Glenn Beck: Rome's Rise and Fall

This is a rush transcript from "Glenn Beck," December 1, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GLENN BECK, HOST: Welcome to "The Glenn Beck Program."

My parents used to tell me, at first, if you don't succeed, try and try again. I don't think that's true in America anymore. Now, it is: at first, if you don't succeed, cheat.

Do you remember when we told you of net neutrality and we told you that they were going to begin to protect you on the Internet? It was called net neutrality. Well, they're going to do it. We told you they would. And most people relaxed. They're going to do it anyway.

The FCC announced plans today that they are going to go ahead and regulate the Internet. This, by the way, was rejected by Congress. FCC Chairman Julius — how appropriate that his name is Julius — Genachowski says he believes he has the legal authority to do so and has set a vote on December 21st.

But don't worry — it's only about fairness and protecting you. It's about neutrality, nothing to worry about here. It's not like we have a regulatory "czar" who wants to dictate what you see open the Internet, is it?


CASS SUNSTEIN, REGULATORY "CZAR": Sites of one point of view agree to provide links to other sites, so that if you're reading a conservative magazine, they would provide a link to a liberal site and vice versa, just to make it easy for people to get access to competing views. Or maybe a popup on your screen that would show an advertisement or maybe even a quick argument for a competing view. If we could get voluntary arrangements in that direction, it would be great and if we can't voluntary arrangements, maybe Congress should hold hearings about mandates.


BECK: Well, they did and they rejected it and now — now, we have the FCC just doing it. This is why we have a regulatory "czar" who I warned you about. He had his dream job and he is making his dreams come true. They will be our nightmares.

Also, President Obama is losing ground on the Bush tax cuts. Now, if he can't get this done, well, don't worry — he's going to push the idea of a value-added tax. It's got to be great because it has value right in the title.

And Europe, which we have been watching on this program for quite some time and warning before anything was percolating over there that it's trouble. Tim Geithner just called it a mess. And Europe is now being presented with a choice — this from The Financial Times: "The fact is that we are now very near the point at last when Europe's policymakers will be faced with either setting up a fiscal union or sitting back and watching as our banks implode around us." I thought they said this was not going to happen?

If you had to pick America today, would you say that freedom is on a march or in retreat?

We have seen this over and over and over again, all throughout history: Man becomes free. Man becomes complacent, man loses freedom, man becomes a slave.

No one in their wildest imaginations could have ever predicted the fall of Rome. But they fell. They would have known it if they would have read history.

Tonight, I will show how we are repeating the exact mistakes of ancient Rome and we are on the fast track to writing the next chapter of history titled "The Rise and Fall of American Empire and Man's Freedom."


BECK: Hello, America.

Did you see the movie "The Matrix"? The movie, "The Matrix." You're going to take the red pill or the blue pill. That's what Neo was presented. He was presented with a choice. Here it is:


LAURENCE FISBURNE AS MORPHEUS: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.


BECK: So, may I give you the choice, America? Take the blue pill, turn the channel. Turn the channel. Go back to sleep. Or do you want to find out how deep the hole is? Do you want to find out where we're going?

Rollover and go back to sleep or open your eyes and see our future by looking into the past.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. And I know it's a cliche, but it's only a cliche because it's true.

We don't know our own history. I told you last night, 26 percent of Americans don't know that 4th of July is to celebrate the breaking away from Great Britain — 26 percent!

Now, if we knew our history, we would take lessons from once legendary civilizations that fell before us, because they all fall in the same way. The Babylonians, the Soviet Union, Germany, France — France during the French Revolution, hugely important to us today — and Rome.

This is a pattern I highlighted in my book "Broke," in the first six pages, we start go on to Rome because it's spooky how much we are doing like Rome.

Here's the bell curve of history. There's the expansion and the contraction. Regionalization, people come — people start coming together, the ascension into an empire, you start to grow, you mature, you become overextended, and decline, and legacy. It happens over and over and over again, same way.

Well, tonight, I want to take a look at the timeline of the rise and fall of Rome. I will not show you much in the rise, but I'm going to show you — I'm going to compare the decline. We will show you where we are in comparison.

