7 The Two Roman Empires

Written by dade on . Posted in 1: Forensic History

Forensic History: Chapter Seven:
The Two Roman Empires

 

Feudal sovereign law societies are normally stagnant. If any army develops dramatically new weapons technologies, all of the other armies have to change and adapt; the nations often have to adapt to be able to make these new weapons technologies. But absent new weapons, these societies have no real pressure for change. The last really significant invention of technology important to war—steel—was already thousands of years in the past when Alexander died. The world had long-since adapted, as the words of Socrates make very clear.

For the next 274 years, not much happened that had any real importance to the nature and structure of human societies. There were wars, of course, with borders moving, countries coming to exist and then disappearing; there were struggles for power within royal families and military leaders took over nations and controlled them. (Socrates goes over the basic transitions that take place within governments in detail in the book Republic.) But the societies stayed pretty much the same. For the majority of the people in the world, life didn’t change in any significant way. Most people still lived on tiny parcels of land, which they worked as tenant farmers (serfs). They spent their lives working so they could pay out the bulk of the land’s production to their lords as rents. The lords kept part of this for themselves and turned the rest over to the ‘owners’ of the land, the kings. The ‘gentry,’ meaning the lords and kings, lived lives of almost unimaginable luxury, with servants at their beck and call to minister to their every need, and so many castles, gardens, hunting preserves, and other lands set aside for the benefit of the gentry that many kings had never even seen all of their own private property in their lives.

Some people lived in the feudal walled cities. These cities existed because the kings needed weapons, the weapons needed steel, and the steel required large numbers of workers. Although these cities existed mainly to supply military needs (the kings had enough force to wipe them out if they wanted; they chose to leave the cities there, because the cities produced the things they needed), some of these cities developed into fairly large entities and would, at some point, play important roles in society. But at least until Gaius Julius invaded Rome in January of 49bc, they didn’t play any more of a part than they had for the two thousand years since the art of steel-making had been perfected.

Wars still raged of course. Alexander had presented military planners with an important lesson, but they didn’t seem to have learned it. He had shown the military planners that it is possible to take over land in more ways than just forcible conquest:

If people want to take control of other parts of the world, they can attack, force the people they are trying to conquer to live in terror and misery, take away anything they have worth taking, and enslave the people they conquer. But they are more likely to succeed if they take the opposite approach. They can offer to give the people who live on the land they want to control the right to share in the wealth of a combined system. They can offer these people new rights they didn’t have before and the same role in decisions about societies as the people in the original nation have. They can create a system with credible guarantees so that the people who get these offers know they are not simple ruses, and they will really get the rights they are promised. The people will then want to merge their lands with group that initiated this change. Forcible conquest is not necessary to build large empires.

Logic and reason tell us that the second option is much more likely to build a large empire than forcible conquest. People planning societies don’t always use logic and reason however. Alexander gave people more to work with than just the hope that everything would work out as logic and reason tell us it should. He showed people that it could work. People had a historical example that proved it could work.

Socrates showed that societies built on the idea of dividing the world into ‘nations’ (republics) must use intensive indoctrination methods to get people willing to fight the wars. These systems promote those who readily accept the indoctrination, and these people (called ‘patriots’) become the leaders. Normally, these people are not the most logical and reasonable people in society. This may explain the reason that these people were able to ignore both reason and the historical example they had of workable ways to enlarge their domains for such an incredibly long period of time. At some point, however, a military commander that understood these lessons came along.

 

The Roman Empire, Part One (The Unholy Period)

 

I will use dates from the calendar Emperor Constantine created, which is the calendar we now use, even though this requires the awkward division of history into BC and AD.

In the year of 49BC Gaius Julius was a 49-year-old military commander. He had conquered a large amount of land in central Italy and, under the principles of the society he live in, he was the owner of this land. The more land he gained, the more he could afford to spend on his army: he increased the size of his army and used it take still more land.

Gaius Julius had incredible success in his military campaigns. His biographers and historians studied his techniques and figured out the main reason for his success was advanced planning. Before he attacked, he sent people into the area he intended to conquer to gain support of the local people. He found very effective ways to do this. When he finally was ready to move into the area, he got immense support from the local people, making it easy for him to occupy additional land.

