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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7248/new-deal-old-rome/

New Deal, Old Rome

October 2, 2007 by

The great book by H.J. Haskell in pdf.

{ 4 comments }

Frank October 2, 2007 at 2:12 pm

I was very astonished, as a student in a public high school, to see this work quoted in an AP World History document-based essay question on the fall of the Roman Empire, especially as the passage quoted was a very insightful one regarding the long-term ill effects of intervention. It was almost in direct contradiction to most of the ‘conventional wisdom’ taught to us prisoners / students by the all-knowing, holy State (hallowed be thy name) extolling the virtues of intervention to ‘protect consumers’ from the supposedly evil market.

Ohhh Henry October 2, 2007 at 9:34 pm

The parallels with the modern political scene are eerie. Was anyone else reminded of the Kennedy family in the description of the assassinated populist politicians Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus? To say nothing of the businessmen who “depended on him [Bush, err, Pompey], not merely to end the war, but to find excuse for annexing additional territory to which government contracts for taxes [oil royalties] and public works [reconstruction] might be extended.”

DickF October 3, 2007 at 9:56 am

Appendix 1 is fantastic! If you only read this it will be worth your while.

Tim October 4, 2007 at 12:25 am

The book is not a critique of interventionism per se and in many areas Haskell endorses, or at least defends, the intervention. But it’s not a pro-interventionist book either.

What is interesting is his exploration of how Empire created radical pressures on the old Roman Republic, exaggerating and maybe even creating, the class conflict, or perhaps more accurately, the caste conflict, that dominated the Roman Empire to it’s fall.

For example, foreign conquest led to an influx of tribute, loot and slaves. This increased the wealth of the great landowners and encouraged them to substitute slave for free labor, whilst undermining the competitive position of the freemen small holders. The Roman ‘welfare state’ grew in response to these pressures but essentially depended on renewed influx of tribute etc. to underwrite the system. Once the Empire ceased to expand, the infusions of tribute and slaves declined, creating a deep fiscal crisis. Rather than fundamentally reform the system the response was to implement essentially totalitarian economic controls, undermining whatever natural economic vitality remained. This plus the impact of a related demographic decline meant that the barbarians were ultimately able to overwhelm the western empire, although they essentially learned the art of plunder from the competitively violent military autocracy that the Empire had descended into after the reign of the ‘five good emperors’.

The whole book could be seen as a case study of the Misesian theory of interventionism.

Certainly Haskell’s writing is excellent, clear and entertaining. It would certainly provide a great introduction to any intelligent layman, high school student or undergraduate not familiar with Roman history. For those already exposed to ancient history his tour de force provides a great integrative overview and interpretation, highlighted by brilliant, and often humorous, nuggets of writing here and there.

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