But... Bad Things Still Happened!

I made a little post noting that having loads of decentralized power units did not work out so well for the ancient Greeks. In response, I have received several comments noting that, well, things were not perfect with centralized power either.

Who could believe it? When Macedon united the Greeks and stopped their "death struggles," the kingdom of heaven did not descend to the earth? But for the average Greek, on the margin, life was a bit less violent and chaotic.

And then Rome conquered Macedon. And bad things continued to happen! Of course, some good things, like the Pax Romana, also happened, during which the average peasant in the Mediterranean world had never had it so good. (Not to say it was great: just that it had never been better.)

"Ah," the critic parries, "but then the Empire fell apart, and look at the chaos then!" Well, what do you know: things in this mortal world pass away! Peace and order don't last. Appreciate 'em while you got 'em.

A final little jab: the Roman order broke down when a whole bunch of stateless people poured across the borders of the Empire. The Romans had become too peaceful, and actually had to resort to hiring one group of barbarians to fight for them against another, since the barbarians, being stateless, were used to fighting all the time.


  1. Ah Gene no wonder your name is a curse word over at FreeAdvice: you cite history. That's cheating!

    "Peace and order don't last. Appreciate 'em while you got 'em." Exactly. This is what the anarcho-capitalists just ignore. Modern western states, for all their failings, and potential for failings, are pretty darned good compared to most of history. We should be careful of throwing that to the wind because Murray Rothbard says so.

  2. A great post. Let me add something: the Roman emperor Nero -- despite being a tyrant back home in Rome and hated by Roman aristocrats -- actually freed the mainland Greeks (that is, in the province of Achaea) from taxation and removed them from imperial administration. Why? Because he loved Greek culture and civilisation. They probably had it pretty good -- better than anyone else in the empire for a few years.

    But later the emperor Vespasian revoked their freedom, because the Greeks just went back to their internal dissension and factional strife.

    1. Could that have not been simply for more tax revenue? As he also revoked immunity from several other areas and increased the rates of others further still.