Chapter 26 - A Lesson from the Roman Empire

The collapse of the Roman empire had everything to do with the effects of usury. Land and money had been concentrated into fewer and fewer hands and the poor had been deprived of the land and the means to support themselves. The poor became destitute in the cities and the middle class was indebted to the creditor class. Small farmers had been deprived of their land. Laborers had become slaves or serfs. The financial swindlers had become the great men of the city. Justice depended on one’s affluence. Money exchange had become a sophisticated gambling activity. Senators and men of rank had become the main gamblers. Corruption had become sophisticated, like our modern day lobbyist system. Courts were increasingly used for gain rather than justice. Individual gain became more important than common good. Large numbers of slaves were set on revenge against the privileged. The land had become an asset rather than a food source and had become concentrated in fewer hands. Local business had become uncompetitive against foreign slave labor. The population was in decline. Wars were waged for financial gain, against weak societies in a form of institutionalized pillage. The army was degenerating. In the cities, the people revered luxury and affluence along with vice and degeneracy.

A class society had been created where the classes despised each other. The usurers had manipulated themselves into positions of high status which enabled tough debtor laws. The plundered wealth of the empire moved to Rome. Many provincial people had fallen into debt through personal loans to cover back taxes. The privileged classes wanted the state to ensure collection of debts and the impoverished wanted the debts annulled. Laws were occasionally enacted to stop usury or limit the usury rate, but ways around the laws were invariably found and eventually the laws would be ignored or repealed. Standing against the wishes of the usurers could be a death sentence. The interest limit in the late republic period in Rome was 1% per month. Enforcement was a problem and in the provinces, usury was running rampant.

Similar patterns can be seen in modern times, the credit card industry was limited by state usury rate legislation. By encouraging a minor change in federal legislation so that the usury rate limit became the rate in the source state, the credit card industry relocated to states with generous limits, which then enabled the very high credit card rates they enjoy today in all states and nations. Those in trouble now suffer historically high wealth transfer from those with negative net worth to super-humans exempt from imprisonment. These corporate super-humans operate with diminished regulatory control and manage to avoid most taxation that middle-class citizens cannot circumvent. In times of strong rulers, the excesses might be reduced, but an assassination or manipulation of the political system would bring back the problems.

Cyclical issues were present. In times of confidence, the creditor class would lend and at other times, the creditor class would hoard their money. This gives the Money Supply a cyclical nature. The Romans had a sophisticated credit system like ours. The Money Supply then relies on the lending habits of moneylenders. When they lend, money is plentiful. When they hoard, suffering abounds and business collapses. We suffer the same problems at present, yet we ignore history. Our current Money Supply relies entirely on the lending habits of banks. We are running our nations on credit rather than sovereign money. When they lend, money is plentiful. When they hoard, suffering abounds and business collapses. You may not realize the significance of that sentence. Many countries have low velocities whilst suffering recession conditions. More money is considered to be the fix. This is poor thinking. The best solution is to lift the velocity. When the velocity is lifted, the Hoarded Money is reduced and the economy expands.

Today we have large portions of the populous that have no means of support and are relying on government charity. This welfare conveniently discourages them from taking action against the appropriators of land, assets and general wealth. How can farmers create food when they are dispossessed of land. As farmers leave the land, the people go hungry. They are driven from the land by the creators of credit. In times of great need, as occurs in a year of crop failure, they are driven from their farms by a legal enforcement system favoring the usurer’s demand for money rather than the citizens need for food. Modern usurers use state hired thugs to eject the farmer rather than their own hired thugs. Farmers operate for the benefit of cities. Without farmers, cities are not possible. The creditor class portion of the city folk evict the very farmers that we rely on. In Roman times, this caused a decline of the small farmers and legionaries who were the foundation and strength of the Roman Republic. Banks need to be treated in the same manner that they treat clients.

