T Nation

CIA Report: Inequality Worse than Rome's


#1

"The CIA, World Bank, and other institutions track the Gini coefficients of modern nations. Itâ??s a unitless number, which can make it somewhat tricky to understand. The Gini coefficient scales from 0 to 1, where 0 means each portion of the population gathers an equal amount of income and 1 means a single person collects everything. Schiedel and Friesen calculated a Gini coefficient of 0.42â??0.44 for Rome. By comparison, the Gini coefficient in the U.S. in 2007 was 0.45.

Schiedel and Friesen arenâ??t passing judgement on the ancient Romans, nor are they on modern day Americans. Theirs is an academic study, one used to further scholarship on one of the great ancient civilizations. But buried at the end, they make a point thatâ??s difficult to parse, yet provocative. They point out that the majority of extant Roman ruins resulted from the economic activities of the top 10 percent. â??Yet the disproportionate visibility of this â??fortunate decileâ?? must not let us forget the vast butâ??to usâ??inconspicuous majority that failed even to begin to share in the moderate amount of economic growth associated with large-scale formation in the ancient Mediterranean and its hinterlands.â??

In other words, what we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and laborers, traces of whom have all but vanished. Itâ??s as though Romeâ??s 99 percent never existed. Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?"


#2

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?[/quote]

That we followed the same pattern as every empire that ever was and ever will be.


#3

If you think that’s bad,

http://history.econtrader.com/devaluation_of_the_roman_currency.htm

Over a span of 200 years, the silver content on coins went from pure to virtually 1% or even nothing. This resulted over the years, an increase in prices of goods. Wheat that once sold for 1 Denarius now sold for over 200 Denarii. Even with Rome?s adequate internal income from commerce it is inevitable that it needs new sources of income to support its growing borders and a massive army that no one dares to challenge.

Sound familiar?


#4

Here’s some internal data: http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/best-and-worst/most-income-inequality-us-cities


#5

[quote]Varqanir wrote:

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?[/quote]

That we followed the same pattern as every empire that ever was and ever will be.[/quote]

Do you have any thoughts on the causes of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century?


#6

[quote]SexMachine wrote:

[quote]Varqanir wrote:

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?[/quote]

That we followed the same pattern as every empire that ever was and ever will be.[/quote]

Do you have any thoughts on the causes of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century?[/quote]

Rampant homosexuality.


#7

I’m kidding, of course, but it was too easy a shot to pass up.

Seriously, though, the causes were, as I see it, a combination of overpopulation at the bottom of the social pyramid, and depopulation (through both failure to breed, and loss of wealth through debasement of currency) at the top; dependence on foreign trade for commodities and resources, requiring constant military action to secure and hold; a policy of immigration and easy citizenship which allowed Gauls and Goths to be “Romans”, and even attain positions in the military, without requiring them to assimilate; a massive underclass living on the dole in fetid tenements, kept from rising up only through the efforts of a brutal militarised police force, informants and assassination squads, and through constant mind-numbing performances of political satire and violent sports.

Of these, the fact that the Romans depended on African grain, and the Goths were literally at their doorsteps were the two factors that led to their downfall. All the Goths had to do was blockade the Tiber and stop the grain shipments, and the city folded within weeks.


#8

[quote]Varqanir wrote:
I’m kidding, of course, but it was too easy a shot to pass up.

[/quote]

Oh, you were answering the question? I thought you were talking about your private life there for a minute. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course.

Mmmm…sort of. As the city became a major trade port and commercial hub the rural peasants moved en masse into the city; same as in England as the Industrial Revolution began. And the immigration you mention started long before the Gauls and Germanic tribes. Very early in the republic’s history Rome fought and defeated all her rivals on the Italian peninsular; the Samnites, the Latins etc. Many of these became subject cities, most with near full autonomy(for good behaviour) and at an early stage Roman citizenship was extended to much of the Italian peninsular. The Carthaginians were driven out of Sicily then annihilated. The Greeks were subjugated and huge numbers of Greek aristocratic slaves were taken and used as teachers for Roman patrician children, librarians, architects etc.

Dependent upon grain from Egypt and the shores of the Black Sea yes.

