Parallels in History: America in 2023=Late Roman Republic

Marvin Liao
2 min readNov 29, 2023

I love history and I love reading history books. I recall being 9 years old and finding a history book at school in the back of the class. It was all about Greek and Roman history, I was entranced and could not put that book down.

This led to my love affair with reading and history and what almost turned into an academic career pursuing this. I took a history degree at University and did summer school at the excellent Cambridge University. The primus inter pares (first among equals) among colleges for studying history.

Surprisingly my history studies have been incredibly helpful and lucrative in my business career. It’s helped me understand the backgrounds and cultures of the places I visit and invest in. It helps an investor understand cycles: both up and down. As Mark Twain famously wrote: “History doesn’t repeat itself but it certainly rhymes”.

Which leads me to my observation about America and the world in 2023. I recommend reading “The Storm before the Storm” by Duncan & “Rubicon” by Holland, which are excellent narratives on the fall of the Roman Republic. The similarities to present day America are shocking.

Picture a place that was once rich, powerful, energized, ambitious; astride a massive trading empire, backed by the most powerful army and navy in the world having vanquished any of their closest competitors. Yet due to their great dominance and riches, the people become complacent, comfortable and pursue frivolous pursuits. Wealth inequality grows. The political elites stop thinking of the greater good and challenge each other in ever more vicious & unscrupulous methods.

Sound familiar? This describes Rome but it can easily also describe the present day USA. The big difference is we have a peer competitor in China & their now lackey Russia actively undermining us. We are so distracted internally, with a populace’s morale & trust sapped by Forever Wars in the Middle East, culture wars raging and run by an aging, venal and or incompetent political class. The American people are tired, distracted and apathetic. The only thing that will wake everyone up is pain or a massive military defeat. Here is hoping that this does not get to that.

I used to rage at this and even feel some despair. But my realization was that I can’t do much about any of this. I’ve learned to be stoic and focus on what I can control. All I can do is get physically fit, financially fit, diversify assets and locations. Take care of my family. Build close ties to people around me in my network, my neighborhood and be in a position to help them. Vote with my dollars into companies and businesses that support my values and that support & protect America. And then leave the rest to God.

Besides, I’d never bet against an American turn around even though it seems grim now, as many of the Roman Republic’s enemies found out the hard way.

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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com