Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Declining Empires and Wealth Disparity: Miserere!

That movement to reLatinize the Catholic Mass?  It may not be entirely beside the point:

As this Huffington Post article notes, in a recent article in the Journal of Roman Studies, historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen calculate that the maldistribution of wealth in the U.S. today is actually at a higher level than was the case in the Roman empire as the empire began to fall apart.  As it began to fall apart due to huge disparities between the rich and poor, that is.  We Americans might as well be speaking Latin, because we're becoming the Roman empire in its movement towards decline.

Schiedel and Friesen think that, as the Roman empire began its march to dissolution, the top 1% of the population owned some 16% of the society's wealth.  The situation in the U.S. today?  The top 1% own 40% of the wealth.  The total net worth of the bottom 60% of the American population is worth less, combined, than the wealth of the richest 400 citizens in the nation.

Might not be a bad idea, after all, to dust off our Latin--and, specifically, our Latin prayers.  For starters, perhaps we can try parsing the old proverb, Radix omnium malorum amor pecuniae est.

Followed by a Miserere or two.

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