These are some interesting notes taken from The Heritage of World Civilizations which I find particularly interesting considering our current political and economic stances:
After the first two centuries of the Roman Empire, considered to be the Golden Roman Age, trouble was brewing. People would rather spend time enjoying themselves than aiming for higher pursuits. Even the literature of the time (which before had been propounding the greatness of the Roman Empire and the virtues one ought to follow) had turned to one of refuge--people preferred to read romance novels instead (I wonder what their version of Fifty Shades of Grey was?).
While the Golden Age saw the upper classes competing for the honor to serve and rule their respective municipalities, by the second century these same people fled en masse from such responsibility. This left the running of towns and cities to those whose chief results were an abuse of power (hey, has anyone heard that San Diego Mayor Filner is finally out?).
"These elements were to bring on the desperate crises that ultimately destroyed the empire."
So, what do you see in this (extra) brief historical account that sounds rather familiar to you today?