Author Topic: Babylonian Debt Wisdom  (Read 604 times)

Offline Baruch

Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« on: November 16, 2018, 06:36:05 AM »
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The reality of and the need for debt jubilee ... and how the Greco-Roman financial traditions screws us.

In Roman terms ... Plebs vs Patricians.  In the end, the Patricians won, because Augustus coopted the Plebs to vote against their best interests.  Seem  familiar?  Neo-conservatism replaced paleo-conservatism.  And the Plebs were bought off with bread and circuses.  Meanwhile, from the 2nd Punic War forward, the Carthaginians (fought mostly by the plebs under incompetent patrician leaders) and the subsequent latifundia (collective farms owned by aristocrats and farmed by slaves) the Roman middle class was destroyed.

Later, under Emperor Caracalla ... all free men in the Empire were given Roman citizenship, because multiculturalism is our strength (which immediately led to a series of military dictatorships and disintegration of the Empire within two generations).
« Last Edit: November 17, 2018, 10:35:40 AM by Baruch »
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luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2018, 03:05:06 PM »
Interesting observations and there is a lot of scholarly argument about why Caracalla did what he did. 

Nonetheless, his actions in 212 and the collapse of the Empire in the West (tradionally 476 ) are separated by 250 years and the Eastern Empire lasted more or less for another thousand years.  That's a long time and a lot happened in between.

There are plenty of reasons for the collapse of the Roman empire including economic disparity, human error, and simple greed for power.  I'm not so sure that multi-culturalism was one of them.  In fact, the Romans were pretty effective at assimilating other cultures into their system.
The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails.

-- H. L. Mencken

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2018, 03:16:27 PM »
The Roman empire didn't collapse, it was just transformed into the Roman Catholic Church.
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Offline Baruch

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2018, 03:44:20 PM »
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Interesting observations and there is a lot of scholarly argument about why Caracalla did what he did. 

Nonetheless, his actions in 212 and the collapse of the Empire in the West (tradionally 476 ) are separated by 250 years and the Eastern Empire lasted more or less for another thousand years.  That's a long time and a lot happened in between.

There are plenty of reasons for the collapse of the Roman empire including economic disparity, human error, and simple greed for power.  I'm not so sure that multi-culturalism was one of them.  In fact, the Romans were pretty effective at assimilating other cultures into their system.

The empire died from hyperinflation by 264 CE.  That is just two generations after Caracalla.  Later reforms only made things worse (like the invention of feudalism by Emperor Diocletian).  Nobody found a new monetary stability until 286 years later (see reforms of Emperor Athanasius of Byzantium).  After 264 CE, it was a dead man walking, suffering from repeated hyperinflation, until the East could jettison the West, the wealth of the East having been used to subsidize the West.  This is why Sulla taking over Asia Minor, Pompey taking over Syria and Augustus taking over Egypt were so pivotal.  The West couldn't even feed itself without Egypt ... and Rome dwindled to a small population after the seat of power was fully moved to Constantinople, after the victory of Emperor Theodosius, using Gothic troops, over the remaining pagans in Italy.  Rome until then had been a cancer, growing without control aside from malaria.

Assimilation was the operative word ... you have to assimilate.  But in the end Greek won out over Latin in half of the Empire ... Latin never stood out even in legionary retirement settlement, except Beirut Lebanon.  The Latin men got assimilated by their Greek women.  Even during the Republic, resistance was futile in spite of Cato the Elder.  In the West, after the end of civil power, sure Latin survived as various vulgates, and in a few monasteries.

In other words, the underdeveloped West, outside of Rome, was a hollow shell that imploded.  The East had been developed for millennia prior to that.  I don't think contemporaries understood what was happening to them (being systemic), it wasn't in their Greco-Roman educated vocabulary for over a millennia into the future.  And we are too distant to really do more than speculate.

Emperor Caracalla was a clever devil though.  But Emperor Diocletian was worse, he tried to outlaw inflation, and tied sons to their father's work (feudalism).  And instituted ruinous tax reform (to protect the government revenue, instituted a property tax that had to be paid in gold, which reduced the landowners to penury).  Later as the reformed gold coin (Aureus -> Solidus) this was used to pay off all the German and Hunnish mercenaries and protection money.  The only good coin in the late Empire was the solidus and its fractions (half and third) ... but only mercenaries and barbarians saw them.  The rest of the population had to return to barter (which is much less efficient) since the tiny "nummus" was nearly worthless.  The silver coinage disappears for centuries, the Emperor Athanasius only managed to restore the bronze coinage (follis).  And that only in the East.  Silver coinage wasn't restored until the arrival of Islam (dirham), which recoined the late Persian drachm).
« Last Edit: December 07, 2018, 03:57:15 PM by Baruch »
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luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2018, 04:04:10 PM »
Quote
Emperor Caracalla was a clever devil though.

