"History suggests that the cause of national decline is, as a rule, that the state in the nation concerned has sought to do too much rather than too little. This applies as much to the Roman Empire as to the Spanish. "
Hugh Thomas
(1931- ) Baron Thomas of Swynnerton, British historian
"An Unfinished History of the World" by Hamish Hamilton (1979)
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Reader comments about this quote:
That's because freedom works and oppression doesn't. A free people is a strong people. Freedom and the State are always opposing one another.
 -- Ben, Orem, UT     
  • 2
    After volumes of explaining, it is one of the reasons.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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     -- jim k, austin      
    I think this is blatantly wrong! Take Hungary for example. King Mathias ruled from 1357 to 1390, he raised taxes on rich and poor alike, built up the army and pushed the Turks out. He was and is held in high esteem by his countrymen for improving the army, the courts, even if he did raise taxes high. He was a great Renaissance King. When he died it was commonly said "we will galdly pay even more taxes if he would but rise again". After his death the nation drifted into a lesser state of health. I don't think Swynnerton is on the right track here. He is very shallow, very shallow indeed. Many will latch on to this shallow quote to fulfill their own purposes or agenda. Another example is in cities that are in decline or a state of old age. When the state or the city invests in improvements and beautification programs the entire economy picks up. Again Swynnerton errs in my opinion.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
    A nation and its' "state" are afterall simply organizations. When King Mathias raised taxes against the nobility and individuals every one bitched. He was in effect in a manner decreasing the influence of the private sector for the benefit of the nation and the state. They loved him for it. Readers take note.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
  • 1
    history is against you waffler!
     -- Blue     
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    Waffler, your example says the people were glad to finance a military that was strong enough to free them. That same model could be used to describe the colonists of the US. Your example does not address the quote's essence, or even peripheral meaning; that is, a government trying to be all things to all people at best or an all consuming military complex at worst. The foreign despot that now infests the US is an example that is approaching this quote's meaning.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 3
    More true than not. As a loyalist, Waffler's little take on history doesn't surprise me.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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     -- Bob Dean, Houston, Texas      
    When a free society gets to be affluent enough it will always start to feel it needs to help the less fortunate. Unfortunately it is not possible to help the less fortunate with handouts. Handouts only breed an ever growing dependent class. This soon becomes a voting block and the society starts its endless decline. History is repeating it's self as an informed and rational person could have predicted long ago. We are now going to try to get the dependent class to out number the rest of us with the "stimulus" package. This will make it impossible that anyone that tries to correct the situation can never get elected.
     -- warren, olathe     
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    The declension of the greatness of any civilization is an unfailing concomitant of
    the declension of the Virtue nurtured nobility of its once personal Sovereignty minded People.

    As Sovereignty devolves from the Individual
    to the State, tyranny necessarily rises, as inherently corruptive to Man, in his radical fallenness, as is distilled power that is unconstrained by Virtue and Law.
     -- Patrick Henry, Red Hill     
    Waffler, you have goofed again. Think of it that what was once the options of the states. The Federal government passed the 14th amendment and forced these options upon the states with teeth. Total central control and nationalization will bring any nation down.

     -- Cal, Lewisville, TX     
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