The Instigator
Subutai
Pro (for)
Winning
9 Points
The Contender
TheHitchslap
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Overregulation Was a Significant Cause for the Fall of the Roman Empire

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Subutai
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/19/2013 Category: Economics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,491 times Debate No: 33231
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (27)
Votes (3)

 

Subutai

Pro

I have challenged TheHitchslap to this debate to see if he would like to defend his comment on this debate.

Full Resolution


Excessive regulation of the economy was a significant contributor to the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Definitions

Economic Regulation: "The use of legislative measures and government regulations to affect economic outcomes. This can extend from forms of government that control and regulate all aspects of economics to measures which are enacted to address particular issues such as deregulation of industries or measures intended to address various economic factors."[1] This includes taxation and spending.

Signficant: "Important; of consequence."[2]

Cause: "The producer of an effect."[3]

Fall of the Western Roman Empire: The decline, and eventual overthrow of the Western Roman Empire in 476 ACE.

Rules

1. The first round is for acceptance.
2. A forfeit or concession is not allowed.
3. No semantics, trolling, or lawyering.
4. All arguments must be visible inside this debate. Sources may be posted in an outside link.
5. Debate resolution, definitions, rules, and structure cannot be changed without asking in the comments before you post your round 1 argument. Debate resolution, definitions, rules, and structure cannot be changed in the middle of the debate.

Voters, in the case of the breaking of any of these rules by either debater, all seven points in voting should be given to the other person.

Debate Structure

Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Presenting all arguments (no rebuttals by pro)
Round 3: Refutation of opponent's arguments (no new arguments)
Round 4: Defending your original arguments and conclusion (no new arguments)

Sources

[1]: http://www.businessdictionary.com...
[2]: http://dictionary.reference.com...
[3]: http://dictionary.reference.com...
TheHitchslap

Con

"Veni, vidi, vici" - Julius Caesar





To meet BOP, I must show that economic issues were of lesser importance to the fall of Rome to that of other factors to meet my BOP.

Thank you to my opponent for challenging me, may we both find worthy foes

Best of luck sir!

I accept!


Debate Round No. 1
Subutai

Pro

I would like to thank TheHitchslap for accepting this debate.

I. Prologue - The Julio Claudian Emperors

After Augustus defeated Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, the world celebrated. Late in the Hellinistic period, the most of the various empires controlling the Mediterranean had stifling taxes that snuffed any chance of growth. In addition, constant wars had made land trade almost impossible, and sea trade non-existant. The world was in a severe period of stagnation.

However, once Augustus ruled the Mediterranean, while political freedom decreased (at least in Rome) to a degree, economic freedom increased. The constant warfaring stopped, taxes were lowered, tax codes made more simple (for example, the practice of "tax farming" and the bad system of taxation were ended in favor of a more slimmed and refined system), trade encouraged, and growth took off.

This continued from Augustus, through Tiberius, and eventually to Claudius. The situation was described by Michael Rostovtzeff as, almost complete freedom for trade and of splendid opportunities for private initiative." This allowed the economy to grow, prosper, and allowed the Pax Romana to set in. In general, affairs were good for the empire.[1][2][3]

II. Debasement, Inflation, and Taxation

Unfortunately, plunder was fast drying up as the last major territory, Britian was conquered. However, there was still a huge demand for revenue across the empire. Nero introduced the process of debaseing the currency (lowering the amount of precious metals (i.e. gold, silver, etc...) in currency). By the reign of Claudius II Gothicus, the amount of silver in the denarius was only 0.02%. Here is a graph showing the history of the denarius's debasement:



[4]

This made the intrinsic value of the coin drop, making it more worthless. Prices in this period rose in most parts of the empire by nearly 1,000 percent. The only people who were getting paid in gold were the barbarian troops hired by the emperors. The barbarians were so barbarous that they would only accept gold in payment for their services. Interestingly, the continual debasements did not improve the Empire’s fiscal position. This is because of Gresham’s Law ("bad money drives out good"). People would hoard older, high silver content coins and pay their taxes in those with the least silver. Thus the government’s "real" revenues may have actually fallen.[1][5][6]

