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Oct 18, 2011

Where are Nero and Alaric when you need them?

In the post a couple down on Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan telling the world that we are willing to ‘pay our share’ to put Europe back on its feet, the following was said:

Over the last few months observers have got used to news of failing Euro zone economies and efforts to pull them out of trouble. These efforts usually come with conditions requiring austerity measures to reign in the runaway debt, which is causing the trouble. “The populations respond, showing their gratitude with riots, arson attacks, and general destructiveness which modern economists like Paul Krugman, believe creates vital stimulus.
Well we were not quite right about Krugman (yet) but none other than MSNBC's Joe Scarborough has made the claim. While he is not an economist he is a TV personality and thus able present himself as a pundit, which is much the same to a liberal:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: … 951 cities in 82 countries were scheduled to take part in demonstrations after online organizers called for a worldwide rally. The mayor of Rome said $1.4 million in damage was caused after rioters who broke away from a peaceful protest smashed windows and torched vehicles around the city.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Now, see, that will help with the construction industry in Italy.

(Cross talk)

SCARBOROUGH: No, you have to rebuild Rome because people burned it down. That’s actually a plus up. This Occupy Wall Street group, look at that, they are creating new jobs.
This led to some reflection on previous destruction of Rome in the past, such as that wrought by Nero, who it appears didn’t do a really good job, only lighting up enough to see the music sheet he was playing. It is understood though that enough of the city was leveled to provide room for a few more palaces. But hey, it needed rebuilding.

Now Alaric on the other hand was a pretty serious dude. He wasn’t just a 99%er burning a few buildings and luxury chariots; he sacked and burned the place. He wasn’t the sort of guy to settle for the odd mil or two of destruction, he went for stimulus on a big scale.

The only troubling aspect to this is that Rome didn’t really recover very well to damage that by modern thinking should have been the best thing for them since sliced bread. There some conjecture about whether the leaders of the day just weren’t fully with it, or lacked the benefits of collectivist thinking.

After some consideration, we realized that what went really wrong for them, is that they had no concept of Keynesian economics back then. It was just that little blind spot that robbed them of the sort of vision that could have persuaded them while looking over the devastation, that they never had it so good.

Had Carthage had the benefit of modern Keynesian thinking, history could have been a great deal different. They were invaded, sacked, looted, burned, the rubble scattered and the earth salted and the population dispersed. Is it possible that they failed to rise to the status of the great economic powerhouse of the Mediterranean afterwards, simply through the lack of an economist of the quality of Paul Krugman to let them know what a great advantage they had been handed?

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