Here is one of the techniques he used: He sent buyers into areas he intended to invade to make deals with merchants there. He would negotiate to buy food, lodging, medical services, fuel, clothing, female entertainment, and everything else his troops would be likely to need or want. The buyers would agree to pay far, far above the market rate for everything bought. But the merchants would not be paid in silver; they would be paid in promissory notes called ‘scripts.’ Once Julius had gained control of the area and set up his administrative apparatus, the promissory notes would be redeemed for real money (silver). The merchants could keep accounts and, when soldiers needed something, they could provide it, have the soldiers sign a receipt, and add it to the invoice. The more they provided, the more money they would make. When the promissory notes were redeemed, the merchants would have made a lot of money.

Napoleon and George Washington both studied Caesar’s methods and used this technique. Washington’s promissory notes were called ‘continental congress banknotes.’

When the Caesar’s army eventually arrived, it was more like a group of millionaires showing up at a five star hotel than an invasion. If they wanted something, they merely had to ask. The merchants had all stocked up to meet the expected demand. The employees would give the soldier the needed item and have him sign receipt, and then add the item to the invoice. The merchants knew that if Julius did not win, the promissory notes would just be worthless paper. If he did win, they would be rich. As you might imagine, they had powerful incentives to help Julius win. The opposition troops would suddenly find themselves without supplies and surrounded by enemies, who would report them to Caesar’s agents and assist in wiping them out.

Other generals were amazed at his military success. He seemed to have the magic touch with the ability to win just about every battle he was in.

In the winter of 50bc, Julius sent his buyers into Rome, to make deals to supply his troops. It was clear that he intended to invade.

Rome was a city-state with its own army and own government. The Roman government had made treaties with the surrounding kingdoms that made the city and the land around it neutral territory, so that anyone could come to the city and safely trade. To ensure neutrality, non-Roman armies were not allowed to cross certain borders. The northern border of the neutrality zone was the Rubicon River. (Modern historians are divided as to the location of the Rubicon, as several streams coincide with Julius’ descriptions.)

The Roman senate found out that Julius was making preparations to invade. Their armies were large and had great military advantages: it is much easier to defend a heavily fortified walled city than to take it by attack. They told Julius they were on to him. They had prepared for the attack and he could not win. They told him that if he surrendered peacefully, he would be allowed to live; otherwise he would be attacked and he and his troops would be wiped out. Julius made a counter-proposal: the Roman senate could surrender the city peacefully; he would spare their lives.

The historian Suetonius describes what happened next:

 

When the news came that the interposition of the tribunes in his favor had been utterly rejected, and that they themselves had fled Rome, he immediately sent forward some cohorts, yet secretly, to prevent any suspicion of his plan; and to keep up appearances, he attended the public games and examined the model of a fencing school which he proposed building, then—as usual—sat down to table with a large company of friends.

However, after sunset some mules from a near-by mill were put in his carriage, and he set forward on his journey as privately as possible. Coming up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, which was the frontier of his province, he halted for a while, and revolving in his mind the importance of the step he meditated, he turned to those about him, saying: ‘Still we can retreat! But once let us pass this little bridge, nothing is left but to fight it out with arms!’

Even as he hesitated this incident occurred. A man of strikingly noble mien and graceful aspect appeared close at hand, and played upon a pipe. To hear him not merely some shepherds, but soldiers too came flocking from their posts, and amongst them some trumpeters. He snatched a trumpet from one of them and ran to the river with it; then sounding the "Advance!" with a piercing blast he crossed to the other side. At this Caesar cried out, ‘Let us go where the omens of the Gods and the crimes of our enemies summon us! THE DIE IS NOW CAST!’

 

Julius must have made deals with the generals of the defending army, because they were either unwilling or unable to defend the city. At that time, the second month of summer was called Quintilis. On the 10th of Quintilis of 49bc, Gaius Julius crowned himself Julius Caesar, the term Caesar meaning ‘ultimate king.’ In honor of the month of his assent, he changed the name of the month he gained power from Quintilis to July, the name it still bears.

 

The Industrial Republic

 

When Julius Caesar gained power, he added the enormous city and its surroundings to the land he had already conquered to the north. The rest of Italy—and the rest of Europe—had the feudal system noted earlier. The nobility were called ‘latifundia.’ Tenant farmers (serfs) worked the land and turned over their rents to the latifundia. The latifundia would keep the share they had been promised and turn over the rest to the kings.

When Caesar came to power, he began to remove land from the control of the latifundia. He divided it into individual farms and then sold the farms as freehold farms. (In other words, the new farmers were told they owned the farms.) Upon discharge from the army, veterans who served honorably would be allocated a freehold farm with a size depending on their rank and accomplishments. People clamored to join his army. Caesar could choose the best of the best. He began his work enlarging his domain less than two months after he took office, and spent the bulk of the rest of his life on the battlefield.

He had amazing success.

Caesar also followed Alexander’s example with massive public spending on projects including dams, aqueducts, stadiums, and roads. These projects would bid out to the Roman version of corporations, which were called ‘publicans.’ Like current corporations, publicans were in business to make money. They made more money if they found new and better ways to do things, so they found new and better ways to do things.

Technology began to advance.

Many of the inventions that school children today are told are modern inventions were actually invented by the Romans, then abandoned (during the dark ages, described shortly), and then reinvented again in the last few centuries.

One example is the building material now called ‘Portland Cement.’ Joseph Aspdin named this product, when he patented it in 1824. (He called it ‘Portland Cement’ because its dull gray color reminded him of the landscape near Portland, England.) This is not a modern invention at all; the Romans had hundreds of cement plants, and they built thousands of structures out of this material, many of which are still standing. School children are now told that Cirrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper, but Romans had very advanced mechanical reapers, pictures of which can be found both in books and in Roman sculptures. The Romans used water turbines to generate high-pressure jets of water for hydraulic mining. They had enormous aqueducts that transported water hundreds of miles; they had giant dams for irrigation water and canals that connected distant bodies of water.

Over then next 370 years, the system they created expanded to include all of modern Europe.

Map of Roman Empire

Map of Roman Empire

 

Constantine

 

In the year 322 by the calendar he was to create, Emperor Constantine brought a group of scholars to Rome with the intention of turning the empire into a theocracy (a religion-based society). This group is now called ‘the first ecumenical council’ and they created what is now called the Catholic Church.

After this church was created, Constantine passed a series of laws that required everyone in the empire to follow the laws of this new religion. He then ordered the entire industrial system dismantled, all books other than approved religious texts burned, all schools closed, and all teachers who continued to teach anything other than religion arrested and executed. He did his very best to turn back time and eliminate any signs that the industrial system had even existed.

In order to understand why someone would do such a thing, we need to look a little closer at the way industrial republics work, so we can see why they could have problems that are so severe that people would rather have a repressive, backward theocracy, than allow the industrial system to continue to exist.

 

The Problems of Industrial Republics

 

As industry grows, people move from the country to the cities to take industrial jobs. When they get jobs, they start spending on housing, fuel, transportation, medical care, and other things that most of the people who lived in the country couldn’t afford. Businesses open to supply the demand, hiring more people, and driving wages up.

When people have enough to feed their families, and enough to afford fuel to keep warm in the winter, and enough medicine to keep them healthy, more of the children that are born are able to live long enough to grow up and have children of their own. The population can grow. If there is no birth control, people will often have large families. This means that the population can grow very rapidly. If an average of four children per couple survive long enough to have children of their own, the population will double every generation, or roughly every 25 years.

The industrial system provided enough prosperity for enough people to allow the population to grow at a very rapid rate. Here is the problem: The great majority of the people in this system need jobs in order to get incomes. If the number of jobs doesn’t increase as rapidly as the population, this system has some very serious problems:

If there aren’t as many jobs as there are people who need jobs, the unemployed will have to compete against people who have jobs and try to take the jobs away from people who have them. (They don’t have the option of simply not working; if they can’t get jobs, they die.) The only effective way to compete over the long run is to offer to work for less money than the people who are already working. The employers will take advantage of this and hire the people willing to work for less. This will cause total wage rates to fall. This reduces spending in two different ways: First, fewer people have jobs and the average wages for those who do have jobs will be lower. Second, lower spending means less demand for goods, so the businesses that make consumer goods will have to cut back, laying off workers. This makes the problem even worse.

If governments don’t do something to create work, the entire system will collapse. How can governments do something to create work? What kind of public project creates an immense number of jobs? There is one thing that always does this: war.