Yes, this was one of the big ones. Rome acquired a vast empire virtually overnight and was totally unequipped to maintain it. The legions were in constant battle putting down rebellions across the empire virtually continuously for over a hundred and fifty years. Gradually the patrician class started to forego their military service via a system where they could pay someone else to take their place in the legion. So the patrician class got soft and power transferred to the commoners who dominated the military. The empowered Tribunate was a threat to the Senatorial class and the city desperately needed fresh soldiers so “barbarians” were increasingly filled in the legions. These Germanic and Gaullic warriors were tougher than the now soft and debauched Romans and as you mention below they gained considerable power. In fact, Rome was a multiethnic society by the end of the republic. By the third century they had an Illyrian Emperor, then a German Emperor and even an Asyyrian Emperor.

Rome also had a large Jewish population and a large number of Roman converts and “God-fearers”. Judaism became a very popular religion with the upper classes in Rome and at its peak before the Jewish revolts, 20% of the population of Rome were Jewish. If Paul and co. hadn’t come along we might all be Hymies.

Even Emperor. Yes, by the fourth century Rome had their very own undocumented sovereign just like Obama.

Not the dole exactly. Socialism and handouts for sure. It took the form of grain handouts, land confiscation from the Senators distributed to the poor and to veterans of the legions. There were also the chariot races and the gladiatorial games. These were often paid for by candidates for office and they would often spend exorbitant amounts of money on buying votes with extravagant games and festivals. One thing they’d do is hand out ceramic bowls of food and the candidate would have his name inscribed into the bowl so people knew who paid for it and who they should vote for. I’ve seen one in a museum that was made by Cataline shortly before his ill fated coup.

Afraid not. In fact, Rome never actually had a police force. For a few centuries they had “vigiles” - firefighters who also acted as night watchmen and patrolled the streets at night. But they weren’t really “police” and they were pretty ineffective. The real power in the city was the Praetorian Guard and by the third century the vigiles were disbanded. The Romans didn’t rely upon public prosecutors to bring charges against someone. Citizens would bring charges directly against the accused and a jury trial of sorts heard and ruled on the case.

Yes, a long tradition of political assassinations, intrigue, coups and attempted coups etc.

I always liked the story of Caligula suddenly ordering the entire front row of spectators in the Colosseum to be seized and thrown into the ring to fight each other to death while the Emperor watched with glee.

They’d been ripe for a plucking for a long time. The fall of Rome resonated throughout the Empire as they withdrew the legions and left the locals to fend for themselves. When the legions pulled out of Britain they were immediately invaded by Germanic tribes and there’s a famous letter one of the Gaulic Kings in England begging the Romans to return as they were being wiped out. Although it’s regarded as very historically dubious, Geoffrey Monmouth’s Historium Regum Britanniae gives a very interesting account that may very well be accurate despite the inaccuracies elsewhere in the work. A snippet if you’re interested:

http://www.d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/geoffrey-of-monmouth-arthurian-passages-from-the-history-of-the-kings-of-britain

[quote]
All the Goths had to do was blockade the Tiber and stop the grain shipments, and the city folded within weeks.[/quote]

Rome had already died long before Alaric came to town. By the fifth century, Rome wasn’t even the most important city in Italy. The patricians all fled to Ravenna, Alexandria, Byzantium and elsewhere throughout the crumbling Empire. Gibbon was keen to stress however, that it wasn’t a sudden fall but rather a slow and inexorable decline over many generations. Gibbon blamed Christianity for the Romans becoming “soft”.


#9

[quote]SexMachine wrote:
Gibbon blamed Christianity for the Romans becoming “soft”.
[/quote]

Which you’ll notice I did not.

Christianity was a symptom, not the cause.


#10

[quote]Varqanir wrote:

[quote]SexMachine wrote:
Gibbon blamed Christianity for the Romans becoming “soft”.
[/quote]

Which you’ll notice I did not.

Christianity was a symptom, not the cause.[/quote]

Ha ha. Good one.


#11

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
"The CIA, World Bank, and other institutions track the Gini coefficients of modern nations. Itâ??s a unitless number, which can make it somewhat tricky to understand. The Gini coefficient scales from 0 to 1, where 0 means each portion of the population gathers an equal amount of income and 1 means a single person collects everything. Schiedel and Friesen calculated a Gini coefficient of 0.42â??0.44 for Rome. By comparison, the Gini coefficient in the U.S. in 2007 was 0.45.

