Continued from page 1

Youths of all races and backgrounds in lockstep fiddle with their smartphones as they walk about. Jeans are an unspoken American uniform — both for the Wall Street grandees and the homeless on the sidewalks. Left, right, liberal, conservative, professor and ditch digger have similar-looking Facebook accounts.

If Rome quieted the people with public spectacles and cheap grain from the provinces, so too Americans of all classes keep glued to favorite video games and reality-TV shows. Fast food is cheap and tasty. All that for now is preferable to rioting and revolt.

Like Rome, America apparently can coast for a long time on the fumes of its wonderful political heritage and economic dynamism — even if both are little understood or appreciated by most who still benefit from them.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.