When wars start, military leaders have to buy weapons and other tools of war. When wars start, industrial companies have to hire, and they have to offer wages that are higher than the prevailing wages to attract the skilled workers they need. Other companies have to match the wage increases, or they will lose their workers. The total income of the working class goes up for two reasons: First, more people are working. Second, wage rates in general are higher.

As worker incomes increase, workers can buy more goods. This stimulates demand for other industries to make consumer products. These industries also hire workers. This increases wages further, and leads to further increases in total worker income and increasing consumer demand.

This leads to something called an ‘economic boom.’

Recessions and depressions

 

Wars are very good for industrial republics. History gives us as many examples as we want to prove this. Virtually every war in history has boosted employment, driven up wages and spending, and increased the material standard of welfare for workers.

Unfortunately for the people in industrial republics, wars will eventually end. When they end, they will take a very large number of jobs away. The unemployed are not in a position to simply not work. They need jobs to support their families. If there aren’t enough jobs to provide a job for every person who needs one, the workers will have no choice but to compete against each other for the remaining jobs. They can only compete by offering to work for less, so wage rates will fall. Workers now have less to spend for two reasons: first, fewer people are working and second, those with jobs are making less money. They have less money so they can’t spend as much. Spending declines, making the unemployment problem even worse. This problem is called a ‘recession.’ If governments don’t do something about the recession (preferably get a new war going) and fast, the entire system can collapse.

War meets basic needs of industrial republics. Orwell summarizes this idea in his book 1984:

 

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way.

In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war.

It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist.

 

The Horrors of Peace

 

A 1967 book called ‘A Report From Iron Mountain: On The Possibility And Desirability Of Peace’ discusses the role of war in the industrial republic. The book brings together a group of experts who examine whether these types of societies can function at all without war. The book opens:

 

Our work has been predicated on the belief that some kind of general peace may soon be negotiable. It is surely no exaggeration to say that a condition of general world peace would lead to changes in the social structures of the nations of the world of unparalleled and revolutionary magnitude. The economic impact of general disarmament, to name only the most obvious consequence of peace, would revise the production and distribution patterns of the globe to a degree that would make changes of the past fifty years seem insignificant. Political, sociological, cultural, and ecological changes would be equally far-reaching.

What has motivated our study of these contingencies has been the growing sense of thoughtful men in and out of government that the world is totally unprepared to meet the demands of such a situation.

We had originally planned, when our study was initiated, to address ourselves to these two broad questions and their components: What can be expected if peace comes? What should we be prepared to do about it? But as our investigation proceeded, it became apparent that certain other questions had to be faced. What, for instance, are the real functions of war in modern societies, beyond the ostensible ones of defending and advancing the "national interests" of nations? In the absence of war, what other institutions exist or might be devised to fulfill these functions? Granting that a "peaceful" settlement of disputes is within the range of current international relationships, is the abolition of war, in the broad sense, really possible? If so, is it necessarily desirable, in terms of social stability? If not, what can be done to improve the operation of our social system in respect to its war-readiness? (Link to source.)

 

This book goes over the various consequences of peace. It shows that, in the type of society we live in, peace causes horrible economic problems, mostly related to unemployment. As unemployment grows, spending must fall. This causes greater unemployment, further declines in wages, and further declines in spending. At a certain point, wages will fall so much that even people who have jobs won’t be able to afford to buy the necessities of life for their families. Demand for even the most essential products—like food—will collapse.

If this system uses something real for money (like gold, used for money for most of history), tax revenues will decline so much that the government won’t be able to continue to provide essential services, including police and military protection and provision of water and other utilities.

But governments may also print up pieces of paper that they claim represents gold that the government has stored in a vault. The government can pass ‘legal tender laws’ requiring people to accept these pieces of paper as if they were real money (gold or silver). If the government needs to prop up the economy, it can print large amounts of this phony money (called ‘fiat money’), far more than it actually has gold to back, and then use it for government job creation programs. This will keep the system operating for a while.

The problem is that, to keep the system running for long periods of time, the government will have to print up massive amounts of this phony money. There will eventually come a time when people will simply no longer agree to sell things for the phony money. At this point, the only way to keep the job creation programs working will be to pay with gold. Since the government doesn’t have gold, it can’t keep spending. The jobs will disappear and the system will collapse.

