NO LIMIT ON WEALTH, NO DEMOCRACY. Roman Limit: $22 Million (Why Rome Collapsed, Part III)


Now has come the time to Generalize the Roman Lex De Modo Agrorum, and to succeed where the Romans failed!

The Roman Republic had an ABSOLUTE LIMIT on wealth. I compute that absolute wealth limit  to be $22 million (see below). A Roman family, under the Republic, indeed, could not own more than a reasonable amount. Why?

Wealth is power.

If only a few have relatively enormous wealth, only a few have relatively enormous power. People power (demos-kratia) thus requires to limit the power of the few. Limiting wealth of the few absolutely the ingredient which enabled the Roman Republic to last 5 centuries. This has been safely ignored by conventional historians (who are not anxious to disrupt their paymasters).

When Augustus was “Princeps” (“First Man”) , he was not just the most powerful Roman, legislatively, but also materially, the wealthiest. Limiting income absolutely would be a good first step; as the UK Labor Party led by Jeremy Corbyn may propose. A tax rate of 95% on the upper margin could be even more effective.

Limiting wealth absolutely is not about being pro-capitalist, or anti-capitalist, it’s a question of being pro-democracy, or anti-democracy. This is what the highest, most educated, scions of the nobles lineage in Rome themselves thought: the Gracchi

Gracchi Brothers. Heroes. And their mission is still unfulfilled.

The Roman Republic limited wealth absolutely. At a time when 99.99% of wealth was land, the wealth law LEX LICINIA SEXTIA DE MODO AGRORUM specified that no family would be allowed to possess more than 500 jugera of public land. That’s approximately 125 hectares, roughly 325 acres (1.32 square kilometer). Any land that a family occupied above this limit was confiscated by the state (and redistributed to ex-soldiers, or would-be peasant-owners, as needed). The law was passed in 368 BCE. It also limited grazing on public land by one family to 100 heads of cattle. A law in the same spirit of preventing the wealth exponential limited the interest rate of loans (Lex de aere alieno). The laws were passed after Lateranus and Stolo were re-elected tribunes of the People for nine consecutive years, blocking the Patricians (that’s worth mentioning as the Gracchi were accused of kinship for being elected tribunes twice… two centuries later). 

Following the Battle of Telamon (225 BCE), Rome swallowed Cisalpine Gaul, adding huge swathes of land to the ager publicus, land which was given to new Latin colonies or to small freeholders.


Scale Of Absolute Wealth Limit: 150 Times The Poverty Level, Thus 23 Million Dollars 

It was viewed, by Republican Roman Law, that families should be given a minimum of 2 acres of fertile land, which was known to be barely sufficient for survival. So let’s do a little Patrice’s style computation (simple minded, but clarifying). Let’s view those 2 acres as defining the poverty level. Although this may sound like pata-logic, I will equal Roman property with modern income (because then agricultural land was income).

I will also compare Rome with the richest area in the United States, San Francisco (Rome in 367 BCE was pretty much around one million people total; this is my own guesswork, from a population I guess to be around 200,000 soldier-citizens; the subject is still a matter of research; it seems that the Roman census started to count women and children as citizens around 70 BCE, bringing an artificial boost in the number of “citizens”). San Francisco has a bit less than a million residents, with a poverty level, for a family of four of $72,000 (!). This is what it takes to survive in San Francisco to pay rent, eat, take care of children. Yes, that’s extravagantly high (nearly four times the median family income in the USA; life is San Francisco is outrageously expensive relative to the rest of the USA). However, the income of the Roman population was also extravagantly high relative to the rest of the Mediterranean zone, when the Lex De Modo Agrorum was supposedly enforced (say in 150 BCE; OK, I just mixed 367 CE, when the law was passed, and Rome was much poorer; however, this is an order of magnitude argument).

So, we have: 2 acres = $72,000. 300 times this is around 22 million dollars. Thus, even in San Francisco, wealth friendly terms, according to the roman Republic Law, the absolute wealth limit should be no more than 22 million dollars. Instead, the wealthiest families in the area are more than 200 times richer. 

(One could use the 2017 US Federal poverty level, $25,000 for a family of four. Then the limit on wealth should be, according to Roman Republican standards 7.5 million dollars.)

So there is definitively a distributive, socialist side to the Roman Republic.