But before we start, everyone thinks of the Roman Empire; I want you to understand, there's something really important. Most people never take the time to explain that Rome wasn't always an empire. It was a republic at first. There was freedom. Things went well. That's why they expanded. And, then, when freedom started to fall apart, that's when they became an empire. They went from freedom to feeding people to lions for sport.

Now, how do you go from a decent people that are expanding to taking people and feeding them to lions? I mean, logically, if we progress, if we are all so progressive, shouldn't it go the other way, you start feeding people to lions and then you don't?

Former comptroller of the U.S., David Walker, explains and he knows because he'd seen all of America's books. In fact, he has served both to Republicans and Democrats and was frustrated with both of them, and that's why he left government service. He said, people have to know the truth. He knows how deep the rabbit hole is. He says, quote, "There are striking similarities between America's current situation and that of another great power from the past, Rome. The Roman Republic fell for many reasons, but three reasons are worth remembering: declining moral values and political civility at home." How are we doing on that one?

"And overconfident and overextended military in foreign lands." How are we doing on that one? Boys, you are watching me overseas, are you tired yet?

"And, three, fiscal irresponsibility by the central government."

Those were the three things that caused the collapse of the Roman Empire. Now, does any of that sound familiar? It should, because that is us. Read the newspaper.

The Founders knew — the Founders knew that it was up to the individual. They knew as a collective, man stunk on ice. Man could make progress, but man would make progress with each generation as an individual.

I mean, Thomas Jefferson said that we should have a vote after every generation and there should be a new form of government every generation. Why? Because every generation was different. Man does not progress past natural man, past brutality as a collective. It is an individual struggle — it's individual salvation and an individual struggle.

History shows us when man tries to control freedom and put the collective ahead of the individual, it never, never ends well.

Rome was a functioning republic. A republic is just like what we were in the first 100 years. But then as the wars mounted, as bureaucracy expanded, as power became more and more centralized — remember, that is not the way our republic was set up. We were not supposed to have centralized power. That's why we left England — too much power in the hands of too few people.

Well, when the bureaucracy started up, and all the regulations and everything else, it took quite a toll on the economy and on the individual. They usually go together — because when you have bureaucracy and you can't get things done, personal ambitious begins to wither, especially if the government starts taking stuff and giving it out to others. That's when handouts begin and that causes people to be complacent, that causes to go, you know, what I'm just — forget it, it's not worth it.

Edward Gibbon wrote in "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" that, quote, "It was artfully contrived by Augustus, that, in the enjoyment of plenty, the Romans should lose the memory of freedom."

This is what I've been talking to you about for the last few weeks. It goes back to the Tower of Babel. What is the mortar that keeps the bricks together? Materialism.

That's what — that's what ancient, the Tower of Babel, the mortar that kept everyone together was materialism. That's what he was saying here, that in the more stuff they gave, they started to lose the memory of freedom.

How many of us understand what freedom really means anymore? If we lose our stuff, do we turn on each other? I contend, at this point, yes. And we are being taught to turn on each other. It's "them" that did it to you. We're being taught this.

And you don't even have to look at today. We will in a second. We don't even have to look at today, look at the past. It's the same every time.

In 133 B.C., the decline of the Roman Republic begins and they start to redistribute the land. They started seizing illegally occupied by the rich, the lands illegally occupied by the rich, and they gave it to the poor. They put caps on the amount of acreage that one man could own. If it exceeded that, it was given to the poor. They didn't have approval from the senate. They didn't wait around for the senate. They just went around them and did it anyway.

Well, what's happening now? Redistribution of wealth through health care and cap-and-trade. Did they do health care the right way?

How about cap-and-trade? They're meeting in Mexico this week and the administration has said, don't worry about it. Congress has stalled cap-and-trade, but don't worry about it. We'll get around. This is poll-vaulting. What was it that Nancy Pelosi? We'll get it done. We'll climb over the fence, we'll poll-vault.

That's what they did in the decline of the Roman Republic.