This led to higher taxes. Taxes on the rich were sharply increased. This had much wider consequences thaan it would today because the rich people were the only ones doing any high amount of commerce that contributed to the economy. As the private wealth of the Empire was gradually confiscated or taxed away, driven away or hidden, economic growth slowed to a virtual standstill.[1]

As the wealthy were no longer able to supply the necessary taxes to support the ever-increasing military demands from the borders where barbarians were invading, taxes on the lower and middle cases were raised. "The heavier the pressure of the state on the upper classes, the more intolerable became the condition of the lower."[1][2]

This virtually collasped the entire Roman Economy. This led to the taking of property, such as cattle and food to the still-increasing demands of the army. Eventually, the Empire passed laws tying people and their descendents to the jobs they currently possessed. 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.[7][8]

III. Disloyalty, Migration, and Feudalism

Widespread taxation and the practice of tying people to their occupations greatly disheartened the population. The result was increasing feudalization of the economy and a total breakdown of the division of labor. People fled to the countryside and took up subsistence farming or attached themselves to the estates of the wealthy, which operated as much as possible as closed systems, providing for all their own needs and not engaging in trade at all. Meanwhile, much land was abandoned and remained fallow or fell into the hands of the state,whose mismanagement generally led to a decline in production. Trade ceased almost entirely.[1][2]

This fast dried up the Empire's tax base. The Empire tried to respond by raising more taxes, but the more that happened, the more people deserted the Empire and the less amount of money was going to the Empire. In short, taxpayers evaded taxation by withdrawing from society altogether. Large, powerful landowners, able to avoid taxation through legal or illegal means, began to organize small communities around them.[1][9]

In the end, there was no money left to pay the army, build forts or ships, or protect the frontier. The barbarian invasions, which were the final blow to the Roman state in the fifth century, were simply the culmination of three centuries of deterioration in the fiscal capacity of the state to defend itself. Indeed, many Romans welcomed the barbarians as saviors from the onerous tax burden. Eventually, the Roman Empire had to inevitably fall from this disloyalty, and so they did.[1][10]

Conclusion

The fall of Rome was fundamentally due to economic deterioration resulting from excessive taxation, inflation, and overregulation. Higher and higher taxes failed to raise additional revenues because wealthier taxpayers could evade such taxes while the middle class—and its taxpaying capacity—were exterminated. Although the final demise of the Roman Empire in the West (its Eastern half continued on as the Byzantine Empire) was an event of great historical importance, for most Romans it was a relief.

Sources

[1]: http://www.cato.org...
[2]: Rostovtzeff, M. (1957). The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire, 2nd ed., 2 vols. London: Oxford University Press.

[3]: Oertel, F. (1934). "The Economic Unification of the Mediterranean Region: Industry, Trade, and Commerce." Cambridge Ancient History 10: pp. 382—424. London: Cambridge University Press.
[4]: http://lewrockwell.com...
[5]: http://mises.org...
[6]: Rostovtzeff, M. (1926). "The Problem of the Origin of Serfdom in the Roman Empire." Journal of Land and Public Utility Economics 2(2): pp. 198—207.2(2): 198—207.
[7]: http://en.wikipedia.org...
[8]: Mises, Ludwig von. "The Rise and Fall of Civilization."
[9]: Bernardi, A. (1970) "The Economic Problems of the Roman Empire at the Time of Its Decline." In Cipolla, C. (ed.)
The Economic Decline of Empires, pp. 16—83. London: Methuen.
[10]: http://www.businessinsider.com...
TheHitchslap

Con

My opponent has given me a compelling argument, good job! Due to the rules I must only show my arguments right now.

C1: Humanities and Causal/Determinant Factors

First, in order to establish what contributed to the fall of Rome, and what actually causes the fall we must define those factors. Enter causal and determinant factors. A Causal factor will only contribute to the fall, but it isn't the cause of the fall. The determinant factor is the causing factor to an event to start. So lets take WWI for example: the causal factor would be the alliances formed and the nationalism that occurs before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. The actual determinant factor in this case would be the assassination. Here, we must keep this in mind with the fall of Rome, as no determinant factor exists; why? Simple! Rome never actually “falls”, because it still exists today, so what were left with is technically the decline of the Roman Empire, not the fall of it, which in turn leaves us only with causal factors.

