Historians have proposed several theories to explain the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Some have emphasized the influence of Christianity and its pacifist (at the time) and miserabilist notion of human relations, which contradicted the more brutal and merciless ethic required for imperial domination. Several have of course noted the irresistible advance of the barbarians along the borders of Rome and the military impossibility of controlling such a vast territory indefinitely. Others emphasized more specific causes like demographic decline due to the gradual poisoning of Romans who were drinking water contaminated with lead. Most of the time, it is these popular theories we are fed by historical documentaries shown on television.
Less often raised, though it is the primary cause and the source of all the other ills, is the rise of state tyranny.
A state is a structure designed for control and redistribution that feeds off the wealth produced by the population under its authority. When those structures are relatively flexible and accommodating, when laws are enforced in a relatively fair and predictable manner, individual initiative can flourish and a prosperous, civilized society can develop. When, on the other hand, laws are imposed in an arbitrary, tyrannical manner, they crush the initiative of individuals and bring about economic stagnation and ultimately political decline.
h/t The Commentator
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