Payne's umpteenth book purports to be an anatomy of social corruption from the Periclean Age to the Nixon administration; in point of fact, it reads like The Decline of the West as told by Kahlil Gibran, with many rhetorical flourishes and references to unseen cosmic forces. In addition to obvious choices like the Athenian tyrants, Nixon, Julius Caesar, Louis XIV, Hitler, and Stalin, Payne gives us such lesser-known villains as Septimius Severus, on whom Gibbon blamed the decline of Rome, and Wang Mang, a particularly bloody 1st-century Chinese usurper. Payne's greatest intellectual lapse (though not his greatest foolishness) lies in his failure to define ""corruption."" Instead, he begins with a lurid description of the ""corruption"" or decay of the body after death, and lets the old metaphor of the body politic serve to explain the processes of social disintegration. There are lengthy lists of the ""symptoms"" of social decay, in sweeping and unsupported generalizations, and frequent misrepresentation of thinkers who might have been helpful in arriving at some understanding of cultural rot, particularly Machiavelli and Nietzsche. Payne reduces the progress of social decadence to a tussle between the ""death forces"" of tyranny and evil and the ""life force"" of a democratic society. As vast as it is silly.