As is happening today, careful use of credit at interest is a great way to increase personal wealth, particularly when the laws are skewed toward those practicing usury. Current laws bestow great subsidies even to small time landlords to the detriment of young couples wishing to create a stable family with homeownership. Towards the end of the republic, some had accumulated great fortunes all aided by usury. When usury laws were in place, they were easy to evade. As today, the laws are set up to make it appear that usury is a legitimate business activity. The notion of fraud is avoided. Never forget that debts under usury are unpayable. The forced sale or appropriation of land and property at less than true value is ignored in our current legal and court system.

Government Debt

Public Debt was not such an issue as it is today. Money was coin that was issued by the state and the nation paid its bills in coin. Public borrowing was avoided as much as possible even in times of conflict. [2] War was often funded by an obligatory refundable levy. Private financiers were not involved. So Roman debt was confined to debts between the creditor class and the citizenry. This policy was perpetuated by the Roman emperor Augustus and by his successors [2]. So the study of Roman debt is the study of private debt that brought down an empire. In modern days, we have the added dilemma of unpayable government debt.

Sometimes taxes were imposed on the farming people. Farmers, being remote from population, are prone to fire, pestilence, weather, marauding armies, and thugs. Farm communities get little protection from the cities they feed. During times of misfortune, farmers resort to borrowing under usury from moneylenders in the same cities that they feed. As the arrears of interest mount, the farmer is stripped of his estate and all his property and him, his wife or his daughters are delivered over to his creditor to be chained and tormented for the shortfall. The growth of usury and cheap slave labor encouraged the destruction of Roman freedom. The usurers were not accountable for the misery they created for the farmers who had suffered misfortune through no fault of their own. [7] The usurer gained a slave and the city lost its food. As the cities swelled with displaced farming folk, city life became more difficult. The affluent learn to live with the resentment and hostility and start to live with security and bodyguards. In modern times, the power of usurers to imprison their debtors has been removed. In the modern era the practice of debt peonage survives in the drug and prostitution industries and of interest, the citizenry demonize the drug addicts and prostitutes who are the primary victims of this debt peonage.

The Roman empire had a system of metallic money but also had a system of credit. Credit was recorded as an entry in an account book. The entry was called a “nomen’. A ‘nomen’ could also mean a ‘debt’. [8] These ‘nomen’ were transferable from person to person so that a credit could be transferred from one person to another. So a payment system existed that was independent of the metal coinage. The procedure where ‘nomen’ were transferred to effect payment was called ‘delegatio’. [5] H. W. Harris writes that: “debt was in fact the lifeblood of the Roman economy, ... nomina were a completely standard part of the lives of people of property, as well as being an everyday fact of life for a great number of others” [6]

According to T. B. Macaulay, the ruling class in Rome was a moneyed class which held a large proportion of the community in dependence by advances at enormous usury. [9] This is remarkably similar the modern era where ~95% of our Money Supply is in the form of loans extended by corporate creditor-class operating as banks. This creditor class made and administered the laws in its own interest. [9] Debtor jails were common. [Livy] As farmers became bankrupt at the first bad harvest, the small farming proprietor became a rarity. Much of Rome’s power was lost when the farmers were not free. Freedom enhances efficiency and loyalty. The powerful never spot that subservience fosters resentment and inefficiency to the extent that mutiny is encouraged and overthrow might be assisted. Land was aggregated into large estates called “latifundia” owned by those with gigantic fortunes. The middle class could not compete against a slave proletariat and the financial oppression through usury was often more burdensome than taxation. As is happening today, all wealth tended to be accumulated by the usurers. [1]

Cicero, in 66 B.C. refers to the system of credit operating in the Roman Empire: “If some lose their whole fortunes, they will drag many more down with them . . . believe me that the whole system of credit and finance which is carried on here at Rome in the Forum, is inextricably bound up with the revenues of the Asiatic province. If those revenues are destroyed, our whole system of credit will come down with a crash.” He is talking about the vulnerability of the credit money system to collapse. If outlying provinces fail to pay money owed to Rome, the system will collapse. Presumably, the money owed by the faraway provinces, is interest on money borrowed or taxes. I am guessing that the ‘faraway money’ was the backing of the credit. Similar exists today with virtual credit, created by account entries in the accounting system of the IMF and World Bank, lent to countries like Greece that don’t have the intelligence to create their own money. Money lent by the IMF to Greece did not come from the ECB. The debt that Greece owes the IMF is the backing for the loan that the IMF made. The IMF may weather it, but a contagion could spread causing a collapse.