Either that or he threw a "Hail Mary" pass to see what would happen.

Dio suggests his main reason was to increase the tax base.  Another possibility is to increase the number of men eligible for the legions.  In either case, he could not have known about the mid 3d century military disasters in the East and the plague which the survivors brought back which dealt serious blows to the Roman.  I'm surprised they recovered from that combo.

I also don't blame jesusism for the collapse of the Empire.  They were still a marginal faction and they just happened to back the right horse at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.  Lucky choice for them but hardly divinely inspired.
The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails.

-- H. L. Mencken

Offline Baruch

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2018, 08:29:22 PM »
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Either that or he threw a "Hail Mary" pass to see what would happen.

Dio suggests his main reason was to increase the tax base.  Another possibility is to increase the number of men eligible for the legions.  In either case, he could not have known about the mid 3d century military disasters in the East and the plague which the survivors brought back which dealt serious blows to the Roman.  I'm surprised they recovered from that combo.

I also don't blame jesusism for the collapse of the Empire.  They were still a marginal faction and they just happened to back the right horse at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.  Lucky choice for them but hardly divinely inspired.

Well, Caracalla's reform, in his own time, was modest, moving from the denarius to what was later called an antoninianus (basically a debased double denarius).  Probably manpower was the biggest issue ... because the Roman population was periodically decimated by plagues, which impacted the crowded cities more than the unurbanized barbarian hinterland.  Yes, the Christians weren't responsible for ending the Empire, but for creating a ghost that lived on after the loss of all else.  Constantine was a devotee, until his baptism at near death, to Sol Invictus.  He had already seen in Sassanid Persia how a new religion (neo-Zoroastrianism) could do to consolidate power.

Unfortunately, when you mix populations normally living apart they share germs not previously shared.  For instance Verus' legions bringing back plague to Marcus Aurelius' Rome, from his Persian campaign.  Women mostly made babies and died in childbirth.  Infant mortality was high.  So after a given survivor population was inoculated with the latest germ (at high cost), then population grew quickly, until the cycle repeated.  It is hard to imagine, even with Roman baths, just hour filthy people were.

In alternative history writing, had Alexander lived, there would have been no Rome, no rabbinic Judaism, no Christianity, no Islam.  A pagan Byzantium would have been the start, probably in Alexandria Egypt.  Given the rise of khshatriya supporting Buddists, later Alexaders might have been Buddhist chakravartins.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2018, 08:33:05 PM by Baruch »
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luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2018, 10:05:36 PM »
I love to discuss alternative history scenarios for the pure intellectual joy of it but you can't introduce too many variables into it at once or it goes off the rails.

Suppose Constantine lost the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.  Where would jesusism be today?
The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails.

-- H. L. Mencken

Offline Baruch

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2018, 10:32:19 PM »
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I love to discuss alternative history scenarios for the pure intellectual joy of it but you can't introduce too many variables into it at once or it goes off the rails.

Suppose Constantine lost the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.  Where would jesusism be today?

If the Empire hadn't reintegrated under Constantine, Jerusalem would have gone under its traditional suzerain ... Persia.  Persians and Jews have traditionally gotten along.  The Romans may have remained polytheist, and the Greeks may have remained divided against a traditional foe.  But definitely no state-Christianity, no Islam.  Neo-Zoroastrianism can fulfill both of those needs.  Persia would not only have occupied the Near East, but also Armenia and Ethiopia (locations of other state-Christianity).  If Nestorian Christianity had not been seen as a Fifth Column, then it might have continued to expand in Persia, creating a further religious development.  And rabbinic Judaism would have flourished under Persian leadership.

