Rome and the US: How Money Affects Politics

By Ian Ziller

Today we are facing a problem with money in politics, but what are the dangers really?

If we look back 2,000 years to the end of the Roman Republic what we see is a lot of corruption. During this time, with wealth and power only in the hands of a few, this led to powerful populist figures who emerged to take power. There was Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonius, and Augustus  Caesar, each of whom held power and gained power through popularity, and in particular Julius Caesar, who was able to gain power by promising to reform the Roman government and remove corruption. The others were also able to gain power by being connected to Caesar.  

At this time, people seemed to have lost faith in the democratic process. During the late Roman Republic there was corruption, and one problem that was different is that the Roman Republic did not a have a secret ballot. This led to politicians trying to buy votes and they also gave people gifts to win popularity and support from the people; this, in turn, led to unfit rulers holding power rather than those who were fit.

The high levels of corruption and the government only serving the interests of a few powerful people led to people losing faith in the democratic process and becoming willing to turn to anyone that would help them, rather than continue to rely on a republic that so far had not helped them out and had been very corrupt. So we can learn from the ancient Romans about the dangers of having money hold such strong influence in politics as this can lead to the fall of democracy.

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