Skip to comments.HOW EXCESSIVE GOVERNMENT KILLED ANCIENT ROME
Posted on 11/17/2012 10:35:47 AM PST by walford
"...began distributing the grain for free. The result was a sharp increase in the influx of rural poor into Rome... ...The expansion of the dole is an important reason for the rise of Roman taxes...
...the demand for revenue led to debasement of the coinage. Revenue was needed to pay the increasing costs of defense and a growing bureaucracy. However, rather than raise taxes, Nero and subsequent emperors preferred to debase the currency by reducing the precious metal content of coins. This was, of course, a form of taxation; in this case, a tax on cash balances...
...The war against wealth was not simply due to purely fiscal requirements, but was also part of a conscious policy of exterminating the Senatorial class, which had ruled Rome since ancient times, in order to eliminate any potential rivals...
...With the collapse of the money economy, the normal system of taxation also broke down. This forced the state to directly appropriate whatever resources it needed wherever they could be found...Eventually, the state was forced to compel individuals to continue working and producing...individuals were forced to work at their given place of employment and remain in the same occupation, with little freedom to move or change jobs...
...The steady encroachment of the state into the intimate workings of the economy also eroded growth. The result was increasing feudalization of the economy and a total breakdown of the division of labor. People fled to the countryside and took up subsistence farming or attached themselves to the estates of the wealthy, which operated as much as possible as closed systems, providing for all their own needs and not engaging in trade at all. Meanwhile, much land was abandoned and remained fallow or fell into the hands of the state, whose mismanagement generally led to a decline in production...
...The number of recipients began to exceed the number of contributors by so much that, with farmers' resources exhausted by the enormous size of the requisitions, fields became deserted and cultivated land was turned into forest...
... the revenues of the state remained inadequate to maintain the national defense. This led to further tax increases...However, state revenues continued to shrink, as taxpayers invested increasing amounts of time, effort and money in tax evasion schemes. Thus even as tax rates rose, tax revenues fell, hastening the decline of the Roman state."
Contrary to the belief of dialectic materialists, history is NOT a progression. Civilizations have risen and fallen, followed by long periods of darkness. A warning of things to come.
Not just excessive, but inbred and insane.
Just like today.
We’re so screwed.
The Kenyan is going to seize our retirement accounts and replace them with worthless treasury IOUs.
In effect, the government starts out by taxing current income, which is a reasonable approach. In phase two, they tax future income, which NOT sustainable over the long term. Finally, in phase three, they tax PAST income through inflation. There are really few other options after phase three. Perhaps, a country in dire straits could conquer a neighboring country and exploit its natural resources (e.g. the United States could conquer western Canada for its oil), but of course, this would not solve anything while creating massive human misery. The real problem, the root cause is an insatiable appetite for spending on the part of the government.
These quotes are extremely misleading.
The quotes about free grain to citizens increasing people moving to Rome, while true, applies to the late Republic and early Empire. I could be wrong, but I think there was little or no “dole” in the middle to later empire, when the mob in the city of Rome was largely politically irrelevant.
By this time the emperors spent little time in Rome itself, so why should they care whether the inhabitants were calm or not? Also, by the time the Empire reached its full size, the inhabitants of Rome the city were a teeny percentage of the whole population, and free food for all of Rome the city could have been only a minor burden to the whole empire.
In the middle and later empire, the money went almost entirely to support the armies, and of coumrse to provide wealth to the emperor and his cronies. I have seen little or no evidence that there was any large group of welfare drones supported by public funds after perhaps 100 AD.
At best, the quotes above telescope events that took place over 400 to 500 years into a sequence that makes it look like they took place over a few decades and “caused the fall of Rome.”
We don’t think of events from the time of Shakespeare to today in the same A directly caused B way, so we should not telescope historical events over a similar timespan in the past into a cause-effect relationship.
At least Nero had the excuse that Gresham’s Law wouldn’t be stated for another 1,500 years. What’s our excuse?
I am making no implication that the dole in and of itself was the cause of the decline and fall of Rome and anyone who knows the history is aware that the seeds were planted centuries before it fell: encouraging dependency, confiscating production, debasing the currency and the government reacting to the resultant ill-effects by insinuating itself even further into the economy.
The entire point of the OP is to consider the similarities to today, including the barbarians waiting to feast on our bones and entrails. And I maintain there are many which are equally dangerous — not only to America’s future, but to the future of Western Civilization itself.
Okay, a little research showed that I’m wrong about how long the annona lasted. It apparently kept going and even expanded into the middle/late empire.
However, I hold to my other two main claims, that given the small percentage that the inhabitants of Rome itself (and perhaps also later of Constantinople) were of the empire as a whole, free food for them could not have been a huge fiscal burden, and that the army and corruption consumed a MUCH larger percentage of the budget.