There eventually came a time when the Roman legions had secured all land up to impassible natural barriers, like the Great Ocean Sea of the Atlantic, the Sahara desert to the south, the North Sea to the north, and the Himalayan mountains to the east.

The wars were ‘won.’

As the wars wound down, the commanders didn’t have to buy as many guns, bombs, uniforms, bandages, bullets, tents, and other supplies. The factories that had made these things didn’t have to buy parts, and materials and the foundries and mines closed down. They laid off their workers. Soldiers lost their jobs and people who had hoped to get jobs as soldiers when they graduated from school found that the recruiters didn’t have slots available to take them in. Unemployment increased. Spending slowed. Consumer demand disappeared, so consumer businesses had to close also. People began to see that war has its limit: it can’t go on forever. If the wars didn’t come back, the economy would not come back either.

The decline of military operations led to one of the most serious problems the industrial republic faces: overproduction. This type of society can produce much more than people have money to buy. Wars balance supply with demand by destroying vast amounts of production (weapons, ammunition, and other materials of war are ‘production’ too). As long as the war continues, the economist can keep the supply and demand in balance. They can monitor the relationship between supply and demand and, when the supply of goods gets too high, start a major campaign to destroy warehouses full of goods in a few days. They can keep the goods from accumulating, keep prices from collapsing, and allow the economy to continue to function. But with no war-related destruction to deplete inventories, goods piled up in warehouses. This multiplied the effects of the consumer-related collapse many times: It meant that the businesses could not even reopen even if the government could find a way to create demand, because the high inventories would have to be depleted before anyone could hope to make a profit making more.

The business owners who had lived off their profits no longer had incomes. They had to compete with the starving masses of job seekers for non-existent jobs. Investors began to realize that the economy wouldn’t recover and stopped investing. Why invest if all you are going to do is lose all your money? They realized their investments no longer produced free cash flows and were essentially worthless. Investors, the only sub-group of society that might have been able to supply funds to get the economy going again, lost everything.

 

The (Truly) Great Depression

 

Industrial republics are necessarily extremely complex. They need many people to keep track of the many owners, and to protect the rights owners’ get. They need courts to litigate disputes, armies of bureaucrats to administer the programs that help farmers and other owners improve their properties, and armies of regulators and police to keep people from reacting to the incentives this system produces to harm others.

If governments don’t have enough revenues to pay these people to do their jobs, this society can’t function. Order disappears. Any services that governments once provided will cease. The Roman cities depended on water supplies piped in from distant rivers, sewage systems to remove the waste, roads and other infrastructure to bring in food and supplies. When the infrastructure fails, when police stop showing up for work because they aren’t being paid, when jailers can’t feed their prisoners (because they don’t have money) they often open the gates to let them out rather than having them starve to death in their cells.

We have seen this kind of thing happen before. In 1921 in Germany, money became worthless. People couldn’t buy food anymore. The police and people who ran utilities stop showing up for work. People were hungry. They knew that some people in the houses have food and they took it. If they met resistance, they overcame it. There were no police to call, no medics to help after the attack. It was blind, desperate savagery.

We can’t know for sure what kinds of horrors the people of the Roman Empire suffered when the wars finally ended, but we know that the system collapsed. (The records of the period were mostly destroyed, as you will see shortly.) Most likely, their society had the same kinds of problems current societies have when wars slow down and the combined effects of unemployment and overproduction start to destroy our economies. Armed men, mostly soldiers who now have no work, form gangs to steal what they can from whomever they can. These desperate men have weapons and have killed so much before that they are immune to moral restraint. The gangs fight for territory, without regard for the welfare of civilians. Gangs pay off the police and soon the police will be the most dangerous and violent criminals of all.

Private property rights, formerly protected by the administration and litigated by courts, now become meaningless. If the criminals want your property and they feel they want some legal justification for taking it, they will kidnap and torture you until you sign the title over to them. In parts of our world that are disintegrating the most rapidly today (Russia, Mexico, and Africa) this is an extremely common problem and people who own any amount of property can’t go anywhere without bodyguards to protect them from kidnappers. When these societies go into decline after the wars end, no one is safe anymore. No one knows whom to trust. The economy doesn’t function at all. The government doesn’t function at all. The entire system simply collapses.

