by Simon Black: Is
New Zealand on Your Radar? MaybeItShouldBe.
Edward Gibbon published his famous treatise in the late 1700s, historians
have frequently debated the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire.
Gibbon, argued that Roman society’s moral decline was the root
cause, while others such as Toynbee suggested that the mere concept
of the empire was doomed from its inception due to institutional
reason, one thing is certain: it happened gradually, with each successive
generation of Romans becoming accustomed (willingly or forcibly)
to the new normal of their inflationary police state.
point to the reign of Emperor Commodus (180–192 AD) as the
beginning of the end of the Roman Empire; early Roman historian
Cassius Dio described the rule of Commodus as Rome’s turning
point from a “kingdom of gold to one of rust and iron.”
known for his harsh cruelty, debauchery, and insanity; contemporary
historians suggest that Commodus actually believed he was the reincarnation
of Hercules, and he had a penchant for staging expensive (and fixed)
gladiatorial exhibitions in which he would personally compete.
By the time
of his assassination, Rome was nearly bankrupt… though this
didn’t stop future emperors from continuing the tradition of
If they didn’t
have enough gold, they would plunder. If their armies were too weak
to plunder, they would raise taxes and debase the currency. By the
time of Aurelian in 270, the silver content in Rome’s coins
had fallen to less than 2%, losing any appearance of being silver
seem to matter much. Romans were convinced that the gods favored
them, and that it was their natural place in the global pecking
order to be the world’s dominant superpower.
The games continued,
and Romans were too preoccupied watching gladiators and chariot
races to notice that, like boiling frogs, they were being slowly
heated by their imperial leadership.
I was thinking
about this history recently while browsing some financial headlines
like “Apple stock heading to $500? and “This will be Apple’s
Decade” and “Steve Jobs – Messiah.”