Wednesday, June 24, 2009

4th Century Rome or 21st Century America?

"The reforms of Diocletian and Constantine, by giving permanence to the policy of organized robbery on the part of the state, made all productive economic activity impossible. But it did not stop the formation of large fortunes, rather, it contributed to their formation, while altering their character. The foundation of the new fortunes was no longer the creative energy of men, nor the discovery and exploitation of new sources of wealth, nor the improvement and development of commercial, industrial and agricultural enterprises; it was in the main the skillful use of a privileged position in the state to cheat and exploit the state and the people alike. Public officials, both high and low, grew rich on bribery and corruption. The senatorial class...invested their spoil in land and used their influence, the influence of their divert the burdens of taxation on to the other classes, to cheat the Treasury directly, and to enslave ever larger numbers of workmen...Thus, more than ever before, society was divided into two classes: those who became steadily poorer and more destitute, and those who built up their prosperity on the spoils of the ruined Empire--real drones, who never made any contribution to economic life but lived on the toil and travail of other classes."

----M. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire, pp. 475-77.

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