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Friday, August 24, 2012

Decivilisation, Overgovernment and Universal Empire

     I was impressed by this article from the Von Mises Institute on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The Misites are 100% free marketists & I only about 85% so, since our country is currently 75% the other way (50% of the money being spent by government and at least 50% of the free market being stifled by government controls) I am happy to be a fellow traveller for most of the journey. If we ever get to the place where government makes up 15% of the economy it may well be obvious.

    Anyway the basic premise is that  at the start of the Imperial period
as Peter Temin has shown ("The Economy of the Early Roman Empire," Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 20, no. 1, winter 2006, pp. 133–151), was characterized by a remarkable degree of institutional legal respect for private property (Roman law), and by the specialization and spread of exchanges in all sectors and factor markets (particularly the labor market, since, as Temin has demonstrated, the effect of slavery was much more modest that has been believed up to now). As a result, the Roman economy of the period reached a level of prosperity, economic development, urbanization, and culture that would not be seen again in the world until well into the 18th century.

  and that as time passed state parasitism, both in the form of regulators, inspectors and government employees and their friends and in the form of welfare aka free bread and circuses for the population of Rome, which unsurprisingly grew to 1 million, placed an ever growing burden on those participating in the free market.

   This effect is worsened because the taxes & impositions can most easily be extracted not from production but from dealing. Thus the forces behind Adam Smith's great observation, that people working together can produce far more than those working in isolation, are reversed. If you don't want to pay taxes limit yourself to subsistence farming.

   Nowadays we see this when doctors paint their own houses because, while they earn far more per hour than the painter, they pay for such services far more than the painter receives, so it is actually worth while taking time off earning to do so.

   Ditto the current fascination on every TV channel, with people building their own houses. In these programmes the people consistently do it in as expensive a way as possible while making elementary mistakes, due to inexperience - but still produce a home far cheaper than the professional government regulated builders do.

   We also see factories starting to set up their own "back up" electricity supplies.

   Then, to hide the fact that government is making everything more expensive they introduce price controls. Thus the goods stop being more expensive, they just become unavailable as demand, at lower prices, rises and supply, at loss making prices, drys up.

   The end result of this for the Roman Empire is described by Lanctantius 314/5 AD in very modern terms
There began to be fewer men who paid taxes than there were who received wages; so that the means of the husbandmen being exhausted by enormous impositions, the farms were abandoned, cultivated grounds became woodland … And many presidents and a multitude of inferior officers lay heavy on each territory, and almost on each city. There were also many stewards of different degrees, and deputies of presidents. Very few civil causes came before them: but there were condemnations daily, and forfeitures frequently inflicted; taxes on numberless commodities, and those not only often repeated, but perpetual, and, in exacting them, intolerable wrongs
    Then the barbarians arrive and destroy the Emipre - except they aren't destroying it, as Danny DeVito said  "it was dead when they got there".  Or as Salvian of Marseilles said
so that many, even persons of good birth, who have enjoyed a liberal education, seek refuge with the enemy to escape death under the trials of the general persecution. They seek among the barbarians the Roman mercy, since they cannot endure the barbarous mercilessness they find among the Romans.
   The Romans did not destroy the Empire they just gave it a decent burial.
  Von Mises put it 
A social order is doomed if the actions which its normal functioning requires are rejected by the standards of morality, are declared illegal by the laws of the country, and are prosecuted as criminal by the courts and the police. The Roman Empire crumbled to dust because it lacked the spirit of liberalism and free enterprise. The policy of interventionism and its political corollary, the Fuhrer principle, decomposed the mighty empire as they will by necessity always disintegrate and destroy any social entity.
  Which brings me to the unique danger the human race now face if we don't develop space. We are visibly heading for a one world government. Probably not defined as that. The individual states of the USA still call themselves "sovereign" in their constitutions. We have an ever growing international bureaucracy, whether it be the EU, the IMF, NATO, the ICC, to which nations "voluntarily" submit, having no real option. We also have blatantly illegal attacks (called humanitarian interventions or assistance to freedom fighters)  against any small state which refuses to do everything it is told - eg Syria, Iran, North Korea & over its new constitution, even Hungary; or against those who do everything they can to be obedient but what the hell, the "international community" likes to throw them against the wall anyway - Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq. That is how an empire works. The Romans did the same to their "friends and allies" though they remained nominally equally independent.

   But the Romans couldn't conquer the entire world. There was always an outside for people to take refuge in and perhaps more importantly, to give an example of freedom in successful action to.

   Over the last 2 decades we have seen the west adopting ecofascism and declining into recession while the other countries are growing at an average of 7%. That is a far more effective example than the barbarians could ever have given the Romans. But does anybody doubt that if the global bureaucracy had had a little more power, they would not have enforced their ecofascist Luddism on all the world? Does anybody dispute that they would like to be able to arrest people for disputing the CAGW lie?

  As technology makes the world smaller military capacity becomes ever more worldwide and the global bureaucracy thus becomes more able to enforce its parasitism everywhere.

   Our current Luddite rulers are visibly more parasitic than even the worst of the Roman Emperors (a rich society can afford more parasitism and insanity than a poor one). If we get a world government before humanity has built a refuge in space, there would be nothing to challenge or limit the universal growth of state parasitism. Thank Ghod for Communist China, the only state ultimately big enough to stand up for freed capitalism.

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