The Emperor Cult
By Tim Case
|"Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not
by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their
deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be
motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends."
~ Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine
Rockwell" -- -
Too often history is viewed through the blinders of what ruler
made what decision, or what war occurred, on what date. This had
led to many not understanding the effects the state and its
leadership could or will have on their lives.
This, I believe, also leads to one of the reasons for a
continuing admiration, if not adoration, of the state and the
We don’t know or aren’t told what effect such and such ruler’s
decisions had on the masses of people and their lives. What did
they feel or think? How did it change their lives? What was the
people’s response; was it flight, fright, or fight? Let me give
you an extreme, but not uncommon example.
Preceding the U.S. entry into WWI, America’s president, Woodrow
Wilson, set the stage for one (of many) of the Federal
government’s most profane periods in American history.
still "neutral" President Woodrow Wilson in his State of the
Union address on December 7, 1915, said in part:
"There are citizens of the United States, I blush to admit,
born under other flags, but welcomed under our generous
naturalization laws to the full freedom and opportunity of
America, who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the
very arteries of our national life; who have sought to bring
the authority and good name of our Government into
contempt... necessary that we should promptly make use of
processes of law by which we may be purged of their corrupt
distempers... I am urging you to do nothing less than save
the honor and self-respect of the nation... disloyalty, and
anarchy must be crushed out... I need not suggest the terms
in which they may be dealt with."
speaking of the German-Americans and many who heard or read his
speech took it as a directive to attack German ideas and
beliefs. Whole communities went so far as to suspect anyone who
spoke German of treason to the U.S. government while being loyal
to the German Kaiser.
California Congressman Julius Kahn went even further when
speaking of the German people living in America:
hope that we shall have a few prompt hangings and the sooner
the better. We have got to make an example of a few of these
people, and we have got to do it quickly."
hatred that was being garnered against these American citizens
is exemplified by the
New York Times headlines of April 6, 1918: "Senators
favor shooting traitors," then six days later by the Chicago
Tribune’s headlines "Cure treason and disloyalty by firing
my grandmother, who was of German heritage, was 22 years old.
Many years later I asked her why she wouldn’t speak German, even
though I knew she could speak it fluently. What she told me was
related to me, with tears in her eyes, that during 1915 to 1918
she was so frightened that she would be arrested, shot or hung
by the federal government, for speaking her native language that
she swore she would never speak German again. She never did and
she forbad me from ever leaning German as a second language!
grandmother an isolated example? No, there were many among the
loyal German communities that lived in fear and were dehumanized
by being called "Huns" or worse.
easy to see then how the perception of history may change when
we can show the consequences of government policy on people’s
lives, along with the dates and events.
some may think of the events of the early 1900’s as being recent
history, it is still history. Furthermore with history,
regardless of the era, we are dealing ultimately with the lives
of real men, women and children who lived it, suffered through
it, and struggled to cope with the events that were overtaking
is true of those who lived, worked, and supported the Roman
Augustus Caesar took the throne in 27 BC, at the age of 36, it
marked the end of almost a century of revolution, civil wars,
civil disturbances, confiscations of property, and prohibitions.
Tacitus tells us that the whole world was exhausted and was
thrilled to acquiesce to the Roman Empire just to have peace.
Augustus’ first acts was to reform the tax system. Next he again
standardized the silver coin of the realm, the denarius, at 84
to the pound and the realm’s gold coin, the aureus, at 40 to 42
to the pound.
a calming effect on the Romans and restored the unity, pride and
material affluence of the people (in fact only about 10% of the
population would actually benefit from the prosperity) in the
Roman Empire which also solidified Augustus’ reign as emperor.
the early days of the republic the Romans had lived comfortably
with a modest tax which can be rightfully called a wealth tax.
However, by the time of Augustus the Roman people were saddled
with a progressive tax and a system of tax collection that was
fraught with repression and criminal extortion.
idea was to set a flat tax based on wealth and population. This
new tax was modeled on the ancient tax system of the early
republic and was based on both population and individual wealth.
This is probably what he meant when he said of himself:
restored many traditions of the ancestors, which were
falling into disuse in our age, and myself I handed on
precedents of many things to be imitated in later
effect of Augustus’ new tax system was that it standardized the
amount of revenue the Roman state would receive yearly and
stopped the brutal progressiveness of the older tax system.
placed the citizens of Roman Empire in a unique position,
because now they knew each year what their tax liability was but
more importantly they knew that anything they earned above the
required tax was theirs, no matter how much their income
obvious result of such a tax system was that there was now a
major incentive to become producers, especially since the
marginal tax rate above the required tax was zero. Never mind
that the wealth earned this year would be assessed and taxed
next year; they now had a full year to use their money to
increase their income before their wealth was reassessed.
Forum Romanum called by the Romans Forum Magnum or
just the Forum, was the center of Roman life; as such it
was the Roman heart of commerce and
banking along with being the location for the administration
importance of the Forum made the streets leading to and from it
prime locations for businesses which supported many bookshops,
shoe shops, the finest spice shops and the daily needs of Rome’s
pro-growth tax system brought about the lowest interest rates in
Roman history. This is turn led to people borrowing investment
capital for new businesses or
speculating in commodities.
ventures require loans, and loan contracts were quickly
standardized throughout the empire.
