When in Rome?

History is taught so it won’t be repeated. As the musical Hamilton so eloquently intoned, “Oceans rise, empires fall.” What can we learn from the historical fall of the Roman Empire, and how does it apply to circumstances facing America – and Michigan – today?

Rome didn’t fall in a day, and there were many factors that contributed to its eventual decline. History.com notes invasion by barbarians, economic troubles, and government corruption as just a few of the factors.

One of the biggest reasons for the collapse of the Roman Empire was the excessive tax hikes it imposed. Constant wars and overspending had depleted Rome’s treasury, forcing them to raise taxes. The wealthy, tired of being taxed at such exorbitant rates, fled to the countryside, setting up small towns called fiefdoms. The loss of tax revenue was a major hit to the empire, but another issue was the effect of Price’s Law.

Price’s Law dictates that 50% of outcomes are created by the square root of the population. To put it another way, in a population of 1,000,000 people, just 1,000 produce 50% of everything (jobs, tax payments, etc.). Meaning, California’s population of 40,000,000 can be crippled by less than 6,500 of the most influential people fleeing the state and moving to places such as Texas or Florida.

We’ve seen it before. Here in Michigan, Jennifer Granholm “blew us away” with her reckless economic policies. Crippling unemployment and the “dumbest tax in the United States” cost Michigan thousands of jobs and even a Congressional seat as Michiganians fled the state in droves. It took us years to recover from her “Lost Decade.”

And it could happen again: Corruption and hypocrisy within the Whitmer administration has made plenty of headlines lately. We’ve been living under her authoritarian rule for over a year, with no end in sight. (While the Census Bureau reports Michigan’s population grew over the last ten years, we’re still losing another Congressional seat.) The longer Gov. Whitmer refuses to work with the Legislature and reopen the economy, the more she incentivizes our citizens to leave – risking yet another “lost decade” for those of us who remain.

Extreme government overreach has been the downfall of many great nations. Let’s learn the lessons of history and return to the principles of limited government and fiscal sanity before it’s too late.

Cameron Pickford is the Communications Director for the Michigan Freedom Fund.

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