that Romans really tended to not appreciate or tolerate. I wanna ask you a little bit about why the American founding fathers, turn their eyes to Rome. There are other models. We were more closely linked to to Europe, particularly Britain. Why did why did they look back at Rome and its Representative Republic as opposed to other possible models? I think there's a couple of reasons I mean, the British the British system and the British experienced certainly did influence what they were looking at. But there also is a a very sort of robust political theorizing of why the Republic, succeeded and agreed author in polygamous in essence takes Plato's idea of a Republic in which there are sort of different elements that sort of buttress each other and prevent the degeneration of the state and said in essence, this is what Rome has has brought about and this really influence, the founders as a principal for sort of stable way to govern to govern. A state the other thing that I think particular peeled to them as the Republic was a constitutional model that could be scaled up the, you know, it started as a city state, but it functioned very effectively also as an entity that governed millions of people in Italy, what it was able to do was command, and basically create this sort of process of consensus building both as a sort of small entity. But also as a large entity, and I think the founders would have looked at this as something that was particularly desirable, given the size of the early United States. And also the diversity of interests across it, a Republican model could do what they were envisioning the United States would do and it could continue to scale up as the United States expanded. And I think that's an important lesson. I soon presumably, you know, it's been a lot of years, but, you know, thinking back to the Greek system of democracy from my from my school days, the idea of having a participatory democracy where. Everyone had a vote much harder to scale up. You can do that in small townships New England harder to do throughout all the colonies and beyond. Exactly. And the other thing that I think's important to keep in mind is, you know, we when we talk about what our system is shorthand, we use a democracy. It's a Representative democracy, and it's a Republic, and the founders would have been horrified to think that the model that we like to associate with is classical Athens, you know, the sort of birthplace of democracy in the popular minds. They would see that as horrid. Now, they did not believe that everybody's voice was equal. And they did not want decisions made in a way where everybody's voice counted equally. They wanted those voices to be filtered through representatives. And so the Roman system is particularly appealing. If what you're looking to do is channel popular voices through people who you see as perhaps more responsible than regular people. Speaking of scaling up. We have a call from New Orleans Louisiana, obviously part of the. Louisiana purchase. Julia. Your question of for for for Mr Watts. Hi, yes. I'm a climate reporter based here in Edward would you reflect on the role climate, instability and environmental degradation played out in the sixth century with tribal migration and the impact on the fall of Rome specifically as it's related to insights, the can provide to climate change today and its potential impacts on immigration and political stability in both Europe and the United States. Julia. And boy, I love our audience. Let me just tell you that what you say. So the the sixth century AD takes us pretty far beyond the Republic. But I think what you see is you you can actually map some of the successes and challenges that the Roman state faces across it's two thousand your history on sort of things that show climate instability. And so, you know to give a couple examples in the Republican period. There is a political structure that really comes out of the aftermath of Alexander, the great that's greatly disrupted around the year two hundred BC because of Canada eruptions that effect. In essence, the amount of precipitation falling in in Africa. This depletes the amount of food in Egypt increases, the amount of food available in Syria, and it completely destabilizes the Mediterranean in a way that allows Rome to move into that space by the time you get into the sixth century AD. There's a very dramatic shift in the way the climate is functioning there is instead of climatic terms a period when the Roman empire is at its most successful period around say the second century, a d where the conditions are incredibly favorable for distributing precipitation, and creating kind of food supplies in the areas where the Romans most concentrate their food production by the time, you get into the sixth century that climate state has changed. It's become colder and the distribution of food is you know, it's it's less advantageous to the Romans. And what you have our political shocks that are that hit. The Roman empire in ways that are not totally dissimilar to what you see sort of destabilizing the world around two hundred BC, the Roman empire is more robust than some of those Hellenistic kingdoms, and it doesn't have a competitor that can jump right in and entered of take the spot that it had occupied in the way, the Roman Republic is able to do in the eastern Mediterranean, but those shocks in the sixth century were really dramatic. They change everything from settlement patterns to you know, populations of urban centers. And ultimately, I suppose one could argue, you know, really sort of forced the Roman empire to deal with allocations of resources in ways that it really didn't expect what you you a bit about this. But what institutions in particular what norms? Would we recognize today in our system of government? And our the way we expect our society to function. I think that in in the Republic, the very basic idea. And I think if you asked Romans when if very basic successes, the Republic has is it sets up political contests as something where you know, what's at stake. You know, basically, what the rewards will be if you're successful. And you know, what the consequences will be if you lose and those rewards will never result in absolute victory, and the consequences will never result in being imprisoned or dying. And that's the basic promise that I think the United States Republic is generally able to make as well. But what that means is politicians who know what's at stake also are able to basically sort of make decisions about what is a proportionate way to respond to a challenge, politically and that beans, they don't tend to want to use violence to