Julius Alexander, the lender, required a promise in good
faith that the loan of 60 denarii of genuine and sound coin
would be duly settled on the day he requested it. Alexander,
son of Cariccius, the borrower, promised in good faith that
it would be so settled, and declared that he had received
the sixty denarii mentioned above, in cash, as a loan, and
that he owed them. Julius Alexander required a promise in
good faith that the interest on this principal from this day
would be one percent per thirty days and would be paid to
Julius Alexander or to whomever it might in the future
concern. Alexander, son of Cariccius, promised in good faith
that it would be so paid. Titius Primitius stood surety for
the due and proper payment of the principal mentioned above
and of the interest.
Transacted at Alburnus Maior, October 20, in the consulship
of Rusticus (his second consulship) and Aquilinus.
no way of knowing what this gentleman wanted to use the 60
denarii for, but consider for a moment the timing of this loan
which closed on October 20th.
ancient Rome wheat was the staple of the people, which made its
supply critical. Estimates of the yearly market need in Rome for
wheat range from 20 to 40 million modii; where a modii is
approximately 15 pounds or ¼ bushel of wheat. This means that
the average consumption of wheat in ancient Rome was 30 million
modii – 450,000,000 pounds – annually.
that at this time the population of Rome was in the neighborhood
of 5,000,000 we find the average need per person, annually was 6
modii: 90 pounds – 1½ bushels. Of course these totals are going
to be greater or lesser based on gender, age, ability to pay and
doesn’t take into account the state’s grain welfare program.
it shows that Rome required vast amounts of wheat, and
highlights its tenuous position.
happened to the grain shipments in 18 BC because Augustus Caesar
that year when Gnaeus and Publius Lentulus were consuls,
when the taxes fell short, I gave out contributions of grain
and money from my granary and patrimony, sometimes to
100,000 men, sometimes to many more.
many things that could hinder the flow of wheat to Rome but the
one thing that not even the might of Rome could change was the
weather on the Mediterranean Sea.
transporting of goods overland was cost prohibitive except for
short distances and that left shipping via the Mediterranean Sea
to bring the majority of goods to Rome. That is until November
of each year when the storms on the Mediterranean closed it to
trade until March of the following year. Even during October and
April it would be dangerous to sail the Mediterranean, due to
sudden storms, so we can assume that wheat imports would begin
to taper off in October of each year and would not resume again
until sometime in April.
plus months when the wheat ceased to arrive must have caused the
price to rise based on the simple laws of supply and demand
since this law was the controlling factor in Rome’s economy.
Alexander, son of Cariccius took out the loan because he was a
baker and wanted a hedge against wheat shortages for the five
months that the Mediterranean was closed to shipping; he would
have been able to purchase 120 modii – 30 bushels, 1800 pounds –
called the era from Caesar Augustus until the death of Emperor
Marcus Aurelius, in 180 AD, the golden years of the Roman
Empire. In some ways it was. Augustus’ sweeping reforms dealt
with all aspects of the Roman life and set the stage for a very
successful period in Roman history. Gibbon even goes so far as
to call this period the time when the "human race was most
prosperous and happy."
missed in all the jubilation is that Caesar Augustus was ahead
of his time. His Fabian socialist ideals were the firm
foundations upon which the misery of countless generations would
people loved their emperor and the peace that came with
Augustus’ programs. They were caught up in their success and
daily life; raising their children, paying their bills along
with the myriad of things that just living entails.
sirens of Greek mythology whose sweet singing lured mariners to
destruction on the rocks, so is the promise of the state;
regardless of the age.
Romans were simply people, and being human they either didn’t
see or refused to believe the destruction that was overtaking
them even as the producers in their society started becoming
insolvent then dejected due to the heavy controls that the state
was imposing on their lives.
By 192 AD
the tax base began to fail; as tax revenues decreased the Roman
state began to micromanage the economy, which bound farmers to
their farms and craftsmen to their workbenches. All businesses
soon became de facto organs of the state; it was business at the
point of a sword which tried to control and direct all aspects
of the markets. The Roman state’s efforts were to no avail,
commerce continued to deteriorate due to the tax burden.
state’s answer was to exacerbate the problem by increasing the
money supply, so denarii with less silver content were issued.
inflation raged prices sky rocketed (at one point inflation
reached an estimated 15,000%), people began to put aside and
hide the older, high silver content coins and pay their taxes in
the newly issued coins of less value. International trade soon
slowed to a crawl. The "real" value of the state’s revenues, as
expected, was proportionally reduced.
long before the Roman state began requisitioning cattle and food
directly from the farmers, and other producers were simply
robbed, as needs arose, by the army. The result was social chaos
ensuing from state terrorism which some have christened
state even went so far as to demand that state permission be
given before anyone could change their residence or occupation.
The state fixed prices and wages which eventually led to a
complete failure of the visible market, since there was no work
there was nothing to buy or sell so the people resorted to food
riots, lawlessness and city flight.
creeping socialism that affected the Roman Empire has been at
work in America since the adoption of the Constitution over the
Articles of Confederation, and like those ancient people of Rome
we are caught in its trap. Was it the love of the state or our
foolishness that resulted in our not seeing what is now
overtaking us? Future historians will have to decide.
present we will continue to put up with TSA theft of private
property, special travel ID’s, threats from Homeland security
that permission will be needed for employment and government
regulations designed to "monitor" commerce.
civilization continues its slide into the
socialistic abyss of monetary suicide and as the
real possibility of famine lurks on the horizon, let’s at
least not allow the words of the Roman poet, satirist, and
literary critic, Horace to be a vision of our future.
corrupts all. What has it not made worse?
Our grandfathers sired feebler children; theirs
Were weaker still – ourselves; and now our curse
Must be to breed even more degenerate heirs.
him mail] is a 30-year student of the ancient histories who
agrees with the first-century stoic Epictetus on this one point:
“Only the educated are free.”
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