The menacing specter of state bankruptcy drew ever nearer. The old remedy was prescribed: reduction in the value of the currency and increased taxation. . . . Thus began the fierce endeavor of the State to squeeze the population to the last drop. Since economic resources fell short of what was needed the strong fought to secure the chief share for themselves with the violence and unscrupulousness well in keeping with the origin of those in power. . . .
In these disturbed and catastrophic decades of the third century countless people, especially of the bourgeois middle class, were impoverished, even ruined, and these were precisely the men who had brought into being and maintained the economic prosperity of former times. The wasteful policy of the State, the constant interference with private economic life, and the inflations, amounted to a landslide beneath which a vast amount that was of value was crushed out of existence.
—The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XI
Collapse may come much more suddenly than many historians imagine. Fiscal deficits and military overstretch suggests that the United States may be the next empire on the precipice. Many nations in history, at the very peak of their power, affluence and glory, see leaders arise, run amok with imperial visions and sabotage themselves, their people and their nation.
—Niall Ferguson, The Rise and Fall of the American ...