NOM Chairman Maggie Gallagher's latest column:
... Over the long Independence Day weekend, I re-read Tom Holland's "Rubicon" -- a history of the fall of the Roman Republic.
More than any history of the period I have read, Holland's narrative illuminates Friedrich Hayek's great truth that we all, even the most practical hard-headed realist among us, are prisoners of dead thinkers.
The Roman Republic, like any republic, any nation, is simply an idea in the heads of people. An idea that is strong enough to influence people's ideals, how they strive to achieve them and, as important, what they are not willing to do to achieve them.
All our institutions are made up of air -- of symbols, dreams, stories, mere nothings created by poets, dreamers, intellectuals, novelists and speechwriters, and fashioned into enduring modes of living by the airiest of bonds: the bonds of meaning in the heads of living human beings.
Why is it, Holland thinks to ask, that most Americans never stop to wonder: Why on a continent the ancient Romans never even knew existed there stands a new Senate, upon another Capitol Hill?
Like our Founding Fathers, we have much to learn from Rome: how to achieve a republic that lasts for 400 years --and then how in the space of a generation or two, to lose it.
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