This is not the time to procrastinate, by Simon Black

If you don’t have a Plan B, you have no time to waste coming up with one. From Simon Black at

In early 387 AD in the eastern Roman city of Antioch, a local bureaucrat stood outside of the city council chambers to read a new decree that had just arrived from Emperor Theodosius I.

As the anxious crowd gathered, the bureaucrat began reading aloud–

Just as the crowd had feared, the new decree was a series of debilitating new taxes, ranging from heavy taxation on commercial activities, to mandatory donations to the Emperor himself.

The crowd became furious.

Antioch had already suffered immeasurably. The imperial government had depleted the city’s grain, killed off a large number of the youth from endless war, and already exacted heavy tolls and taxation.

These new taxes were too much to bear. And a riot ensued almost immediately.

People all over Antioch (in modern day Turkey) poured into the streets ripping down monuments of the imperial family, burned their portraits, and destroyed public buildings.

Naturally in our modern times we would call such activities “mostly peaceful”. But back then it constituted treason, and the rioters were ultimately put to death.

But the tax protests didn’t stop.

Throughout most of the next century, in fact, the Western Roman Empire was in a near-constant state of civil war and insurrection, quite often over the imperial government’s exorbitantly high tax rates.

Farmers, who were among the most heavily taxed citizens, abandoned their lands and sought refuge with northern barbarian tribes. Even soldiers and Roman noblemen fled the empire to escape the totalitarian regime, extreme corruption, and usurious tax rates.

Salvianus, a contemporary writer and historian at the time, wrote

“the name of Roman citizen, once not only much valued but dearly bought, is now voluntarily repudiated and shunned, and is thought not merely valueless, but even almost abhorrent.”

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