 

The UnHoly Roman Empire Becomes the Holy Roman Empire

 

This was the devastated society that the final Roman emperor, Constantine, inherited when he came to power. It is what happens in the industrial republic when the inherent imbalances of this society overcome it. Constantine looked at this and concluded anything had to be better. He had to change the society to something else. He didn’t know what, but it had to be something.

Constantine was well educated. He had read Plato. Plato was the philosopher-king, the king of logic, and the king of reason. (Constantine was the one who ordered the book burnings. The books were still around until he had them destroyed.) A Roman scholar looking for alternate societies would look to Plato. Plato did offer one other possibility: the theocracy he describes in the last few pages of The Republic.

In 322 AD by the Christian calendar he was to create, Constantine ordered all schools closed. All teaching was to cease forever. All the old knowledge was to die. Anyone found trying to pass on knowledge was to be put to death. All books were burned. People caught hiding books, records, or any durable documents were burned along with the documents they had tried to save. By imperial decree, the old system was to die.

Constantine wanted to replace the old ideas with new ones, built on the model that Plato had explained seven centuries earlier. He hired the best writers in the empire and brought them together in an event that is now referred to as the ‘First Ecumenical Council.’ Their job was to write a new book, The Book, the only book that would be allowed to exist in the theocratic feudalism that Constantine intended to force the Roman Empire into. No one was to ever be in a position to doubt or dispute anything The Book said. Once it was completed, all records that may have verified its truth, contradicted its tenants, or provided food for analysis or criticism, were destroyed. Once this had been done, there was no way to tell if everything ‘The Book’ said was absolutely true, or if the entire thing had been made up.

To make sure no objective people could look too closely at the tenants of The Book, Constantine prohibited it from ever being printed in any language other than Latin. Only select people would be allowed to learn this language. To be admitted into this priesthood, people would have to pass several rigorous tests verifying their absolute faith. No one without the necessary faith would be allowed to learn Latin, so they wouldn’t be able to read The Book.

Constantine wrote laws that required everyone to accept the new religion on penalty of death. He formed a body called the ‘inquisition’ to make ‘inquiries’ into the faith of those who had expressed doubt. Their classic method of inquiry was called ‘trial by fire.’ People suspected of not believing would have their faith tested by burning them alive. If they never stopped professing their faith while flames consumed their bodies, they had passed the test. Their ashes would get a Christian burial and the families of the victims would be told that their loved-ones had been granted the greatest possible honor, the right to spend eternity at the right hand of God. If they didn’t show the truest and purest faith while dying, this was proof they were nonbelievers and this made their friends and families suspect. The inquisition would then test the faith of family and friends by the same method.

As you might imagine, people didn’t want to have to take this test and went to great lengths to avoid saying or doing anything that might make them appear anything less than the truest believers. Even more importantly, they didn’t want their loved ones to have to take this test. Anyone who went to the executions could witness these people loudly and vehemently professing their faith in the glory of God in their last minutes while they withered in pain from the flames. Many tell stories of watching happy souls float to heaven on the smoke from the pyres. Soon, not a person could be found who wasn’t an ardent and true believer in the new faith.

Constantine dismantled the entire mechanism of the empire. He disbanded any parts of the government that would no longer be necessary and turned the rest over to the church. The great Roman Empire would become the Holy Roman Empire.

For all practical purposes, the war-driven empire started by Caesar some 400 years ago ceased to exist. Its institutions either faded away or were purposely destroyed. It was as if time had turned backward. The entire empire turned back into a feudal empire, with its basic structures enforced by an all-powerful church.

 

Why Did Constantine Impose Christianity on the Roman Empire?

Constantine never took the rites of the new church himself.

On his deathbed, priests came to him and told him it would look bad, for the future of the church, if he didn’t at least allow himself to be baptized and have his sins forgiven. He still refused.

Christian historians would very much have preferred that Constantine had become a Christian himself. This would have allowed them to claim that he forced this religion on the millions of other people because he believed it was true. Since he didn’t take the rites, he clearly had some other reason for forcing it on the people.

What was this reason?