to pursue a political end. Because that that's something the system really doesn't. Mitt. It's something that doesn't tolerate and it's extremely dangerous. And I think for three hundred years, the Roman Republic is able to do that, you know, it's able to make that basic promise to the people who participate, politically, you know, that that violence will not be used against you. You will not be imprisoned for taking a political position. Your property will not be taken away from you. But instead you're free to sort of function as an individual whose voices matter the last century of the Roman Republic that promise erodes and eventually collapses. Oh, man. Reading your book and the page of your book is like a catalogue of ways in which that just gets exploded for both the politicians and for the for the citizens. Yeah. It starts with the politicians in one thirty three's the first political assassination that you have in Rome and more than three centuries. This is the assassination of the populist politicians. Heavier SCR office who I think one of the callers had mentioned earlier, but what starts as basically the murder of a politician and a few of his sort of most. Strongly associated followers within one hundred years will result in basically sort of executions of people who are affectively civilians and the confiscation of the property of entire cities that are seen as does loyal. And so what starts as violence in a political context against political actor eventually becomes violence that sort of cascades to to sort of encompass an effect everybody. That's I think the real danger of Republic falling you know, violence sort of enters the political arena. It doesn't just stay there. It will eventually sort of spill out in ways that are incredibly destructive dangerous and horrifying to everybody who's living in that space at we've only got about two minutes left for the next break. We do all know about the murder of Julius Caesar from Shakespeare and elsewhere, but you know, tick off for us a couple more specific red flags about the unraveling of the Republic that people in wretched. Spector even at the time could have noticed. So I think the the biggest issue that really changes this dynamic from political assassinations in a political context to actions against civilians is the emergence of sort of recruitment of soldiers who are given bonuses because of the political skill of their commanders. And what that does is it creates armies that are technically an an officially the property of the Roman state, you know, people serving their country, but those people are actually more loyal to the commander who is going to get them rewards, and ultimately, you know, provide for them, then they are to Rome, and what you see in the eighties BC is a commander tell his army to March on Rome because Rome is doing something that personally disadvantages him. That's the moment that I think I'll Romans look at and say this person has been able to take a state resource and a state monopoly on violence and turn it against that state and something serious. Wrong when that's possible and doing it for personal advantage or to protect personal standing exactly we're discussing what ancient Rome can teach us about our current political situation. You may hear echoes you may not. But we'd like you to join the conversation. What you have for our historian does your Edward watts. I'm David Folkenflik in. This is on point. How often do people lie on dating apps in a robots taking over our jobs? I'm Cardiff Garcia co host a planet. Money's the indicator. Where everyday we tell you a short story about the economy get it on NPR one or wherever you get your podcasts. This is on point. I'm NPR media. Correspondent David Folkenflik. We're discussing the Republic of rain should ancient Rome and its political system, and how that systems descent and collapse. Informs our current day. Follow us on Twitter. Find us on Facebook at on point radio with me today. Edward watts. He's professor of history at the university of California, San Diego. His new book is mortal Republic how Rome fell into tyranny and Edward. It's my understanding. It's no accident that you chose to publish this book of this time, which is not to say that you're not interested in the subject of you've studied it for years, and at the same time, there's something about the current moment that inspired you what took you. You know, inspired you to take pen to parchment for this. I think the the biggest thing that inspired me to do. This was to see the reaction, and the sort of questions that my students are asking me, you know, I've been teaching this forever twenty years and the interests that students have had usually been for most of that time in the empire and in what happens to the empire, and why the empire disappears. But over the last say two or three years the questions really have been about the Republic. You know, what does the Republic tell us about ways to think about what's going on in the world around us now? And I think that the Republic offers a story that offers a some ways to think, you know, it doesn't doesn't prescribe what the future will be for us. But I think it does give us a sense of things we need to be aware of and conditions and kinds of political behaviors that will be destructive in a situation and an assistant that's designed to promote consensus and my students interested in. This is quite sincere, and they really are seeking tools to try to figure out how to think through the world around them. And I think the Roman Republic offers some pretty significant and important tools to think about what behaviors might help us, politically, and what behaviors might prove destructive politically. I mean, they're headlines right off, the you you mentioned that there is an actual title in the in the days of the Roman Republic dictator where they they would grant extraordinary powers for limited terms right there. There have been a headlines in recent days, where President Trump has said he wants his thinking hard almost definitely may be positively considering declaring a national emergency. So that he can get funding and also assign people to build a border wall. Congress's not a authorized funding for which is probably a big legal problem. All the way around new headline. I believe yesterday the New York Times, President Trump in secretary of state Pompeo, embrace autocrats and disparage opponents. At home. What how would we gauge in the current day? Whether you know, as as people get most exercised there is in some ways and unraveling norms that could be detrimental over the long term for the Republic, or whether these are just