From John Ray's shorter notes
January 10, 2015
More on the decline of Roman civilization
Read here both an essay by Ludwig von Mises and a reply by Sean Gabb. I agree with Gabb.
In my recent essay on the subject I attributed the decline of Roman civilization to Mediterranean piracy that arose in response to the destruction of central authority. Von Mises attributes the decline to price control.
I think Mises has a point and there is of course no doubt that there were several sources of decay. Gabb however sees price control as being at best only a small influence. His reason is that the Roman state was generally ineffective at central control. It could do major and important things like fight wars and suppress pirates (as Caesar did) but detailed social control was beyond it. Price control never really bit, in other words.
Sean Gabb is a libertarian conservative -- as I am -- so is totally opposed to the destructive folly of government price control. But we both prioritze facts over theory.
There is one way in which I don't go quite so far as Sean, however. I doubt that taxes were unimportant. I suspect that they did have substantial destructive impact. But at this point in time, there is no possibility of certainty.
But please read both authors. Both are very scholarly. Mises is of course well known but Gabb is no lightweight. He has even published a book recently that is partly in Latin. I have a copy -- to my considerable delectation. Between them, the two authors do round out our view of one of the most important episodes in human history.
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