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Currency And The Collapse Of The Roman Empire

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http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-02-19/currency-and-collapse-roman-empire

At its peak, the Roman Empire held up to 130 million people over a span of 1.5 million square miles.

Rome had conquered much of the known world. The Empire built 50,000 miles of roads, as well as many aqueducts, amphitheatres, and other works that are still in use today.

Our alphabet, calendar, languages, literature, and architecture borrow much from the Romans. Even concepts of Roman justice still stand tall, such as being “innocent until proven guilty”.

So, as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins' asks, how could such a powerful empire collapse?

collapse-of-roman-empire.jpg?w=1360
Courtesy of: The Money Project

More at the link.

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Strange to have an article on currency and inflation in the Roman Empire without mentioning Diocletian (who reigned following the 'crisis of the 3rd century').

If you go to the British Museum there is a section on money (amusingly sponsored by some bank or another - amusing given that banks hate currency so...) - last time I went there there was a 'hands on' of currency - nice to hold the actual coins... from a Roman Aes Signatum from the republic (heavy) through to a late empire denarius.

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It's a nice theory but is simplistic. The debasement of the coinage was as much a symptom as a cause of the 3rd Century crisis of the Roman Empire in that competing generals seeking to usurp the Imperial purple all had to mint coinage to pay their troops and not all had ready access to bullion

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crisis_of_the_Third_Century

The problem was that the Empire depended on fresh conquests to fund its operations and by the early 2nd Century AD it had run out of worthwhile new territories to seize. There was not much wealth to be extracted from Caledonian tribesmen, German barbarians and desert Bedouin so they was little point in bringing them within the Empire yet at the same time the cost of keeping them out was more than the internal economy of the Roman World was able to support over the long term. Economic stagnation, political instability the need to fund both civil wars and the defence of the provinces was simply more than the Roman state could bear. Currency debasement was just one of the responses to that situation.

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Strange to have an article on currency and inflation in the Roman Empire without mentioning Diocletian (who reigned following the 'crisis of the 3rd century').

If you go to the British Museum there is a section on money (amusingly sponsored by some bank or another - amusing given that banks hate currency so...) - last time I went there there was a 'hands on' of currency - nice to hold the actual coins... from a Roman Aes Signatum from the republic (heavy) through to a late empire denarius.

I remember standing in that Museum in front of a glass case full of roman coins and realizing that I had almost the exact same thing in my wallet- disks of metal each with a profile portrait on one side of it. Not the profile of an Emperor in my case, but that of a Queen.

Those among the Elite who are currently toying with the idea of getting rid of cash completely might want to consider just how long it's been around and just how deeply embedded in our collective psyche the idea of money as a physical thing actually is.

The fact that many of us feel little need most of the time to touch our money in some physical form and happily settle for mere digital representations of it is one thing- but to be told by some politician that in future our money could never again be converted from the digital to the physical might be something else entirely.

When E-mail was young there were predictions that the Greetings card industry was surely doomed- after all- in the age of electronic mail who would want to go to all the trouble of purchasing a physical card, putting it in an envelope then buying a stamp and posting the thing? That would be irrational- right?

But as we know this is not what happened- it turned out that people place some hard to define value on the act of both sending and receiving a greetings card- so despite the horrible inefficiency of sending a piece of thin cardboard through the postal system Greetings cards continue to be bought in their millions each year- a totally irrational and sentimental state of affairs.

The thing is, if we are so attached to our greetings cards how much more attached are we to the idea that our money should ultimately be available to us in physical form? So yes,it's fast and convenient to send my granny an email on her birthday- but when it comes to the important things in life mere digital representations are not enough- So I send her a card too.

So I suspect the recently declared 'war on cash' will turn out to be less of a blitzkrieg and more of a siege- a long drawn out assault on the psyche of a population who can do the contradictory thing of both recognizing the convenience of digital money while maintaining a totally irrational attachment to the idea that money should in the last analysis be something you can touch.

Edited by wonderpup

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I'm sure I would get used to it. Don't use much cash anyway. It's all about trust.

Much more concerned with how deeply embedded in the VI collective psyche the idea of bubble-house prices are, and their quest for even more HPI, bubble on bubble = greatness.

1950s time-travelling short story. (MP soldier stationed in Iceland during Cold War, gets hit by lightning and finds himself back in old Iceland)

"You… didn't you Icelanders come from Norway?"
"Yes, about a hundred years ago," I answered patiently. "After King Harald Fairhair took all the Norse lands and—"
"A hundred years ago!" he whispered. I saw whiteness creep up under his skin. "What year is this?"
We gaped at him. "Well, it's the second year after the great salmon catch," I tried.


[...]He showed us what else he had in his pockets. There were some coins of remarkable roundness and sharpness, a small key, a stick with lead in it for writing, a flat purse holding many bits of marked paper; when he told us solemnly that some of this paper was money, even Thorgunna had to laugh. Best of all was a knife whose blade folded into the handle. When he saw me admiring that, he gave it to me, which was well done for a shipwrecked man.

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It's a nice theory but is simplistic. The debasement of the coinage was as much a symptom

Wherein lies the parallel to today. And to other busts in history (and even in mythology).

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The fact that many of us feel little need most of the time to touch our money in some physical form and happily settle for mere digital representations of it is one thing- but to be told by some politician that in future our money could never again be converted from the digital to the physical might be something else entirely.

Too much scope for fraud online. Plus the banks have this tendency to want to charge for each transaction (this already happens to the retailer when you pay by card).

Cash is not perfect (it can be counterfeit, or stolen from you) but at least you know where you are.

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It's a nice theory but is simplistic.

The empire was somewhat stable in the 4th century. It was massive waves of immigration - people attracted to the stability and prosperity of the empire that led to its final death throws. An emperor, Merkulus, took pity on starving German tribes and let them into the empire and the rest is history. Or something like that.

Edited by davidg

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The empire was somewhat stable in the 4th century. It was massive waves of immigration - people attracted to the stability and prosperity of the empire that led to its final death throws. An emperor, Merkulus, took pity on starving German tribes and let them into the empire and the rest is history. Or something like that.

Haha, nice.

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