Inflation och romarrikets fall

Varför föll romarriket, egentligen?

För att romarna blivit dekadenta eller degenererade p.g.a. att de använde bly till dricksvattensledningar? Att kejsarna av rädsla för uppror förbjudit undersåtarna inom imperiet att bära vapen, och därför var tvungna att värva germanska soldater?

De lärde har alltid tvistat härom, men många, häribland den österrikiske nationalekonomen Ludwig von Mises, menar att det främst var inflation, som fick imperiet att krackelera och invånarna att till slut hälsa ”barbarerna” som befriare.

”Historian Michael Rostovtzeff and economist Ludwig von Mises both argued that unsound economic policies played a key role in the impoverishment and decay of the Roman Empire. According to them, by the 2nd century AD, the Roman Empire had developed a complex market economy in which trade was relatively free. Tariffs were low and laws controlling the prices of foodstuffs and other commodities had little impact because they did not fix the prices significantly below their market levels. After the 3rd century, however, debasement of the currency (i.e., the minting of coins with diminishing content of gold, silver, and bronze) led to inflation. The price control laws then resulted in prices that were significantly below their free-market equilibrium levels.
According to Rostovtzeff and Mises, artificially low prices led to the scarcity of foodstuffs, particularly in cities, whose inhabitants depended on trade to obtain them. Despite laws passed to prevent migration from the cities to the countryside, urban areas gradually became depopulated and many Roman citizens abandoned their specialized trades to practice subsistence agriculture. This, coupled with increasingly oppressive and arbitrary taxation, led to a severe net decrease in trade, technical innovation, and the overall wealth of the Empire.[8]

Bruce Bartlett traces the beginning of debasement to the reign of Nero. By the 3rd century the monetary economy had collapsed. Bartlett sees the result as a form of state socialism. Monetary taxation was replaced with direct requisitioning, for example taking food and cattle from farmers. Individuals were forced to work at their given place of employment and remain in the same occupation. Farmers became tied to the land, as were their children, and similar demands were made on all other workers, producers, and artisans as well. Workers were organized into guilds and businesses into corporations called collegia. Both became de facto organs of the state, controlling and directing their members to work and produce for the state. In the countryside people attached themselves to the estates of the wealthy to gain some protection from state officials and tax collectors. These estates, the beginning of feudalism, mostly operated as closed systems, providing for all their own needs and not engaging in trade at all”

Nobelpristagaren Milton Friedmans favoritordspråk var:

”Inflation is taxation without legislation”

När Centralbanken trycker pengar och dessa kommer i omlopp, är det alltid först toppskiktet i samhället som får dem såsom bankerna, medan det är vanliga jönssons längre ned i näringskedjan, som får betala notan för kalaset.

Priserna i butikerna stiger, men få förstår varför.

Med guldstandard – som t.ex. gällde i den Skandinaviska myntunionen från år 1873 t.o.m. första världskriget – faller i rak motsats priserna.

I Tyskland ledde hyperinflationen i Weimarrepubliken till slut att man vände sig efter en ”stark man”, som hette Adolf Hitler. På samma sätt ledde inflationen i Frankrike på 1700-talet att man vände sig efter en annan diktator med järnnävar: Napoleon Bonaparte.

Den som inte önskar en totalitär regim, har anledning att oroas över dollarns utveckling i USA där ekonomin står på ruinens brant, och eurosamarbetets kris.

En intressant föreläsning av Joseph Peden fördjupar sig i ämnet omkring inflation och romarrikets fall:

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