Monday, January 21, 2013
The New Deal in Old Rome
"The attempt of Diocletian and his successors to save an empire that was crumbling resulted in complete regimentation under a totalitarian state. In the reign of Marcus Aurelius many villages and towns had been virtually wiped out by a great plague…On a diminished population with greatly impaired resources taxes were increased to support the enlarged army and the vast bureaucracy. Heavy contributions of grain were extracted from farmers to feed the soldiers and the population of the large cities. There were land taxes, property taxes, occupation taxes, poll taxes. It has been said of this period that 'the penalty of wealth seemed to be ruin.' The heart was taken out of the enterprising men. Finally the burden became so intolerable that to escape the imperial levies tenants fled from the farms and business men and workmen from their occupations. The government intervened and bound the tenants to the soil--the beginning of serfdom--and the business men and workmen to their occupations and trades. Private enterprise was crushed and the state was forced to take over many kinds of business to keep the machine running.
"As oppression by the central authority increased, many Romans in the frontier provinces escaped from its heavy hand to find refuge among the Germans and even the Huns. It is recorded that a refugee with the Huns told a Roman ambassador that 'he considered his new life with the Huns better than his old life among the Romans.' To the poor, it was said, the enemy was kinder than the tax collector. "
--H.J. Haskell, The New Deal in Old Rome, p. 221.