“… Rome had known a pioneer beginning not unlike our own pioneer heritage, and then entered into two centuries of greatness, reaching its pinnacle in the second of those centuries, going into the decline and collapse in the third. Yet, the sins of decay were becoming apparent in the latter years of that second century.
“It is written that there were vast increases in the number of the idle rich, and the idle poor. The latter (the idle poor) were put on a permanent dole, a welfare system not unlike our own. As this system became permanent, the recipients of public largesse (welfare) increased in number. They organized into a political block with sizable power. They were not hesitant about making their demands known. Nor was the government hesitant about agreeing to their demands … and with ever-increasing frequency. Would-be emperors catered to them. The great, solid middle class—Rome’s strength then as ours is today—was taxed more and more to support a bureaucracy that kept growing larger, and even more powerful. Surtaxes were imposed upon incomes to meet emergencies. The government engaged in deficit spending. The denarius, a silver coin similar to our half dollar, began to lose its silvery hue. It took on a copper color as the government reduced the silver content.
“Even then, Gresham’s law was at work, because the real silver coin soon disappeared. It went into hiding.
“Military service was an obligation highly honored by the Romans. Indeed, a foreigner could win Roman citizenship simply by volunteering for service in the legions of Rome. But, with increasing affluence and opulence, the young men of Rome began avoiding this service, finding excuses to remain in the soft and sordid life of the city. They took to using cosmetics and wearing feminine-like hairdo’s and garments, until it became difficult, the historians tell us, to tell the sexes apart.
“Among the teachers and scholars was a group called the Cynics whose number let their hair and beards grow, and who wore slovenly clothes, and professed indifference to worldly goods as they heaped scorn on what they called ‘middle class values.’
“The morals declined. It became unsafe to walk in the countryside or the city streets. Rioting was commonplace and sometimes whole sections of towns and cities were burned.
“And, all the time, the twin diseases of confiscatory taxation and creeping inflation were waiting to deliver the death blow.
“Then finally, all these forces overcame the energy and ambition of the middle class.
“We are now approaching the end of our second century.” (Address by Governor Ronald Reagan of California at Eisenhower College, New York, 1969.)
...as qtd in Ezra Taft Benson, "Watchmen, Warn the Wicked" Ensign, July 1973.