Today, Congress is being circumvented in every single way possible. Remember I told you about the food safety bill? Well, here's audio after the vote of this bill, a Democratic senator — this isn't a Republican — a Democratic senator, was standing on the floor near an open mike, didn't know the mike was open. Listen to what he says about his own party and the way this food safety bill was — rigged.



SEN. MICHAEL BENNET, D-CO.: Because... because it's all rigged. I mean, the whole conversation was rigged.


BENNET: The conservation — the fact that we don't get a discussion before the break about what we're going to do in the lame duck —


BENNET: — it's just rigged. This stuff is rigged.


BECK: It's rigged. This is a Democrat. This is a Democratic senator saying that your Senate is rigged. Well, you know it and I know it. Well, there's confirmation. From a member of the Democratic Party, and why isn't that the lead story?

Your republic is being destroyed.

Now, 123 B.C., whole new package of legislation, full of handouts, including state-subsidized food rations. Today — I mean, today, the food rations. What are we debating right now?

First of all, we have land grabs, but we're having we're having those now as well. Food rations. What is this? Today — today — how about the 99ers? These are people who have two years of unemployment checks, two years. Does it ever end?

In 58 B.C., Claudius ran for the office of tribune on the bumper sticker if they had bumpers back then, "free wheat for the masses." That was his platform. Free wheat, free food. And he won.

Today, 42 million are on food stamps. And listen — "free" is the operative word here — listen to what students are now calling for over in London and Europe:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What should be a right, and that is free education for all. Free education.



BECK: Free education.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Years of debt. Years of misery. With not even enough to provide for yourself, for your family. It's an absolute disgrace that we have a country that's run by multi-millionaires who don't care about anybody, who don't care about vast swaths of society —


BECK: OK. Stop. Stop. I can't take it anymore.

Did you hear what he's saying here? It's got to be free education and he is tired of being run if a country by a bunch of millionaires that don't care. So, they will go to the Senate in Rome or to Caesar. They will go to Nancy Pelosi or to President Obama or whoever and take it.

It is the same thing that happened in the Roman Republic, not the empire. Thirty one B.C., Octavian came to power. This is the adopted son of Julius Caesar. Well, he's the guy — if I may, Octavian we have him up here. We don't even have him up here.

Octavian is this guy. And Octavian is this guy, because Octavian is the guy who established the political structure that was the basis of what became the Roman Empire, the Roman imperial government. For the next four centuries, major changes need to be made. The whole thing was falling apart because they had dismantled it, they had, bit by bit, dismantled everything. It was in trouble and people were crying out that we got to have change, we got to have change, so Octavian came in.

But Octavian was genius.

He realized that Roman people, they loved the republic. They loved it. But it was no longer an option unless they completely changed. So, he had to go a different way. His solution instead of saying, guys, we've screwed it all up, we got to reset here, instead, what he did was, he gave the people what they wanted and what he thought they needed. I don't know how many speeches he had to get and give, but he got it all through.

Instead of abolishing the cherished institutions, he continued them. The people still were represented. They elected their representative. It still happened. The assembly still gathered. The Senate still oversaw the provinces and advised Octavian. It was all still there. But it did not mean anything.

As one textbook puts it, quote, "By maintaining the facade of the republic, Octavian camouflaged his absolute power."

By maintaining — we just saw that they are saying this is rigged, in their own party, the Senate — the Senate is now saying this is rigged. There's something wrong here.

We just showed you that the FCC is going around the Senate. They said no. The court said no. But the FCC is pushing the neutrality anyway.

And moreover, Octavian's control over the armed forces made resistance futile. You couldn't resist. In keeping with his policy of maintaining the appearance of traditional republican government — republican as in "the republic" — it was all still there.

He went a step further. He refused to be called Caesar. Remember, he was the adopted son of Caesar. No, he didn't want to be a dictator. No. Instead, he disguised himself, he was an autocratic ruler, he took the title of "princeps," which is "first citizen." I'm just like you. I am just like you. First citizen.

The people of Rome had gone from being citizens of a republic to subjects of an emperor and it all happened without violence, without votes or without fanfare. Didn't really even know and they were actually happy about it. Because they were bought off.

Now, where are we seeing this today? I'll show you when we come back.

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