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Lessons from the Roman Empire?

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February 09, 2010 – Comments (29)

I saw these graphs on the big picture about the level of food stamps.

It just makes me think of when I studied economics of the Roman Empire and the contribution of the burgeoning welfare system to it decline...

I found a few quotes:

 In order to continue it's social/socialist programs in the capital city and empire, Rome would enable massive taxation to it's municipalities and territories (land whose residents would not be afforded the rights of a Roman Citizen), as well as impose trade restrictions ( a good example was Rome's price fixing of wheat in order to support it's burgeoning welfare system - Roman citizens were "entitled to the right" of "free" wheat, the "Annona") to keep artificial prices on certain commodities. This lead to massive inflation, which in turn put an added burden on the Roman state.

Rome would continue to conquer in order to obtain resources to fuel it's insatiable appetite.

Socialism is a grand idea on paper, until you put it to practice. Then it reveals itself as the parasite it is (it consumes everything to keep the ball rolling).

 

 

“What was the root cause of it all? The Romans had fallen prey to socialism. This cancerous system of mushrooming welfare, high taxes, trade restrictions, and inflation destroyed the Roman system of common law and demolished the currency and the economy. By 400 A.D. the troops were no longer well paid and some units went renegade.

“When the Romans withdrew, the local people were left with no law and no military defense unless they could hire one of these renegade Roman units. Commanders of the renegade units became local dictators.

“The roads fell in disrepair. Long distance trade and communication ceased. Supplies of raw materials from distant lands began to dry up. Mass production ended and towns started preying on each other. Each latifundium became a separate nation struggling to survive in isolation from the rest of the world. Each had its own castle and army. Taxes, taxes, and more taxes.

“In our school books we are taught that the Roman Empire fell because it had become militarily weak and was overrun by tribes of barbarians. This is a half-truth. In most areas, civilization had already been destroyed by socialism; the people were well down the road of barbarism themselves – long before the arrival of the foreign tribes.

 

29 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On February 09, 2010 at 6:56 PM, ChrisGraley (29.65) wrote:

+1000 recs

 

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#2) On February 09, 2010 at 7:14 PM, kdakota630 (29.46) wrote:

Agreed with ChrisGraley.

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#3) On February 09, 2010 at 7:16 PM, dbjella (< 20) wrote:

Maybe the Romans' didn't have a Federal Reserve?

With free money anything is possible?  Correct?

:) 

 

 

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#4) On February 09, 2010 at 7:20 PM, starbucks4ever (97.43) wrote:

In my Junior High we were taught that the Roman Empire collapsed because the slave system had become "rotten" and had to give way to the next formation, that is, to feudalism. This "theory" never made much sense to begin with. It never bothered to explain why slavery was rotten in 473 AD but was not rotten in 753 BC, or why the brave new order could not operate in one big state but instead had to operate in a gazillion small states. Since then I've read Gibbon and some popular articles for the general public, but not too many articles beside Gibbon. Anyway, my current understanding is that the empire collapsed for 3 reasons: 1) Christian church undermined the economy, 2) warming in Scandinavia increased the population of barbarians, and 3) Theodosius became a Roman Gorbachev who split one big functioning state into 2 smaller non-functioning states. With some additional bad luck such as the invasion of Huns, and some personality factors (military skill of Alaric, ineptitude of Honorius, and the murder of Stilicho) these 3 main factors were enough to bring down the Western half.     

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#5) On February 09, 2010 at 7:22 PM, russiangambit (29.12) wrote:

Romans demanded bread and entertainment. We have our foodstamps and superbowl. I guess the one thing going for us so far is that our rulers are not as mad as Nero or Caligula. However, it is intresting that Rome achieved its greatest prosperity under a handful of great emperors - Ceasar, Augustus, Marcus Aureleus who had a strategic vision and not when it was a democracy. In democracy there is a lot of noise and activity but it is very hard to make unpopular but strategic changes, like the US needs right now. Not that I am advocating a dictatorship, I am still hoping for an existence of happy medium.

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#6) On February 09, 2010 at 8:01 PM, russiangambit (29.12) wrote:

#4 - zloj, I vaguely remember something  about slaves being less motivated and productive and not being enough of them.

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#7) On February 09, 2010 at 9:11 PM, starbucks4ever (97.43) wrote:

#6 - true, but did they have motivation in 753 BC and suddenly lost it in 473 AD? It's not like the Romans switched to computer technologies in the 5th century, in which case poor technical skills of slaves could become a problem :)

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#8) On February 09, 2010 at 9:41 PM, ikkyu2 (99.26) wrote:

You know one of the things the Romans didn't have was a BEA: http://www.bea.gov/

It's hard to make central planning decisions without the statistics.  The Romans definitely had huge resources that they squandered in the wrong directions, same as Lenin's first 5 year plan.  Not only didn't they have computers, they didn't even have zeroes; adding up a stack of numbers was an all-afternoon event. 