C2: More Than One Factor

Historians generally agree that there was several causal factors to consider when the decline of Rome takes place is summarized in categories: political, economic, social, and military. Political due to the autocratic rule of Rome; which would cause consistent contests as to who inherited the throne next as the legitimate ruler. Provinces would eventually split into 3 factions fighting one another in a civil war, and we call this the crisis of the third century. About 25 Generals claimed to be the heir to the throne, which resulted in civil war. Social due to the constant fighting between Christians and Pagans. Continuous barbarian attacks upon Rome and it's consistent sacking, and economic as my opponent has already noted.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org...

C3: So What Factor Was Most Important?

The problem with claiming that one factor was more important than all others under the Hitchen's Razor requires extraordinary evidence for such an extraordinary claim. However, I would also like to note that we cannot confuse economic errors with the errors of public policy, otherwise that makes it a political issue and not an economic one. As well, the military undoubtedly effected the political shape of Rome as well due to it's structure, and what it enabled the military to do legally. Thus, I shall argue political factors were far more significant than economic ones.

Source: http://www.tribunesandtriumphs.org...

C4: The Final Summary!

How do we know political issues were a huge source for the decline of Rome? Several things: First the contests between Senators and the Emperor. In fact, it was the wealthy Romans who eventually cause a huge fall for Rome, as they were at odds with the Emperor trying to gain more power, even though they were just advisers. Second the story of Sejanus and the Roman Guard who were the Emperors personal body guards became so politically corrupt that they literally decided who could and could not rule Rome. Couple this with too fast an expansion of the Roman borders (which were unable to be guarded properly), barbarian knowledge of Roman military tactics, huge military spending (which also impacts the economy btw .. ergo public policy = political factor) and Constintine becoming a Christian causing civil issues, you have yourself a huge political problem which will cause your decline to be inevitable.

Source: http://www.tribunesandtriumphs.org...


Thank you! I now turn this over to my opponent! He must now refute why political issues in Rome are not as signifigant as over-regulation.

Debate Round No. 2
Subutai

Pro

I would like to thank TheHitchslap for presenting his arguments.

Before I begin my rebuttals, I would like to reaffirm that I am not asserting that overregulation was the main, or even the most significant cause for the fall of the Roman Empire. I am only attempting to argue that overregulation was a significant cause.

I am going to sort my opponent's arguments out. If I miss anything, please tell me in R4.

I. The Barbarians

While the 5th century barbarian invasions did cause the fall of the Roman Empire, it wouldn't have been possible without the deterioration from within due to other causes. Barbarians had been invading the empire since its existence.

Why the empire was unable to defend its borders stems mostly from the debasement of the Roman currency. "At the beginning the debasement proved undoubtedly profitable for the state. Nevertheless, in the course of years, this expedient was abused and the century of inflation which had been thus brought about was greatly to the disadvantage of the State"s finances."[1][2]

This is what directly caused taxes to be raised. Further, citizens would pay their taxes in the debased currency and hoard the undebased currency. "By debasing the currency is meant that instead of a coin having its own intrinsic value, it was now only representative of the silver or gold it had once contained. "[3]

This, coupled with the emperors' extravagance, emptied the Roman treasury. "The amount of gold sent to the orient to pay for luxury goods led to a shortage of gold to make Roman coins."[4]

This is what caused the Roman Army to be underfunded which required taxation. However, as taxation increased, revenues to the state actually fell due to widespread tax evasion. This forced the government to requisition property and force people to stay in one occupation. [1][5]

By the end, there was no money, and the people, who had for centuries volunteered to defend the empire (i.e. Cincinatus) were unwilling to fight. They welcomed the barbarians.

In the end, overtaxation and overspending (part of the definition) killed the empire. The barbarian invasions, which were the final blow to the Roman state in the fifth century, were simply the culmination of three centuries of deterioration in the fiscal capacity of the state to defend itself.[1]

II. Economic vs. Political Issues

Taxation and requisition of assets is definitely regulation, as it is preventing voluntary transactions from taking place. The rampant taxation drove away growth and trade and reduced the amount of money going into the treasury.

