Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Are We Rome? (Cullen Murphy)

So this book took me a ridiculously long time - I don't know why. It's well written and fairly short... but I guess I've been distracted by fiction - I really have to force myself to read non-fiction, even engaging and light non-fiction like this.

Anyway, the author points out some interesting points of similarity between Rome and the U.S., including dire predictions of how the sky is falling. But, he's also careful to point out the similarities, and he does so in a pretty optimistic way. He points to America's continued ability to reinvent, our creative and perseverance and the progress we've already made with regard to race relations.

The big similarities that struck me had to do with the difficulties of managing an ever expanding empire and how the introduction of money into the political system corrupts. Additionally, while America has terrible levels of social inequality, we do at least seem to be concerned about it. Apparently, in Rome the inequality was even more dramatic, and people really didn't seem to care.

I also thought it was interesting that basically all of the documentation and history in Rome could fit in a 40 X 40 container, which is the same as what is required to store the documents created during three years of (I think) the Kennedy administration.

All in all, I enjoyed it. I'd say probably a B.

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