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#9) On February 09, 2010 at 10:09 PM, ChrisGraley (29.65) wrote:

To russian and zlog, it's a classic productivity issue. Increases in domestic entitlements caused a need for greater and greater productivity, which means you have to get more slaves and to work the current slaves harder. Eventually instead of having 1 man control say 100 angry slaves, you get to the point that 1 man has to control 1000 angry slaves, slaves that he has worked harder than he did before. You also can't give him as much military help because you have more of your military out trying to get even more slaves.

It's the same productivity problem that the US is trying to ignore. 

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#10) On February 09, 2010 at 10:15 PM, 292972826 wrote:

CHRISTIAN undermined the the roman empire and bring it to its decline.

 

I m quoting Dwot and simply replacing the word Socialism with Christianism, it now makes more sense....

 

 ""

Christianism is a grand idea on paper, until you put it to practice. Then it reveals itself as the parasite it is (it consumes everything to keep the ball rolling).

“What was the root cause of it all? The Romans had fallen prey to Christianism.

“In our school books we are taught that the Roman Empire fell because it had become militarily weak and was overrun by tribes of barbarians. This is a half-truth. In most areas, civilization had already been destroyed by Christianism; the people were well down the road of barbarism themselves – long before the arrival of the foreign tribes. 

 

"" 

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#11) On February 09, 2010 at 10:44 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

For those interested and haven't seen it, History of Inflation in Rome

David in.....

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#12) On February 09, 2010 at 11:47 PM, FleaBagger (29.21) wrote:

#10 - Your comment is so ignorant, I would hate to leave it unaddressed. Christianity was frequently used as a scapegoat for corrupt, deficient emperors and governors in the Roman Empire, as when Nero despoiled the treasury for his personal pleasures and blamed Christians for the consequences. Christianity, however, was an apolitical religion from the start, teaching "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's," and even when rounded up and sent to die in the circus, there was no violent resistance or revolt.

The death of Diocletian and resultant sole rule of Constantine I in 311 is the very beginning of significant influence of Christianity on the rule of the Roman Empire, more than 200 years after the decline of the Empire began in earnest under Tiberius in his twilight years. Quite the contrary to radical secularist teaching, the spread of Christianity and its teachings of "If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either," and "He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need," most likely had the effect of triage on the social welfare state in a Roman Empire that plundered its own poor, as well as foreigners, and placated the masses with free bread and circuses.

Unfortunately, the corrupting influence of power and the inherent conflict between being emperor and worshipping a God who, incarnate, came not to be served but to serve, and washed His disciples' feet, resulted in Constantine and the Christian emperors being only a slight improvement over their predecessors.

It is the synthesis of Christianity and imperial rule (or the desire to rule) that, more than one and a half millennia later, is described by the epithet "Christianism." While I oppose the attempt by my fellow Christians to gain political power, and believe that it is in conflict with the teachings of the Bible, the idea that Christianism is responsible for the decline of the Roman Empire is like blaming the Tea Party for the decline of liberty in America. While it has been hijacked by the mainstream, it is hardly old enough to have caused the progression of imperialism that has been menacing the country's future since it began more than 200 years ago. 

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#13) On February 10, 2010 at 7:24 AM, usul2525 (97.40) wrote:

Our country should take note. It much like the Roman Empire has gone through it's accension to greatness and yes is now own it's(America)decline or FALL. Rome fell because it had more and more doing less and less. Corrupt leaders, Corrupt Senators and a Few influencing the goverment for personal gain.Ted Kennedy apposed Jimmy Carter when he was a sitting president, Ted was waving the reform Health Care Flag. He lost. Bill Clinton made Hillary the health care reforming czar. She was put in her place. For the last year Obomba! Has put all govrment on hold fo health care> A Dead End Street. American's look at your elected Officals Local,Sate and Federal.Then follow the money. If we do not take our Country back we will repeat History.A Service Industry nation will fall we must return to our roots as producers. I want to be a patriot not a trader. Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson these men were traitors to thier country and risk thier families fortune and own life to form a great country what a shame that a few are elected by the people to destroy it.

Give them Bread, wine and Sex and they will love me.Caligula

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#14) On February 10, 2010 at 9:47 AM, TDRH (99.65) wrote:

Rome was over extennded and overleveraged.   The US could learn from this.   That and no civilization has survived an extended land war in Asia.  

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#15) On February 10, 2010 at 10:11 AM, binve (< 20) wrote:

dwot, Great post!!

TDRH, and also to never to go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line :)

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#16) On February 10, 2010 at 10:25 AM, TDRH (99.65) wrote:

I was wondering if the "Princess Bride" reference was too blatant.

