The mentality works like this: you have something I don't have. I want what you have. I can't or won't pay for it. So I steal what you have out from under you. Maybe I steal just a little bit so you won't notice. Maybe I'll get caught, in which case I can complain that the government should step in and "redistribute" the wealth so that everyone gets a chance.
There's a problem with this line of reasoning, obviously, but most people don't get it. Even the very rich don't get it, as the thirst for greed is never quenched by some threshold of prosperity. Would that it were.
People are quick to compare these days with Rome before the fall, drawing the comparisons of the welfare state, over-extension through empire and interventionism, and the decay of public morality. Victor Davis Hanson begs to differ, citing factors which invalidate this comparison ...
Any such discussion is also predicated on two other twists: the Eastern Empire at Constantinople went on for nearly another 1,000 years until the 1453 sack by the Ottomans. And for the last twenty years, revisionists have disputed Gibbon’s notion of a dramatic “fall” in the West, and argued instead that it was a “transition” as the “barbarian” “other” was insidiously assimilated into what would emerge in the latter Dark Ages as “Europeans.”
... and he could be right. And it's not as if the Romans woke up one day, saw the Visigoths coming over the hill, and said to themselves, “There goes the neighborhood.” If anything is to happen, it will be so gradual that we would be hard pressed to notice.
Or is it happening already? You tell me.