part of you know, flare ups and flaps that that arise and dissipate. You know soon to be forgot. I think that the thing that's particularly dangerous to look at our actions that when they were done the first time, we're seeing as really abberant, and and sort of oddly sort of dangerous, I that have become commonplace twenty five years ago shutting down the government for sort of political brinksmanship was seen as absolute crazy. You know, it was beyond the pedal. Absolutely. It was something that no one would even dare do. And now, it's routine that's a a sort of degeneration of norms. There's no law that says you can't do that. But the norm saying that that's something that is not acceptable have completely eroded. And now, this is something that, you know, it it's just done as part of a process of political negotiation. It's almost become sort of a routine part of the system. I think that the the law granting presidents the ability to assert emergency powers. It seems to me that this is a law that is incredibly permissive because there is a basic. Assumption that presidents would use it in ways that you know, we're not for political gain. But we're for to actually address a problem that is an emergency. And I think something threatening the security of the statements people exactly like when president Carter uses it to sort of streamline action against Iran for taking hostages, or when President Bush used that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Those were not for political purposes they were to respond quickly to a problem that needed a quick response. And the law could be it seems could potentially be used in the way that President Trump is is talking about using it the reason it hasn't been before is because there is a norm saying this is actually for real purpose of real emergency. And in this context, I think if it's used basically as a sort of off ramp for a political stalemate that opens up a precedent to misuse this law even worse in the future. We've got a call from Providence Rhode Island. Matt what's your thinking about about Roman about what we think about today? Hi, thanks for taking my call. I'm I'm just struck by something you said at the beginning of the program about how Rome was allowed to fall not that it just fell on its own and in my own talking with everybody, I, you know, run into about with what's going on in our country. A lot of the times I hear well that could never happen here a lot earlier in the first hour of this program. The the right stock fire was mentioned in the why mart Republic, and I find myself coming back to that. And seeing how you know a Representative government can fall quickly to throw -tarian isn't and whatnot. So I guess I just wonder if the if the professor could speak to kind of the mentality of the Roman citizenry at the time before the the slide from public into empire. And if that has any kind of resonance or what we can look out for today. Hey, thank you so much. Good question. What do you think? Yeah. Not. That's a great question. I what I. I would say and what I mean when I say, the the citizens of Rome allowed the Republic to fall the citizens of Rome took it for granted that the Republic would be there. And so they were conscious choices made to either act in your own self interest in ways that were sort of damaging to the the structure of the Republic and the norms that sustained it or if you're a regular voter an unwillingness to punish people who behaved that way. But beneath that is a basic assumption that the Republic is incredibly successful in. It's been there a long time, and it doesn't need protecting. You know, the short term gains. You can get from doing something that violates political norms are worth it because they won't destroy the system. No, not all Romans were complacent all the time there were moments throughout even that last century, where Romans would say, this is this is a crisis, and we need to sort of rally around the state, we need to defend our Republic, but the average sort of choices that individuals were making q. Cumulated and created sort of conditions where these norms could be violated in ways that were, you know, more subtle than marching an army on Rome. But no less destructive over a long period of time. And I think that particular at an analogy that I think Rome gives or offers Americans, you know, the the Weimar Republic was young. There were lots of people who could remember just just to be clear just to be clear Weimar Republic preceded the rise of Hitler and the takeover of the Nazis in the thirties. Correct. Yeah. They're republics that fell in the nineteen thirties in places like Germany or Spain and led to terrorism where young republics there were a lot of people in those societies who've remembered living under something else. And so they didn't take the consi- the continuity of that Republic for granted in the way that citizens living in a Republic that's been around for centuries contend to do I I don't think that anyone consciously sort of his. Thinking that the danger to the United States from having these sort of budget shutdowns are other sort of political conflicts? Like we've been having will accumulate in such a way that they will create conditions for the Republic to ultimately fall because I Republic is old, and it has generally been successful. And there's a complacency that comes about from living in an old Republic because it's hard to imagine what seems impossible, and it's hard to conceive of how you reach that point. And I think the lesson that Rome provides is that a Republic that is old and is successful can generate a specific or special kind of complacency among citizens that ultimately can be as destructive as the sort of perhaps cynicism of people living in young Republic. Who don't feel like it's it's the right form of government for them at all. It's funny in reading your book there moments at which you know, certain politicians are standing up in some ways for groups. Of of less powerful Romans who feel oppressed who feel that that elites are running the the. The Republic for their own benefit and not without good reason. And of course, a lot of echoes in terms of a lot of critiques you hear from the left and the right today about the American political system, and yet there's a a distrust that sort of drumbeat, it seems to me that undergirds a lot of your your your writing about some of those political leaders that you don't feel that that the best interest of the people. They were representing was was really what was front of mind for them that there's a distrust there, and that you kind of prefer in some ways a system that doesn't