Romans Made Wealth Hating Laws, In Place For More than 6 Centuries:

Not only the Roman Republic limited wealth, it limited the exhibition thereof. A number of so-called sumptuary laws were passed, including the Lex Oppia (215 BCE), after the disaster of the battle of Cannae (all in all, the Romans may have suffered 500,000 soldiers killed in the Second Punic war, more than Rome counted male adult citizens! It was a repeat of the performance in the First Punic war…). “Sumptus” means expenditure, so sumptuary laws limited expenditures of private citizens doing private things.   

Sumptuary laws limited how much gold a woman could possess (half an ounce), and the sort of numbers of colors she could wear. Also women could not enter a city in a vehicle drawn by animals. Lex Fannia and Didia limited how much could be spent at a dinner. (With the deaths of so many men in the war against Hannibal, women inherited most of the wealth. Women were associated with extravagant and useless displays of luxury, considered dispiriting with Hannibal roaming around, and so many in mourning. The law was repealed 20 years later, in 195 BCE, when the matrons of Rome demonstrated massively in the streets, and blocked the centers of powers of Rome… Apparently many Roman women cared more about wearing expensive purple than about the fate of the Republic…) 

The first sumptuary laws were passed well before the (official) Republic, and limited the spending during funerals. Thus Rome was in the mood of limiting wealth and its exhibition for about seven centuries, and the democracy fell when that mood fell. Greek democracies also had anti-sumptuary laws.


By 140 BCE, Rome Mastered The World, And Its Masters Went Global, Escaping Taxation,Thus Overwhelmingly Satanic:

Plutarch reports that, “when Tiberius on his way to Numantia passed through Etruria and found the country almost depopulated and its husbandmen and shepherds imported barbarian slaves, he first conceived the policy which was to be the source of countless ills to himself and to his brother.”

Plutarch also noted, “Then the poor, who had been ejected from their land, no longer showed themselves eager for military service, and neglected the bringing up of children, so that soon all Italy was conscious of a dearth of freemen, and was filled with gangs of foreign slaves, by whose aid the rich cultivated their estates, from which they had driven away the free citizens.”

[This is very analogous to the immigration policy in places such as England or California in recent years: under the guise of immigration friendly practices, “sanctuary cities”, millions of immigrants without rights were imported to do the indispensable work nobody else wants to do (agricultural and domestic work in California). Those people are not technically slaves, just practically so.]

Speaking as a Tribune of the People, to a crowd at the Rostra, Tiberius said, “The wild beasts that roam over Italy have their dens, each has a place of repose and refuge. But the men who fight and die for Italy enjoy nothing but the air and light; without house or home they wander about with their wives and children.”

Tiberius Gracchus had a lot of military experience and experience of military command (he saved a Roman army from the Numantines, by signing a treaty!) He was one the pillars of the Senate, and was destined to become as prestigious as his two famous Scipio relatives.  

Tiberius bravely fought to help Rome’s devastating victory in the Third Punic War.  His most glorious accomplishment was to become the first man over the wall at Carthage, surviving to tell about it.  He was awarded the “mural crown” for his stupendous achievement (as he was from the highest nobility, destined to the greatest commands, he didn’t need such heroics to become somebody). Tiberius’ courage in battle and at war against Carthage or Numantia enabled him to have the courage to fight the Roman plutocracy. It became a fight to death, and, unfortunately, the Gracchi didn’t win. So here we are, still fighting plutocracy, 22 centuries later!



People have gone around like caterpillars, following each others’ butts about the collapse of the Roman State. However it’s pretty clear that MOST of the Roman State territory was settled under the REPUBLIC, NOT the fascist empire (under Nero, Britain was conquered; however Caesar had invaded there prior, and the hard work was to conquer Gaul; Trajan also conquered Dacia, and pushed to the Persian Gulf where an illness fell him). Modern PC types may smirk that I am equating conquest and civilization. Yet, the German border was highly unstable; the Romans were not necessarily in bad terms with the Barbarians, and they actually helped the Goths to fight the Huns, under Valens, before catastrophe in a refugee crisis.

It remains that the Republic imploded, crushed by plutocracy, centuries before the military empire. But the latter was created, and could only survive, thanks to the former.

