Some have said during the past decade or so that America is on the verge of a collapse similar to that of the late Roman Empire. A simplistic and alarmist notion in my view.
Regardless of obvious time span dissimilarities, our current circumstances do not resemble those surrounding the prolonged and fitful Fall of the Roman Empire. The US has never exercised anything close to Rome's influence. There was no entity analogous to today's China during the Roman fall, just ankle-biting barbarians and Rome’s own degeneracy. Degeneracy and ankle-biters we have. We also have sovereign allies with worldwide interests and influence – unlike Rome, which had a habit of subjugating their competitors. Certainly some believe we do that under the table, subtly.
We possess an unparalleled military, the greatest ever assembled. Rome’s wasn’t as effective or under firm central control during the Fall years. Our military is not a mercenary force prone to install and terminate domestic political leaders. Maybe foreign leaders, but not ours... I guess.
China’s prosperity depends on our own, though they do have interests within a geopolitical sphere not extending much beyond the South China Sea - a few business interests in Africa and South America being exceptions. Their acquisition of Smithfield isn't the same as Alaric in Rome. The taking of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee would be a different story. Well, OK - I see it's already taken. Unbeknownst to me, ConAgra changed the name to 'Boyardee'. Why they didn't go all the way and use 'Boiardi' is beyond me. They're fine ones to construct names, as 'ConAgra' properly should be 'ConAgri'.
Comparing us to the Romans and their fall seems to stem from two things, at least.
First is the notion we lack a certain social cohesion existing 50 or more years ago. I agree, with qualifications. Back then, if you didn't at least superficially adhere to certain common assumptions or conventions (like taking your hat off when going indoors if you were a man) you'd be labeled a Commie. Today, nobody's a Commie, not even the Chinese. Backwater irritants Cuba and N. Korea don't count, unless you're Florida or S. Korea. Screw them. Today, it's hard to find a man, unless they're Chinese. Small appendages aside, they do build Big Stuff, and they're sure to get to the Moon before James Cameron.
Secondly, it appears those who say we’re on a long slide to oblivion are simply observing chickens coming home to roost regarding the sustainability of funding a world-police style military, and means-tested welfare schemes in practice since 1964. These enormous, self-imposed liabilities have helped generate reductions in science funding, especially NASA and its late manned space program.
Government science funding in general has long been skeptically viewed and strangled by short-sighted purse stringers in the US. They disregard the historical funding of research and exploration by tribes, kingdoms, and representative democracies to their long-term benefit. No government ever went bankrupt pursuing knowledge accumulation; bankruptcy and ruin have resulted from maintaining mismanaged colonies and supplicant foreign governments. The Moon has no indigenous insurgents. What it does contain is the opportunity to expand human capability in all spheres. That said, I don't believe purse-string tightening necessarily represents a national ‘slide to oblivion’; it may be a slide to irrelevance.
Marginally reminiscent of Rome's fall is the insurgent support for unskilled immigrants gaining legal status in our country, and the welcoming of more to come. Why this is so in a time of relatively high unemployment and concern over means-tested welfare spending continuing at today's levels stumps me.