move strongly and really muscular Lee without a lot of checks and a lot of hoops to to to get through to be able to do that. I think that I think that that's that's certainly true. I think when you look at particularly say, the financial and wealth, gaps in the one forties and one thirties. BC the Roman Republic had retried to respond to that. There were politicians who promoted significant changes in voting rights that gave more sort of more of a voice to regular people and made it a lot more difficult for what wealthy people to influence their votes, and sort of tamper with their votes, and there were proposals for economic reforms that had been floated, but we're voted down. And what Tiberius gronk is did was he pushed a proposal to reform to do an economic reform of redistribution of wealth. It was very similar to proposals that had come before and he could not generate consensus, and so he used threats and sort of. Norm breaking tactics to get those through. Now, I think it's reasonable to think that because those proposals kept coming up eventually the Republic would have come to come to an agreement about how to do something like that. And the challenge is that Tiberius crock is made this about him. You know, this was about him pushing through this reform not about the reform being pushed through but about him being the one to do it. And that I think is is when this becomes dangerous. I think Republic that is successful is a dynamic Republic. But it moves at a different kind of pace. And it doesn't move in a way that's convenient for individual politicians were going to say Edward you talk about it being about him. And that certainly, you know offers evokes present day echoes that said, you know, there have been a lot of critiques over the years when George W Bush was president about the use of executive signing statements. Kind of subvert or reroute. The intent of laws of President Obama's well as President George W Bush using executive orders to do things outside of congressional authority and outside of the law. And there's obviously we're looking at at at President Trump now who's been described as shattering all kinds of norms. How different is what Trump is doing. How would you assess given the kinds of warning flags that you've set up is what the our current president represents? I think there couple of things that are particularly alarming about the way that Trump is doing this. You know, the the use of emergency decrees. I think we've seen that go wrong in the twentieth century into any first century in so many different contexts when you impound president to declare an emergency without a clear sense of what what actually constitutes an emergency. They're all sorts of things that can be done that are effectively unchecked. And so I think that's a really dangerous step to really. Dangerous precedent. I think another thing that is alarming to me is the use of this kind of menacing behaviour at rallies that I think is something that challenges this basic rule that political behavior will not be subject to violence. He has not encouraged violence. He hasn't sort of. There's hasn't been the kind of violence that you see in Rome in the last century of the Republic, but even creating condition where you can start to speak in that way, it encourages a movement towards behaving that way, and I think all politicians need to sort of be very aware that one of the greatest things Republic guarantees is the ability to participate, politically and peacefully without putting your life at risk for doing this and violence must be kept out of it. Even if it's just kind of intimated or threatened or even just to sort of sense of menace. All of those things need to be kept out of political discussions because they do eventually produce a condition where that violence can actually take form and actually be sort of inflicted on people. When you think about the question of violence. He think about the question of norms being shattered. You know, let's let's site. Leo Tolstoy, you know, for people of good faith of goodwill of any political party of any stripe thinking about the health of this Republic, our Republic what then must we do. I think the important thing in the lesson that I hope everyone takes away from from thinking about rum is the Republic itself as an entity needs to be thought about Romans took it for granted they pursued policies they pursued individual genders, and they just assumed that that Republican context would basically be durable enough that a short term sort of gained for them wouldn't threaten the long term stability of the Republic. But I think every citizen of a Republic needs to pause and say occasionally does this policy or this tactic that I approve of actually make the Republic stronger. And if it doesn't we are really putting the success of that Republic at risk and a stability at ensures. And I think that the thing we have to do as Americans is is think seriously about some of the political behaviors that do violate norms, and what can we do to discipline or speak back to the politicians? Who pursue those those avenues for short term gain? Or for personal gain? We need to at some. We need at times to stand up for the Republic and the norms that secure it even if in the short term that might disadvantage, the political agenda that we support and very differently has writing this book changed any of the the answers that you give your students as they turned you for some guidance in bewildering times, I really believe that the best thing I can do for my students is to give them information. And encourage them to think with it. That's you know, they will be able to find solutions. They will be able to respond to problems. They just need the information to understand what possible consequences are. And I think as an educator. That's the best. We can do the mandate of educators the mandate of journalists. Edward watts professor of history at the university of California, San Diego. His book is mortal Republic how room fell into tyranny thanks for joining us so much today. Thank you so much. This was great. You can continue our conversation. Get the on point podcast at our website on point radio dot ORG. You can follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook it on radio on point is produced by Annabelle min Madeline Dangelo Justin down Brian Hudson ski Eileen modest fun of Sonus Alison pulley tiny Raleigh James Ross. And Alex rotter, I wanna think Hillary mcquilken for this show. We've had help from David Marino or executive producer. Karen Shiffman me, I'm David Folkenflik in. This is on point.

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