Historians and religious scholars have debated this for centuries. Some claim his motivations were political. His grip on power was fading as his dysfunctional society crumbled. He wanted to maintain his hold on power by finding something for his people to believe in. It is also possible he was trying to do the only thing he thought possible to create a better society. He may have been simply following Plato’s advice about the only way to create a republic with a quality called δικαιοσύνη (a Greek word that essentially means ‘able to meet the needs of the human race’ and which is often translated as ‘righteousness, goodness,’ or ‘justice’).

We can’t know why he did it. All we know is that he did.

The measures he took succeeded for a very long time. The period of success is now called ‘the Dark Ages.’ Constantine tried to erase any knowledge of any other society from the pages of history and the minds of the people.

 

Do All Industrial Societies Benefit From War?

 

Not all industrial societies need war in order to function.

Industry is not the reason war is needed.

The problem comes from the foundational concepts behind the society: It accepts that everything is ownable and owned, and ownership is an absolute principle. Societies built on this premise are always naturally unbalanced, with one class of people getting far more money than they could ever spend, and another class getting far less than they need to buy the necessities of life. War is needed to make these societies balance so they can function effectively, whether or not they have industry.

To see that industry, by itself, doesn’t cause a society to need war, consider an example of a society that can have all the industry desired, but which will actually function better when at peace than at war:

The society that Alexander created and that existed for a very short time was not built on beliefs about ownablity, but on logic and reason. It started by accepting that the human race—which is the dominant species on this world—is the landlord of the world. People who want to use parts of the world to produce things can lease it from the landlords.

Let’s consider what happens when machine technology replaces labor in such a society:

If business proprietors find ways to replace jobs with machines, they no longer have to pay workers, so their costs of production fall. This drives up their profits of production. They may more money, but the total amount paid to the working class falls, because there are fewer jobs.

We, the members of the human race, are the landlords of the business proprietors. The land where their machines are located generates higher free cash flows for the proprietors. The value of the right to use this land over time (the rental value) of the land has increased. The landlords can set up a system so that, as the rental value of the land increases, the rents increase. The rents go to the landlords which, in Alexander’s system, meant the human race as a whole.

So, what happens with mechanization that eliminates jobs is this:

Total income paid to workers falls but total income that goes to the human race as a whole increases. The income to the human race will increase by more than the reduction in income to the workers. (This is because the mechanization would have to save more than the worker salary; obviously this is true because if the proprietors don’t save more than they pay the workers, they won’t replace the workers.)

 

Note: This is a very brief description of a complicated process. I am not including details here. If you want the details of the operation of these societies, see ‘Possible Societies.’ That book explains societies that are built on the same model as the society that Alexander created. It shows how and why proprietor’s make money mechanizing, and how the total income to the entire human race increases when the efficiency of production increases through any means, in certain specific types of societies (including the type that Alexander created.)

 

Now contrast this with the societies we were born into (the industrial republics that Julius Caesar created). These societies are built on the idea of ownability as an absolute concept. When owners replace workers with machines, the owners get more money and he workers get less.

The reason this reduces total spending is that owners generally already have more in income than they can spent. If they get additional income (due to the cost savings from mechanization), they don’t increase their spending. The total income of workers falls, and spending falls from workers, but the spending of owners does not increase to balance this out. As a result, total spending falls. This system is not in balance anymore and some of production can’t be sold.

To prevent collapse, the governments in these societies must buy the surplus (unsellable) production. They can’t buy it and use it for any purpose, because if they used it or gave it away to anyone who would use it, this would cut demand (there is no reason to buy something if the government gives it to you for free) so the government must destroy it. Governments today have a great many programs to destroy production, including many crop programs where they literally buy food and dump it into the ocean. But even the most aggressive destruction programs can’t destroy enough production to balance supply with demand in times of rapid mechanization. The only way to balance these economies is to aggressively destroy massive amounts of wealth. As Orwell noted earlier in this chapter, this is what military spending is designed to do. As he noted, all military spending destroys value, and sometimes enough value can be destroyed to balance the system without actually having to have war. But this isn’t always enough. In cases of extreme imbalance, the only way to bring the economy back into balance is to build massive amounts of very expensive items (bombs, rockets, planes, bullets, for example) and then destroy them. During severe imbalances, only war can make the societies we were born into function.

 

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