Think of it this way. If our national welfare rolls were limited to the poor of DC or NYC, how much of a burden would it be? Not much.
Free food for Rome just wasn’t a big cause of the collapse of the empire. Civil wars and the cost of the army had a LOT more to do with it.
In 58 BC, the patrician-turned-plebeian Clodius Pulcher advanced a popularist political agenda in his bid for the tribunate by offering free grain for the poor. The expense was considerable, and Julius Caesar later reformed the dole. Augustus considered abolishing it altogether, but instead reduced the number of the recipients to 200,000, and perhaps later 150,000.
The official responsible for the provision of the alimenta was the Curator alimentorum. During the empire, this post became an important bureaucratic position to be filled by the senatorial elite prior to achieving a consulship. The last known official to hold this post was Titus Flavius Postumius Quietus, probably during the early 270s.
Later emperors all used free or greatly subsidized grain to keep the populace fed. The political use of the grain supply along with gladiatorial games and other entertainments gave rise to the saying “Bread and circuses”. As the empire continued, the annona became more complex. During the reign of Septimius Severus, olive oil was added to the distribution. During the reign of Aurelian, however, a major reorganization of the alimenta took place. It appears that he ceased to distribute free grain; instead, he issued free bread, and added salt, pork and wine to the dole, which was provided free or at a reduced cost. These measures were continued by successive emperors.
With the devaluation of currency in the course of the third century, the army was paid in rationed supplies (annonae) as well as in specie from the later third century, through a cumbrous administration of collection and redistribution. The role of the state in distributing the annona remained a central feature of its unity and power: “the cessation of this state function in the fifth century was a major factor leading to economic fragmentation, as was the end of the grain requisition for the city of Rome” Averil Cameron notes.
Is THIS how America dies??
If my memory is correct, then Roman history rhymes with our own in 2012, for only the outer exoskeleton, the House, Senate, Scotus, States, elections . . . of our republic remains, as Hussein is rapidly gathering all powers. Instead of electing representatives to form our laws, we increasingly have the privilege of voting for HIM to issue diktats instead, with the force of law. Congress has largely become, if not a rubber stamp, then an ineffective opponent and meek bystander to the elected despot.
The thing is, these days the idea of people turning GRAIN into BREAD, or even knowing how, is preposterous. If it’s not either frozen pizza, or better yet, delivered pizza, it’s a puzzle to most of the Sandra Fluke types. . and now that Wonder Bread’s been killed by Obama’s unions, what now? - At least one thing those old Romans had going for them was the ability to actually work with the raw product.
The utter, and utterly unseemly, human lust for power is universal and universally destructive.
The forefathers knew this and sought, accordingly, to evolve a “fool proof” system of government.
That they failed is not due to a lack of foresight or effort on their part, but, rather, due to ignorance, greed, and perversity on the part of our Twentieth Century leaders.
We Americans are right now reaping the sad crops of this timeless and eternal principle, as our president and his congressional flunkies, enabled by the greedy and the stupid among the electorate, gather to themselves the reins of absolute power and use them to steer us to our destruction.
Now, we turn grains into fuel.
BTW, judging from your screen-name, the demise of Hostess brands must be hitting you hard. ;-)
@wralford GOP in both Houses should let the Demos craft all legislation and vote “abstain.” Let America experience unadulterated Obamanation #tcot
Given that the Left dominates the media, academia and entertainment industry, it is clear that it is impossible to even reach, must less debate with people who effectively use fear, envy and other base emotions to counter logic, reason and evidence.
Let us then give the American people a practical education.
During war the left side of the bell curve, the welfare class, tends to be killed off disproportionately resulting in a slight but measurable population IQ boost. Military need drives the "cutting edge" of technology. Later this new technology is commercialized leading to greater wealth. Short term, military spending leads to hardship but long term it leads to wealth. Instead most nations are destroyed by welfare spending. The United Kingdom is a spectacular example of this. Most history books are written by leftists so the consensus opinion is not tied to the truth.
Serious historical illiteracy.
Prior to the last 100 years, and in particular the last 50 years, few if any nations have a history of large-scale spending on welfare payments to the poor.
This thread posits the Roman Empire as a single example. I contend that this is a vast oversimplification of the empire's history, that even if we accept the annona as a primary cause of the empire's decline and fall, it took it 4 to 6 centuries to do its work.
I'd settle for another 4 centuries for the USA.
Care to provide a few more examples of the "most nations" that were "destroyed by welfare spending?" Since we're talking about most nations that have collapsed there must be a slew of examples.
I don't disagree with the premise that this is the way we're heading, I just believe that history provides few if any examples of it happening so it is of itself no guide.
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