Schiedel and Friesen arenâ??t passing judgement on the ancient Romans, nor are they on modern day Americans. Theirs is an academic study, one used to further scholarship on one of the great ancient civilizations. But buried at the end, they make a point thatâ??s difficult to parse, yet provocative. They point out that the majority of extant Roman ruins resulted from the economic activities of the top 10 percent. â??Yet the disproportionate visibility of this â??fortunate decileâ?? must not let us forget the vast butâ??to usâ??inconspicuous majority that failed even to begin to share in the moderate amount of economic growth associated with large-scale formation in the ancient Mediterranean and its hinterlands.â??

In other words, what we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and laborers, traces of whom have all but vanished. Itâ??s as though Romeâ??s 99 percent never existed. Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?"


[/quote]

So, I guess the solution is more of Obama’s policies, given that, under his watch, the concentration of wealth has gotten worse than ever.

In fact, the worldwide problem appears to be liberal “solutions” – given that such “solutions” inevitably concentrate wealth into the hands of the very few.

Indeed, when taken to their ultimate, the policies concentrate the wealth in the hands of one man (e.g., North Korea, Stalin, Hitler, etc.)


#12

[quote]Jewbacca wrote:

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
"The CIA, World Bank, and other institutions track the Gini coefficients of modern nations. It�¢??s a unitless number, which can make it somewhat tricky to understand. The Gini coefficient scales from 0 to 1, where 0 means each portion of the population gathers an equal amount of income and 1 means a single person collects everything. Schiedel and Friesen calculated a Gini coefficient of 0.42�¢??0.44 for Rome. By comparison, the Gini coefficient in the U.S. in 2007 was 0.45.

Schiedel and Friesen aren�¢??t passing judgement on the ancient Romans, nor are they on modern day Americans. Theirs is an academic study, one used to further scholarship on one of the great ancient civilizations. But buried at the end, they make a point that�¢??s difficult to parse, yet provocative. They point out that the majority of extant Roman ruins resulted from the economic activities of the top 10 percent. �¢??Yet the disproportionate visibility of this �¢??fortunate decile�¢?? must not let us forget the vast but�¢??to us�¢??inconspicuous majority that failed even to begin to share in the moderate amount of economic growth associated with large-scale formation in the ancient Mediterranean and its hinterlands.�¢??

In other words, what we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and laborers, traces of whom have all but vanished. It�¢??s as though Rome�¢??s 99 percent never existed. Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?"


[/quote]

So, I guess the solution is more of Obama’s policies, given that, under his watch, the concentration of wealth has gotten worse than ever.

In fact, the worldwide problem appears to be liberal “solutions” – given that such “solutions” inevitably concentrate wealth into the hands of the very few.

Indeed, when taken to their ultimate, the policies concentrate the wealth in the hands of one man (e.g., North Korea, Stalin, Hitler, etc.)[/quote]

The problem is not the concentration of wealth into “the hands of the very few” but rather concentration of the wealth into the hands of politicians, bureaucrats, and their cronies - i.e., the ruling class.

When wealth is concentrated into the hands of the productive class (rather than the ruling class) everyone is made better off. This spreads wealth to the working class and poor much more efficiently than welfare and make-work programs, for example.


#13

[quote]SexMachine wrote:
Do you have any thoughts on the causes of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century?[/quote]

The Roman Empire in the 4th century…?

Seriously though, Rome didn’t collapse, per se. It spread its empire too thin and became too unsustainable to maintain and was bred out by the barbarians they tried to conquer. It’s “identity” was scattered like dust to the winds of history.


#14

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Rome didn’t collapse, per se. It spread its empire too thin and became too unsustainable to maintain and was bred out by the barbarians they tried to conquer. It’s “identity” was scattered like dust to the winds of history.[/quote]

I’m trying to think of modern equivalent and im drawing a blank…


#15

[quote]Aggv wrote:

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Rome didn’t collapse, per se. It spread its empire too thin and became too unsustainable to maintain and was bred out by the barbarians they tried to conquer. It’s “identity” was scattered like dust to the winds of history.[/quote]

I’m trying to think of modern equivalent and im drawing a blank… [/quote]

Yeah. No modern parallels that I can think of to any of the conditions contributing to Rome’s decline.