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#17) On February 10, 2010 at 10:46 AM, miteycasey (30.31) wrote:

In democracy there is a lot of noise and activity but it is very hard to make unpopular but strategic changes, like the US needs right now.

 

+10000

It's not that politician don't know what needs to be done. It's they'll lose their job if they do them.

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#18) On February 10, 2010 at 11:28 AM, lemoneater (81.74) wrote:

@ #12, Fleabagger, I agree with you.

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#19) On February 10, 2010 at 11:39 AM, JohnnyAngel33 (< 20) wrote:

I suggest reading Adrian Goldsworthy's How Rome Fell.  The expansion of government bureaucracy from the third century on is quite amazing.

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#20) On February 10, 2010 at 11:45 AM, USNHR (31.60) wrote:

Romans demanded bread and entertainment. We have our foodstamps and superbowl.

__________________________________

I think ultimate fighting is closer to the entertainment that ancient rome practiced. Mindless destruction of ones opponent.

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#21) On February 10, 2010 at 3:04 PM, buildgreen (< 20) wrote:

I caught your quote TDRH.. made me laugh out loud.

 

 

I had to read this post. But this reminds me of so much of these diatribes.. partially educated massive assumptions formed to reinforce beliefs already cast in stone.  To be able to sum up the failings of a thousand year empire in 2 paragraphs.. what a gift. 

  

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#22) On February 10, 2010 at 4:26 PM, rofgile (99.29) wrote:

Why is it always that we talk about the Roman Empire?

Also - there is recorded history of Pastors in 1780's already saying that America had jumped the shark, that people had lost their American edge/dream/morality and that the great idea of America had failed.  1780!!!  This is some crazy idea built into the US psyche.

---

Why don't we talk about the totalitarian Qin empire for lessons?  China's been following the same imperial structure for 2000 years off-and-on at this point.  

Rome, schmome.

 -Rof

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#23) On February 10, 2010 at 5:13 PM, miteycasey (30.31) wrote:

We talk about Rome because it was a democracy.

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#24) On February 10, 2010 at 5:16 PM, PSU69 (90.58) wrote:

I have traveled extensively and opened offices in Munich, London, Tokyo and all over NA.  I know some history, yet will decline to comment on the poor Romans.  Our society may have many weaknesses, yet I am always so glad to be back home after witnessing the economic chaos in Europe with such a small number of super wealthy on top of so many who are living in poverty.  The Dr. I met from Sweden had to move to South Africa due to taxation in his native land.  America has a long way to go before we are as dysfunctional as many European countries.  If food stamps help some with illness or job loss it does not bother me at all.  Our version of free speech combined with education is what I really value.  Those who educate themselves and those who provide opportunities for family members to seek education are the heros in my book.

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#25) On February 10, 2010 at 6:01 PM, miteycasey (30.31) wrote:

Those who educate themselves and those who provide opportunities for family members to seek education are the heros in my book.

That's all fine and good, but have you seen the drop out rate???

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#26) On February 11, 2010 at 10:17 AM, dwot (42.57) wrote:

Interesting what gets a lot of attention in the blogs...

But, interesting, I think Britain's social system is killing it right now, and it isn't bring a better quality of citizenship, but rather one where too many are out to get something for nothing.

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#27) On February 11, 2010 at 11:47 AM, miteycasey (30.31) wrote:

But, interesting, I think Britain's social system is killing it right now, and it isn't bring a better quality of citizenship, but rather one where too many are out to get something for nothing.

That's happening everywhere and as it goes it becomes a bigger and bigger anchor on society. 

And that goes back to my point that  politicians  know what needs to be done. It's they'll lose their job if they do them.

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#28) On February 12, 2010 at 12:14 AM, PaxtorReborn (29.48) wrote:

Interesting, but nothing compared to what Andrew Green Bull puts out

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#29) On February 26, 2010 at 5:18 PM, IBDFool4U (92.90) wrote:

Paul Harvey talked about this in the early 1960's, in a segment called "The Testing Time". This is an excellent video. After talking about the Roman Empire (like above) he says:

"Just by turning to the left, the world has gone in circles. A nation would evolve from a monarchy into an oligarchy, an oligarchy into dictatorship, from dictatorship into bureaucracy, from bureaucracy to pure democracy, where finally the people would cry out from the chaos and confusion of the streets, "Oh please God, give us a king!!", and God would give them a king, and they would have a monarchy again, and start the whole silly cycle anew.  Now either we will profit from the errors of their ways, or it follows as the night the day, our children are going to have to relive the dark ages, all over again."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3adUQItN2o&feature=related

Part 2 of 3, 2:40 starts discussion of the Roman Empire.

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