In alternative history .. if Alexander the Great lives longer, and meets the young Chandragupta as a client king, then all of India would have been brought under Greek influence, not just Bactria.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2018, 10:34:02 PM by Baruch »
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luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2018, 11:41:58 PM »
Most xtian centers were in the East:  Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem with only Rome in the West.  Jerusalem, of course, was a minor site in comparison to the others.  In the fifth century the Byzantines and Persians tore each other to shreds which is what opened the way for the islamic army or whatever it may have been in the beginning.  That would probably have happened anyway and the economic problems would still have doomed the West.  Most of the early Barbarian tribes were Aryan xtians which meant that the pope's authority was limited to Italy south of Rome and who knows how that would have played out?
The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails.

-- H. L. Mencken

Offline Baruch

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2018, 12:21:47 AM »
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Most xtian centers were in the East:  Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem with only Rome in the West.  Jerusalem, of course, was a minor site in comparison to the others.  In the fifth century the Byzantines and Persians tore each other to shreds which is what opened the way for the islamic army or whatever it may have been in the beginning.  That would probably have happened anyway and the economic problems would still have doomed the West.  Most of the early Barbarian tribes were Aryan xtians which meant that the pope's authority was limited to Italy south of Rome and who knows how that would have played out?

That is a different scenario.  Persian support of Christians, in a non-Christian Rome, would have been devastating for Rome in the East.  Prior to Constantine, the Christians were a subversive element.  The West was always a weak sister, primarily a raw materials source, not a cultural nor a population source.  A large population in W Europe didn't develop until the development of the modern iron plow, in the Middle Ages.  That and the lack of necessary deforestation.  The Pope's authority was minor outside of the Church until after Charlemagne.  The Church played the heirs of Charlemagne off against each other (leading to the French-German division today).  Without Frankish support, the Pope was little more than a puppet of the Emperor in Constantinople, anytime the Byzantines had control of Rome.
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luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2018, 12:53:52 PM »
There are two books I can highly recommend which deal with many of your observations.  Both are by J. P. Jenkins.

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The first deals with the remarkable expansion of Nestorian and Jacobite xtian expansion into Asia and how they thrived under both Persian and muslim rule.
Until the Mongols came along......

The second deal with the early doctrinal battles in the East and how things worked out as they did.  Of particular amusement was the attitude of Eastern Greek-speaking xtians towards Western Latin speakers.  They were a half step above barbarians!

Anyway, if you are interested I have electronic copies of both books.

The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails.

-- H. L. Mencken

Offline Baruch

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2018, 02:05:24 PM »
Yes, between the Mongols and their successors (Tamerlane), Nestorian Christianity and Buddhism were decimated.  The Mongols were eventual converted more than once.  Some went Buddhist, some went Christian, others went Muslim.  Turks (allies of the Mongols) went Muslim, this made a huge change, before the Mongols even got there.

Central Asia and the Silk Road are fascinating, partly because Westerners know so little about it (other than Marco Polo).

My ex went thru Seminary.  Have you ever seen the movie, Agora?  Politics in Church matters ... a bad combination.

Empires of the Word "A Language History of the World" by Nicholas Ostler ... tells history as only literate evidence can tell it.  Anything else is the potsherds of archeology.  This is available in Kindle.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2018, 02:11:39 PM by Baruch »
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luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Offline Cavebear

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2018, 02:02:13 AM »
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I love to discuss alternative history scenarios for the pure intellectual joy of it but you can't introduce too many variables into it at once or it goes off the rails.

Suppose Constantine lost the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.  Where would jesusism be today?

It probably wouldn't have made much difference.  Christianity was a belief among the poor and weak seeking salvation from a hard life of slavery and persecution.  I don't see much sense in it myself, but when you are poor and enslaved, almost anything different looks better.
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

Offline Baruch

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2018, 07:00:25 AM »
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It probably wouldn't have made much difference.  Christianity was a belief among the poor and weak seeking salvation from a hard life of slavery and persecution.  I don't see much sense in it myself, but when you are poor and enslaved, almost anything different looks better.

Sympathy for the analysis of Nietzsche?  Basically he went violent classical, as anti-Abrahamic, since he saw them as slave religions, including Judaism.
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luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

Offline Cavebear

Re: Babylonian Debt Wisdom
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2018, 07:56:36 AM »
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Sympathy for the analysis of Nietzsche?  Basically he went violent classical, as anti-Abrahamic, since he saw them as slave religions, including Judaism.

You may want to recall that I am basically a Kant-man with some Hume tossed into the blender.
Atheist born, atheist bred.  And when I die, atheist dead!

 

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