Again, I included overtaxation and overspending in the definition of overregulation, and rightfully so. They both involve government interference in the marketplace. The emperor overtaxed the patricians in order to render them powerless. This made the burden of taxation fall to the lower classes, and this drove them into the small, closed estates of the wealthy, starting feudalism (see R2 part III for more information on this).

Overall, even if there were errors in public policy, they were economic errors due to the regulation of the marketplace. The preexisting antagonism between the senators in the emperor fueled overregulation.

Finally, I am not saying that "political issues" are less important than overregulation (see the beginning of my argument), although the errors in public policy could be considered to be overregulation because it is interference in the marketplace.

Sources

[1]: http://www.cato.org...
[2]: Bernardi, A. (1970) "The Economic Problems of the Roman Empire at the Time of Its Decline." InCipolla,C.(ed.) The Economic Decline of Empires,
pp. 16"83. London: Methuen.
[3]: http://ancienthistory.about.com...
[4]: http://www.tribunesandtriumphs.org...
[5]: http://en.wikipedia.org...
TheHitchslap

Con

TheHitchslap forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
Subutai

Pro

Well that was unexpected. I hope everything's alright with TheHitchslap.

By the rules, please vote pro.
TheHitchslap

Con

my apologies to my opponent, I had the misfortune of dealing with a health problem, and am now in tip top condition. By virtue of the rules, please give my opponent the win

Again, I apologize to my opponent. Congratulations to your win sir!
Debate Round No. 4
27 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by 1Historygenius 3 years ago
1Historygenius
@Subutai

Although I have not made a oomplete conclusion on the most major contributing factor to the fall of Rome, the Roman Empire always had cultural difference. The official split by Diocletian meant that now armies were effectively splity, emperors were, and diplomacy.
Posted by Subutai 3 years ago
Subutai
@16kadams: How so? The Roman Empire effectively split even before Diocletian officially split the Empire into east and west. The West was Latin culture based, while the East was Greek culture based.
Posted by 16kadams 3 years ago
16kadams
I would actually say that Diocletian's splitting of the empire was by far the most important factor.
Posted by TheHitchslap 3 years ago
TheHitchslap
you missed one or two things in my arguments, but they were minor details (causal/determinant factors for example) but you got the bulk of my argument, no worries!
Posted by Subutai 3 years ago
Subutai
I hope I didn't miss anything. Please tell me if I did.
Posted by Tom_E 3 years ago
Tom_E
Over regulation is bad because implementing and maintaining regulations costs money. If the net detriment of regulatory policies outweigh the net gains from them, obviously this is bad. The reason it is called OVER regulation and not just regulation. Regulations can cost more money and take up more time than they save. Sometimes there is under regulation. Some of these commenters need to be using the dictionary more often.
Posted by TheHitchslap 3 years ago
TheHitchslap
Oh okay I see it now! Thank you! :)

Sorry, just wanted to clarify!
Posted by Subutai 3 years ago
Subutai
It's in the full resolution: "Excessive regulation of the economy was a significant contributor to the fall of the Western Roman Empire."
Posted by TheHitchslap 3 years ago
TheHitchslap
The title states very clearly "ROMAN Empire" Implying the autocratic time period of Rome beginning under Agustus Caesar, not the "WESTERN Roman Empire" which is completely different, because Rome splits between Western Rome and the Bryzintine Empire shortly after the removal of Romulus Agustus. Please change this to Roman Empire before I accept.
Posted by effimero89 3 years ago
effimero89
For what its worth here is what I would suggest as significant falls...

Antagonism between the Senate and the Emperor

Decline in Morals

Political Corruption and the Praetorian Guard

Fast expansion of the Empire

Constant Wars and Heavy Military Spending

Barbarian Knowledge of Roman Military Tactics

Failing Economy

Unemployment of the Working Classes (The Plebs)

The 'Mob' and the cost of the 'Games'

Decline in Ethics and Values

Slave Labor

Natural Disasters

Christianity

Barbarian Invasion (the obvious one)

I will follow this though because I am curious as to your side of it
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by 1Historygenius 3 years ago
1Historygenius
SubutaiTheHitchslapTied
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Vote Placed by JonMilne 3 years ago
JonMilne
SubutaiTheHitchslapTied
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Vote Placed by Bullish 3 years ago
Bullish
SubutaiTheHitchslapTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Conceded.