#16

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

The Roman Empire in the 4th century…?

[/quote]

No. The Western Roman Empire in the 5th century.

5th century = 400AD to 499AD

There is no consensus on an exact date of the “fall” of the Western Roman Empire as it was a slow progressive collapse. The beginning of the end was Alaric I’s sacking of Rome in 410 and the end of the end(some historians regard as the “official” end) was 476 when Odoacer defeated Romulus, the last of the Western Emperors.


#17

[quote]SexMachine wrote:

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

The Roman Empire in the 4th century…?

[/quote]

No. The Western Roman Empire in the 5th century.

5th century = 400AD to 499AD

There is no consensus on an exact date of the “fall” of the Western Roman Empire as it was a slow progressive collapse. The beginning of the end was Alaric I’s sacking of Rome in 410 and the end of the end(some historians regard as the “official” end) was 476 when Odoacer defeated Romulus, the last of the Western Emperors.
[/quote]

I was trying to make a tautological joke - as in, the collapse of 5th century Rome is attributed to its prior history.


#18

First, relative wealth is an irrational measure of individual wealth. A country where everyone is poor, repressed and is starving could come in at zero. And if that country were to grow with everyone having homes, jobs, food, and leisure but some people had more than others, the country would rank lower. If general standard of living and individual wealth increase, but you are mad that the gap is bigger you are irrational. If I could get 3 Ferraris and give you 1, you just upgraded to a Ferrari and nothing but childish jealousy would make you complain about someone else having 2 of them.

But the big thing to remember on that statistic, even if true, America isn’t an empire.


#19

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
America isn’t an empire.[/quote]

Maybe in name but not practice.

Should we come up with a new flavor for the type of imperialism the US government follows - one that includes overthrowing democratically elected governments, installing despotic dictators, and building military bases to give US government control over area?


#20

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

[quote]Jewbacca wrote:

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
"The CIA, World Bank, and other institutions track the Gini coefficients of modern nations. It�?�¢??s a unitless number, which can make it somewhat tricky to understand. The Gini coefficient scales from 0 to 1, where 0 means each portion of the population gathers an equal amount of income and 1 means a single person collects everything. Schiedel and Friesen calculated a Gini coefficient of 0.42�?�¢??0.44 for Rome. By comparison, the Gini coefficient in the U.S. in 2007 was 0.45.

Schiedel and Friesen aren�?�¢??t passing judgement on the ancient Romans, nor are they on modern day Americans. Theirs is an academic study, one used to further scholarship on one of the great ancient civilizations. But buried at the end, they make a point that�?�¢??s difficult to parse, yet provocative. They point out that the majority of extant Roman ruins resulted from the economic activities of the top 10 percent. �?�¢??Yet the disproportionate visibility of this �?�¢??fortunate decile�?�¢?? must not let us forget the vast but�?�¢??to us�?�¢??inconspicuous majority that failed even to begin to share in the moderate amount of economic growth associated with large-scale formation in the ancient Mediterranean and its hinterlands.�?�¢??

In other words, what we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and laborers, traces of whom have all but vanished. It�?�¢??s as though Rome�?�¢??s 99 percent never existed. Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?"


[/quote]

So, I guess the solution is more of Obama’s policies, given that, under his watch, the concentration of wealth has gotten worse than ever.

In fact, the worldwide problem appears to be liberal “solutions” – given that such “solutions” inevitably concentrate wealth into the hands of the very few.

Indeed, when taken to their ultimate, the policies concentrate the wealth in the hands of one man (e.g., North Korea, Stalin, Hitler, etc.)[/quote]

The problem is not the concentration of wealth into “the hands of the very few” but rather concentration of the wealth into the hands of politicians, bureaucrats, and their cronies - i.e., the ruling class.

When wealth is concentrated into the hands of the productive class (rather than the ruling class) everyone is made better off. This spreads wealth to the working class and poor much more efficiently than welfare and make-work programs, for example.[/quote]

That’s actually my point. Perhaps my sarcasm didn’t come out clearly.

The OP is always pushing failed “progressive” policies that, in reality, concentrate “wealth into the hands of politicians, bureaucrats, and their cronies - i.e., the ruling class.”

If you want to stop this concentration, you need to undo most of the crap that has been added to the government from FDR forward.