Financial crises’ occurred as this one described by Tacitus where he tells how the moneylenders “hoarded to buy low” and precipitated a financial crisis in 33 A.D. which was followed by a demonstration against the usurers. [1] To ease the currency shortage, Tiberius reminted a debased coinage. [1]

As if their financial hegemony was not enough, the usurers extended their control through clubs, which bear a close resemblance to a kind of freemasonry.

Theodor Mommsen, 1867, gives this description: “All persons of quality, those of popular leanings no less than of the oligarchy proper, met in Hetaeriae . . . with these political clubs, everything was bought and sold... The Hetaeriae decided the elections, the Hetaeriae decreed the impeachments, the Hetaeriae conducted the defence... the Hetaeriae commanded by its compact bands the streets of the capital, and with the capital too often the state. ..the system of Hetaeriae was better arranged and administered than any branch of state administration... advocates of repute were not ashamed to give open and intelligible hints of their relation to the Hetaeriae of their clients.” [3]

You may wish to compare this to the CFR.

  Websearch : “Council on Foreign Relations”

The creditor class by hoarding money managed to entice the plebeians to borrow. Just as today, if you need money, you borrow it. High taxes ensure that you have little money. Once the habit of borrowing is established, the transfer of wealth and assets to the lenders is assured by the mathematical magic of usury. This usury was enforced by the power of government such that the means of production, shops, farms, businesses, land, and houses eventually become the property of the lender and the producer becomes the creditor’s slave. For society, this is a disaster as the efficiency of individual owner-operators is lost. This system creates oligarchical families of tremendous wealth. The wealth is passed down from generation to generation. This group has manipulated the political process so that we don’t have Wealth Tax, Inheritance Tax and Death Tax, but the easy-to-avoid Income Tax.

On the downfall of the Roman Empire, some of the oligarchs moved to a swamp area to the north, which later became Venice. Great oligarchical families existed in the great city-state of Venice up to about 1600. Many of these families of Venice moved to Holland in the seventeenth century, where they were involved with the Bank of Amsterdam. Oligarchical families also moved to England eventually setting up the Bank of England in 1694, modeled on the Bank of Amsterdam. It took a revolution and a replacement King brought from Holland to achieve this.

Webster Tarpley in “Against Oligarchy” claims that between 1509 and 1715 the “Venetian Party” gained great influence in England, bringing with them the traditions and banking systems of the Babylonians, Romans, and Byzantines. The Rothschilds of Germany were and are a significant oligarchical family who pretty much took over international banking. Lord Jacob Rothschild of England is now a respected member of the ruling elite.

The Collapse of the Roman Empire by Usury

I will finish by giving you a piece by

U.S. Monetary Commission of 1878: “At the Christian era, the metallic money of the Roman Empire amounted to $1800 000 000. By the end of the 15th century, it had shrunk to $200 000 000... Population dwindled, and commerce, arts, wealth and freedom all disappeared. The people were reduced by poverty and misery to the most degraded conditions of serfdom and slavery. The disintegration of society was almost complete. History records no such disastrous transition as that from the Roman Empire to the dark ages. The discovery of the New World by Columbus, restored the volume of precious metals, bought with it rising prices, enabled society to reunite shattered links, shake off the shackles of feudalism, and to relight and uplift the almost extinguished torch of civilization.“ [4]