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No society ever thrived because it had a large and growing class of parasites living off those who produce. On the contrary, the growth of a large parasitic class marked the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and the collapse of Spain from the heights of its golden age. Despite Karl Marx’s use of the term “proletariat” to describe the working class, the Roman proletariat was not so much a working class as an underclass supported by government handouts. But the parasites in ancient Rome also included a large and growing bureaucracy. The Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire likewise developed over the centuries bureaucracies so suffocating and corrupt as to bring their eras of glory to an end. More than a thousand years after the collapse of Rome, Spain used the wealth it extracted from its vast empire to support growing numbers of Spaniards in idleness. Not only were vagabonds begging everywhere, there were also large numbers of educated parasites with no skills to use to add to the country’s output but with big ideas about how its wealth ought to be spent. No small part of our social problems today come from miseducated degree-holders who have nothing to contribute to the wealth of the society but who are full of demands and indignation—and resentment of those who are producing. A study of the decline of great societies concluded that “disappearances of empires due to catastrophes have been extremely rare in history.” Rather, they slowly but steadily corrode and crumble from within. There is usually “a growing amount of wealth pumped by the State from the economy,” while “extravagances of fashion and license” develop among the people. Does this sound uncomfortably similar to what we see around us today?

Sowell, Thomas (2011-10-04). The Thomas Sowell Reader (pp. 210-211). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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