Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Switching to the barbarians

Just added to our quotations page: a comment from the 5th Century. Rather interesting in light of current market turmoil, what has preceded it, and what might come after (which we worried about in our last blog).

"Paying taxes is a pain, no doubt about it, but its less of a pain if everyone bears their fair share of the tax charge. It's intolerable, however, when not everyone pays their contribution: and the poor end up paying for the rich. Worse still when the rich choose every now and then to raise the level of taxes, but the poor are made to pay for them. What a scandalous confiscation! A powerful minority deciding what the unfortunate masses must pay! Can you tell me amongst which races such a scandalous situation prevails: not amongst the Francs, nor the Huns, and neither amongst the Goths or the Vandals.

One thing that amazes me, in these conditions, is that all the poor and the native peoples haven’t simply switched sides to the Barbarians. But they certainly would if it was possible for them to take their homes and families."

By Salvien of Marseille, a priest who had studied the underlying causes of the fall of the Roman empire and concluded that the general public had little incentive to struggle for the empire. 5th Century. Translated from the original French, Lucien Jerphagnon, "Les Divins Césars. Idéologie et pouvoir dans la Rome impériale", Ed. Tallandier, 2004, pp.481-82.

PS The original quote in French is:

"Payer des impôts, c'est pénible, sans aucun doute, mais ce serait plus supportable si tous les citoyens étaient également imposés. Ce qui est intolérable, c'est que tous ne supportent pas la charge commune : ce sont les pauvres qui paient pour les riches. Plus encore : ce sont les riches qui, de temps en temps, décident d'augmenter le montant des impôts, mais ce sont les pauvres qui paient pour eux. Ô forfait scandaleux ! Une minorité de puissants fixe ce que doit payer la masse des malheureux ! Dites-moi chez quel peuple on voit un tel scandale : ce n'est pas chez les Francs, en tout cas, ni chez les Huns, et pas davantage chez les Goths ou les Vandales.

Une seule chose m'étonne, dans ces conditions, c'est que tous les pauvres et les indigents n'ailent pas rejoindre les Barbares. Mais à coup sûr ils le feraient, s'ils pouvaient emporter avec eux leurs chaumières et leurs familles."


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