Tribune of the People Tiberius Gracchus tried to enforce the law of absolute wealth limit. He modernized it, and tried to make it so that it would stop the impoverishment of the average Roman, by redistributing land. For his effrontery, he, his brother, and more than 5,000 of their followers, were assassinated (conventional historians will tend to insist on some alleged technical violations of tacitly constitutional ways Tiberius would have engaged in; earlier Tiberius had saved a Roman army by slightly bending the usual ways too, so this does not carry any weight, and misses completely the importance of what Tiberius tried to achieve). Thus the Roman soldiers, deprived of redistribution of wealth acquired in newly conquered lands, kept on getting ever poorer.

The general Marius, who had saved Rome from certain annihilation by defeating the coalition of the savage Numidians, and then later the equally as savage German Ambrones, Cimbri and Teutones, and was elected seven times Consul, had faced a situation where he had to fight hundreds of thousands of barbarian warriors with the sole remaining Roman army, transported from Africa, with just 40,000 soldiers. For being able to call on more would-be soldiers, Marius removed the legal requirement that Roman soldiers should be property owning (what he should have done, if he had been able to do it, was to redistribute wealth from the hyper rich, to the soldiers, as Sulla did for his own soldiers, a bit later;  120,000 of Sulla’s legionnaires received plots of land).

What was going on with Rome was that the globalization of wealth and political influence, thanks to globalization, had run away from the needed expansion of law and of the the Roman Republic “checks and balances”.


Wealth Global, Law Local: The recipe for global plutocracy, in Rome, as it is now:

We are facing the same exact situation as the Roman Republic, 22 centuries ago, but we face it on a planetary basis: wealth is global, law is local. We need to change that by making global the taxation of power, that is, wealth!

One has to start somewhere. If the so-called “Conservatives” are ejected (as they deserve) Great Britain, under a rejuvenated “Labor”, may as well be that trail blazer! Even The Economist is equivocal about Jeremy Corbyn, whereas it used to hate, despise, and disregard him only a few months ago.

The Gracchi failed to impose global assent to the law which would have saved democracy, that was a failure of theirs: instead of bringing republican consensus, civil war started. The Gracchi’s law passed, but its main proponents had been durably killed and exterminated. This precedent of ultimate violence enabled the plutocrats, in power in the Senate, to not really enforce the Gracchis’ law; in later generations, all laws pertaining to wealth and corruption were violated.

Ever since, democracy has not been fully re-established: for example all the media, that is, what people use to make up their minds, is owned by plutocrats; one can’t have democracy when the minds of people are made up by masters (example: yours truly is banned at the New York Times, although a subscriber for decades).

Ownership of media should be very limited, in a generalization of the Lex De Modo Agrorum. Hopefully, by suggesting all these measures for limiting wealth, we won’t finish as the Gracchi (Tiberius was beaten to death with the leg of a chair). Not to worry: the control of the wealthy is so great, most people have no idea what we are talking about, or even that the subject exists, let alone that there are insects, such as yours truly, and they talk! ;-)!

It goes without saying that prestigious historians from famed institutions do not teach any of the preceding: they don’t understand the economics, the philosophy and the human ethology, all of them being out of their fields of expertise. Besides, their salaries and careers depend upon them not understanding it. They are small men, or women, avid for crumbs, whereas the Gracchi were giants, reaching for the stars.

So, instead, conventional historians, in the rather dim light of their deliberately reduced mental means, all too often, question the psychology of Tiberius, affecting perfidiously to wonder why he was so ambitious (in the usual method of the petty: questioning the messenger rather than the message).

Well, that’s easy to dispose of: Tiberius was at the very apex of Roman society, in roughly all ways. He had no ambition and no power to gain with changing the law and redistributing riches. He had no fame to earn, but that which enmity brings. Tiberius pushed for change, because it was the right thing to do.

That’s what exceptional people have always done. They succumb to the attraction of what is right. Humanity is symbiotic with truth.

It could have saved the Republic, and Democracy. The Republic, and Democracy, could only be have been saved that way. This was true then, it’s even more true now.

All the more as nowadays, the Barbarians at the gates yield nukes, and the Barbarians inside the gates, mold most minds, having made them, through the media they own and fabricate, from their own petty obsessions.

Patrice Ayme’

10 Responses to “NO LIMIT ON WEALTH, NO DEMOCRACY. Roman Limit: $22 Million (Why Rome Collapsed, Part III)”

  1. Benign Says:

    I am seeing lots of ads on the site, which is a good thing. This is a great post. The plutocrats would establish Plantation Earth given their druthers. I think of George Bush Senior being wheeled onto the football field recently with the fixed Grimace on his face, and recall him saying “We will establish a new world order…. And we will succeed.”

