Thursday, October 11, 2012

What good is a Liberal Arts education?

Well, if you had a good one, you'd have learned some Roman history, which would have included such tidbits as Caracalla's* introduction of the antoninianus, officially worth two denarii, but whose
...silver content was only equal to 1.5 denarii. This helped create inflation - people rapidly hoarded the denarii, while both buyers and sellers recognised the new coin had a lower intrinsic value and elevated their prices to compensate. Silver bullion supplies were running short since the Roman Empire was no longer conquering new territory, and because a series of soldier emperors and rebels needed coin to pay their troops to buy loyalty. So each new issue of the antoninianus had less silver in it than the last, and each contributed to inflation. By the late third century the coins were almost entirely made of bronze from melted down old coins like the sestertius. Vast quantities were being produced, with a large proportion of the stocks being contemporary forgeries, often with blundered legends and designs. Individual coins were by then practically worthless and were lost or discarded by the millions.
Ben Bernanke must have skipped class the day they covered this.

* While everybody knows the names "Caligula" and "Nero", the former is probably unfairly maligned and the latter wasn't a half-bad emperor until he slipped Seneca's leash. Caracalla, on the other hand, was a piece of work from the jump off and an unmitigated disaster as emperor.
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17 comments:

Armed Texan said...

I have no doubt that Ben Bernanke and the rest of the administration know this quite well. They also know, that even in the final years, the emperor and his army of bureaucrats lived quite well.

Anonymous said...

Yep, very well. Not long after the Empire's power had basically faded away from Northern Gaul, the Franks had a coup d'etat that was VERY popular among everyone not a Imperial Bureaucrat.

Paying tithe 10% to the church and something similar to the local Frankish barbarian knight was a HUGE tax relief. AND you got a justice system that was rough & ready but fairish and fast.

The Chronicles say convoys of bureaucrats evacuated for days to the south of the Loire to escape the change of administration.

Pakkinpoppa said...

What sucks about knowing so much history is how much of it is a broken record.

I wonder what Roman folk stocked up on...multiple Gladius (Gladii?) swords, spears, breast plates, arrow quivers, bowstring, food, a second well? And real silver coins (an eerie parallel to some today...), horses, land in the country if they could afford it...

Joel said...

Nah. Mostly they just rioted and demanded that the dole be increased.

Anonymous said...

Hah.

The problem they've put "smart guys" in charge and those smart guys are arrogant: "nah, THAT won't happen to US, we're too SMART. We can control it."

To the too stupid to live are in charge of the too clever by half.

On the things I like about putting hereditary aristocrats in nominal charge of things is that, though that can be a little dull, they are mostly intrinsically conservative and suspicious of "smarty pants & new ideas".


oh well.



Joe in PNG said...

You keep forgetting that for most leftist, history is only Zinn and Marx.

Tam said...

anon 5:37,

"On the things I like about putting hereditary aristocrats in nominal charge of things..."

See: 'Caracalla, Problems With' for the downside to hereditary aristocracy.

Ian Argent said...

I thought hard currency speed governments from inflating the money supply, says the time in the cheap seats...
(I better put a sarcasm tag on this one, or go troll Elmo Iscariot or something)

Ian Argent said...

s/speed/keeps, and what caliber for #DamnYouAutocorrect?

Justthisguy said...

Gresham's Law. Sigh!

On the Romans: I mind the time my high-school Latin teacher caught a classmate reading a f*ck book in class. She grabbed it, perused it carefully, tore it into pieces, and tossed it into the trash can.

Then she told him something like, "If you want to read that kind of nasty stuff in this room, you'll have to sign up for third-year Latin and read Suetonius with us!"

Oh God I miss Mrs. Reynolds! She brought a briefcase to class every day, which contained only (we looked) a coupla file folders with graded papers in them, the brown bag with her lunch in it, and a revolver (which was perfectly legal then and there).

I must admit that she was a good judge of character, too. She reproached me for being the laziest White boy in Dade County, FL

She may have been right about that.

Anonymous said...

On the things I like about putting hereditary aristocrats in nominal charge of things is that, though that can be a little dull, they are mostly intrinsically conservative and suspicious of "smarty pants & new ideas".

You mean like the wonderful Assad's of Syria? Bashir is doing so well in uniting his people in their feelings for him. Or there are the Kims of Korea. Three generations, and the country has advanced so far that the people are now improving themselves by culling the weak with their radical diet planning and shrinking themselves in height with their self-sufficiency food program. (I think Michelle Obama used it for a model school lunch program.) Closer to home, we have the Castro brothers. The Cubans under their rule have perfected the long term daily operation of the 1957 Chevy and 1958 Dodge.

These people all have one thing in common, "conservative rule" by families that continue to follow the same tired Marxist-Communist based ideologies of their fore-fathers despite the lack of success. And their rule has done so much to their countries. They are a monument to the glories of hereditary rule.

ISH Mininerd said...

Okay... who's got the phone number for those Space X guys? I'm moving to Luna.

Darrell said...

Thanks, Tam, that put me onto a long read about Elagabalus, the Roman equestrian order, the Praetorian Guard, and Sejanus. Made me want to watch I, Claudius again as well.

NotClauswitz said...

The actual purpose of a Liberal Arts education today (and for the past twenty-some years) has been the indoctrination of youth into the Leftist Cult of Academe. In the Academosphere one must actively seek-out and study the Classics in order to know this non-Marxist "history-event" stuff, it's not a part of Freshman Culture 101 or anything.
I seriously doubt Ben Bernake even heard of Caracalla, and have little doubt that you are far more versed than he is in Roman history.

Justthisguy said...

Oh, Not? A classical Liberal Arts education is for those who don't have to work for a living. The rest of us are better off if we learn a trade and practice it.

Anonymous said...

This is a pretty amazing book about the government of Rome mucking about with economics. Talk about history repeating itself, it shows that Rome tried everything we've tried in the 20th/21st century to deal with modern economic and political problems. Well written, too.

DJMason199 said...

I teach college macroeconomics, and we will be covering money-supply manipulation in the next week or two. I might make mention of this. It's great when a blogger whose favorite things go "bang!" has a better understanding of basic monetary theory and history than the Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve.