In the terminal collapse of the Roman Empire, there was perhaps no greater burden to the average citizen than the extreme taxes they were forced to pay. The tax ‘reforms’ of Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century were so rigid and unwavering that many people were driven to starvation and bankruptcy. The state went so far as to chase around widows and children to collect taxes owed. By the 4th century, the Roman economy and tax structure were so dismal that many farmers abandoned their lands in order to receive public entitlements. At this point, the imperial government was spending the majority of the funds it collected on either the military or public entitlements. For a time, according to historian Joseph Tainter, “those who lived off the treasury were more numerous than those paying into it.” Sound familiar?....In the economic decline of any civilization, political elites routinely call on a very limited playbook: more debt, more regulation, more restriction on freedoms, more debasement of the currency, more taxation, and more insidious enforcement. Further, the propaganda machine goes into high gear, ensuring the peasant class is too deluded by patriotic fervor to notice they’re being plundered by the state.
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