18 Oct 2008

Big Government Destroyed Rome

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Eugéne Delacroix (1798-1863), (detail) Atilla suivi de ses hordes, foule aux pieds l’Italie et les arts (Attila followed by his Horde, Trampling under Foot Italy and the Arts), Bibliothèque, Palais Bourbon, Paris, 1843-47

Bruce Bartlett, at the Cato Journal, describes how the same policies pursued by today’s democrat party produced the downfall of Rome.

In the end, there was no money left to pay the army, build forts or ships, or protect the frontier. The barbarian invasions, which were the final blow to the Roman state in the fifth century, were simply the culmination of three centuries of deterioration in the fiscal capacity of the state to defend itself. Indeed, many Romans welcomed the barbarians as saviors from the onerous tax burden. [15]

Although the fall of Rome appears as a cataclysmic event in history, for the bulk of Roman citizens it had little impact on their way of life. As Henri Pirenne (1939: 33-62) has pointed out, once the invaders effectively had displaced the Roman government they settled into governing themselves. At this point, they no longer had any incentive to pillage, but rather sought to provide peace and stability in the areas they controlled. After all, the wealthier their subjects the greater their taxpaying capacity.

In conclusion, the fall of Rome was fundamentally due to economic deterioration resulting from excessive taxation, inflation, and over-regulation. Higher and higher taxes failed to raise additional revenues because wealthier taxpayers could evade such taxes while the middle class–and its taxpaying capacity–were exterminated. Although the final demise of the Roman Empire in the West (its Eastern half continued on as the Byzantine Empire) was an event of great historical importance, for most Romans it was a relief.

Read the whole thing.

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Scott D

A President Obama would discover pretty quickly that the same laws of economics that produced abundant revenues for the federal government when it cut taxes on capital in 1983, 1997 and 2003 will produce paltry yields when taken in reverse. The instinct of the left is always, then, to cut open the goose when it stops laying many eggs.



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