Diocletian for President!

Diocletian for President

A decade or more ago, it was the norm for those who proffered contrarian predictions of the world’s future to be regarded as doomsdayers. Today, that’s becoming less so.

An American colleague recently said to me, “I have to admit: I used to think some of your predictions were pretty unlikely, but so many of them have been coming true over the years that I’m paying closer attention. Does your crystal ball say who the next president will be?”

Lately, this term “crystal ball” has been popping up more frequently, and we should dispel the idea. In being able to anticipate what will happen in the world in the future, there’s no crystal ball. Whether the projections in these pages prove to be accurate or inaccurate, they are arrived at, not by some sort of magic, but through two very simple pursuits:

Question Everything

Most English-speaking people today rely heavily on what they see on the television “news,”—often the BBC, CNN, and Fox News. In my estimation, the information put forward is generally only partially accurate at best and often completely inaccurate. In order to gain a more accurate view, it’s best to bypass such sources to avoid becoming indoctrinated.

If we instead pursue those publications and individual sources that have a long record for accurate prognostication, we might be further ahead. Of course, this is a great deal more work than simply grabbing a beer and sitting on the sofa to watch the conventional programmes, but then, this is our own future we’re talking about.

Study History

When I was a schoolboy, I was handed a book on history, which I was expected to learn. I found it rather useless, as it focused on the dates of events and the names of leaders. Rarely was there any explanation of how the events were perceived by the people or what the benefits were to the leaders in question. Had this been presented, I would have received a good education in what governments shouldnot do in the future. But of course, the official history of any country is not intended to present the truth, but to present the nation in question (and therefore its government) as “the good guys.”

It was only much later in life that I began my real education. In doing so, I found that the events that happened in one era, almost invariably repeated themselves in the next. The reactions to events by one government would often be the same reactions by subsequent governments.

Why should this be? Well, actually, it’s rather simple. In any era, in any culture, the geography may be different and the technology may have changed, but human nature remains the same. Leaders will seek increased power; they will run into conflict with other leaders who also seek increased power; and each will do the same as previous leaders did. Similarly, with regard to national matters, each will make the same fiscal and legislative mistakes, as they too will be seen as advancements of power.

What’s surprising is that not only events, but entire patterns of events, are followed. In the case of empires, both the rise and fall of empires bear great similarities. Therefore, if we can identify what point in the history of a previous empire matches the present one, we might be able to read on to the next historical chapter and see what the outcome was. That might give us insight into where the present empire is headed in the future.

So, let’s put this to the test. Let’s go back to my colleague’s question about who will be his country’s next president, compare the US (the present empire) with an historical one (the Roman Empire) and see if we feel that there’s a parallel.

In my estimation, the US has completed its “rise” stage and is now firmly in its “fall” stage. More specifically, we’ve seen events similar to early- and mid-third-century Rome and are now coming into a period that resembles the end of the third century—the time of Emperor Diocletian. Here’s a brief description of events from his reign. Some of them may resemble the reader’s concerns for the next administration.

Setting Up the Rise to Emperor

Diocletian did his utmost to become a consul of the existing emperor, Carus. From this position he was able to promote himself publicly as a leader-in-waiting. Although he was known for his ruthlessness, he promoted himself as the “founder of eternal peace.”

A Reversal of the Public Persona

Diocletian became emperor in 284. Early in his reign, he took a decidedly non-peaceful turn, purging the empire of any perceived threats to his power. He enlarged both the Empire’s military and civil forces, creating a greater threat to foreign leaders and a greater police state at home.

Increase in the Powers of Government

He created the largest bureaucratic government in Rome’s history and furthered the role of the State as an absolutist body.

Elevation Of His Own Position

He established ceremonies intended to elevate his rank and stature, presenting himself as a supreme autocrat. He campaigned continually to maintain and raise his image.

Religious Persecution

His final effort, from 303 AD until 311 AD, was the Diocletianic Persecution, essentially a distraction that was intended to shift the public’s focus onto the Christians as demons. It was the bloodiest persecution of Christians by the empire in its history.

Fiscal Deterioration

Through the growth of the military, the size of the government and the creation of extensive government projects, he depleted the coffers of the treasury.

Oppressive Taxation

In order to pay for his self-promotion and the growth of government, more funding was needed. This he attempted to achieve through greater taxation, beginning in 297 AD.

Debasement of the Currency

A debasement of the denarius (the currency of Rome) had begun before Diocletian. The coinage that had once been nearly pure silver became base metal, with only a thin wash of silver over it.

Inflation and Price Controls

When his policies resulted in inflation, Diocletian followed with price controls, a step that is commonly taken by world leaders when faced with the failure of their monetary policies. (The price controls failed, as they always do.)

History Repeats

If indeed history does tend to repeat itself; if people tend to mistakenly elect the same types of leaders to address the same types of problems, it would seem quite possible that the next president of the US may resemble Diocletian and that his approach might be quite similar to Diocletian’s.

How to Make Sure the Government Can’t Freeze Your Bank Account

Greece has fallen from the headlines… but everyday life there is still a nightmare.

Regular readers know we’ve been closely following the financial disaster in Greece. For years, Greece spent more than it took in in taxes. This led to a financial crisis that looked like it might destroy Europe’s financial system.

The Greek government closed all banks in June to prevent people from withdrawing all their money and crashing the banking system. And it let Greek citizens withdraw only €60 ($67) of their own money each day from ATMs.

The country’s debt crisis ended (for now) earlier this month, when European authorities agreed to bail out Greece. This news calmed investors, but Reuters reports that things on the ground in Greece are still bad:

Greek banks are set to keep broad cash controls in place for months, until fresh money arrives from Europe and with it a sweeping restructuring, officials believe.

“Broad cash controls” means Greek banks are essentially frozen. Greek people can withdraw only €420 ($455) per week of their own money… and it looks like it will stay that way for months.

More from Reuters:

The longer it takes, the more critical the banks’ condition becomes as a 420 euro ($460) weekly limit on cash withdrawals chokes the economy and borrowers’ ability to repay loans.

“The banks are in deep freeze but the economy is getting weaker,” said one official, pointing to a steady rise in loans that are not being repaid.

One Greek farmer can’t get enough cash to run his business, Reuters says:

“It’s a nightmare. I owe many people money now – gas stations and firms that service machinery. I have to go to the bank every single day, and the money I can take out is not enough.”

Short on cash, Greek people have resorted to bartering…

Here’s Reuters:

A rising number of Greeks in rural areas are swapping goods and services in cashless transactions since the government shut down banks on June 28 for three weeks, restricted cash withdrawals and banned transfers abroad to halt a run on deposits and prevent a collapse of the banks.

“Bartering” means exchanging goods and services without using money. It’s how humans did business thousands of years ago. Bartering is extremely inefficient because you have to find someone who has what you want… and wants what you have.

Reuters reports how the Greek farmer is trying to survive the crisis:

Squeezed on all sides, the 41-year-old farmer began informal bartering to get around the cash crunch. He now pays some of his workers in kind with his clover crop and exchanges equipment with other farmers instead of buying or renting machinery.

Another farmer is trading cotton and wheat for bales of hay and machine parts, Reuters says.

This is a good reminder of something we stress often: the government controls any money you have in the bank. It can decide you’re not allowed to touch your own money at any time. Or it can put severe restrictions on how much money you can take out, like the Greek government is doing right now. And there’s nothing you can do about it.