    The stakes are so high now. They have so much power….



    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Lots of ads???? I am not getting any money from it, hahaha… It’s all Word{Press financing itself… 😉 Anyway, thanks for the compliment, Benign. I get no money from the ads, but I do get financing, or more exactly fuel, from the compliments… Even massimo, after blocking a few high power comments, let the latest one pass….

      Indeed, the plutocrats have a power they got only at the end of the Fourth century, that to mold minds. Then it was under the threat of death. Not one just has to watch football (that’s why having all those players on their knees, is a good thing…)


  2. SDM Says:

    The chance that US will limit wealth appears quite unlikely- Drumpf proposes elimination of the estate tax and further “simplification” of the tax code to favor the wealthy.
    Until the people learn that they can take back their country from the 1% they will remain exploited. Your blog tells many truths but how many ever read it? Until readership grows your voice is not getting heard.
    That you have established a facebook presence could be helpful. It may require a more exclusively social economic bent without as much physics to further the readership.
    Then again, the general facebook posts among my “friend” connections are quite mundane to disturbing- selfies, photos of food or drink, vacation photos, babies and children, wildlife in the yard, inspirational posts of some anonymous source, jesus or god blather, support troops, blacks looting after hurricanes, flag waving- confederate and US, racist, etc. Not sure how well it would go over among those folks. Not many NYT readers there.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Whatever “Drumpf” is doing is irrelevant: what counts is what progressives and “Antifa” feel should be done.There is the lack. The definition of “wealthy” at this point is someone very rich, and with lots of power, who pays no tax. So if Trump improves a bit the 1%, it’s basically irrelevant. And inequality is the highest ever, but it got so under Obama (not Trump). I expect it to get higher, but didn’t see the Dems proposing a tax the wealthiest scheme…

      I have a very small facebook presence (230 “friends”). Most of my electronic presence growth abated when in 2009 I was blocked from most “progressive” sites: the rightists are not interested by what I say, they hate it, and told me to my face, more than once. And the leftists don’t know about it, or have merged me with the fascists and colonialists in the last year. There was actually a campaign on the Internet saying I wanted to kill Muslims by some white men I know (although I literally baby sit Muslim children of my muslim friends, in part because white Americans apparently like me me not, whereas Muslims like me much…) Frankly, that should be completely unlawful, but I can’t pursue facebook for defamation…

      To come back to facebook, there are groups there, but most people active there are seriously ignorant, one could spend one’s lifetime educating them. I have better things to do, such as teaching science to genuine students. Or then there are people who set-up activities so that they can materially profit from them… Or to help them with their personal difficulties… I even had one guy who started philosophy lectures from my stuff (while claiming implicitly it was his…)


  3. SDM Says:

    So the blog is a place to vent frustrations. The insights are most interesting though sometimes they seem quite obtuse. Even so, there are many progressives who are like-minded and sympathetic to your anti-pluto message. These progressives see the Democratic establishment as thoroughly corrupted and are seeking to either change the party or start a third party to establish the needed reforms.

    Regardless, keep posting. The historical analogies are appreciated.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks, SDM! Sorry for being “quite obtuse” sometimes, but that can’t be avoided. It’s better than being always obvious! Any statement is finite, with only few symbols; reality can be infinitely more complex. There are 200 official real or potential cause for the Fall of Rome, for example. If, in passing, I allude to plague, that could sound obtuse, but to detail the plagues of Rome would take a 1000 pages book…

      The Pluto problem is intrinsic to civilization, it’s nothing evolution has prepared us for. So-called “democracies” have not anticipated it (the Romans anticipated it best, yet they failed, from it…)

      Venting frustrations is great, we should all do it, I do it myself. However, what I saw in Fall 2016 over the Internet (not so much on this site, where all existing commenters are highly civilized!) was something very different, a failure of basic humanity. It’s still ongoing. The New York Times keeps insisting they are not censoring me, whereas they sent programs to make my computer behave according to commands they send (so I am scared to open their web pages…) That’s just an example. A number of people I knew and whom I introduced to politics, and are working in the (so-called) “Democratic” machine or media associated to it, proved as delirious as bad Trump followers. Today Krugman was saying there is cholera in Porto Rico, and insulting Trump for it, in the official NYT system.

      Ultimately, it’s not a problem of “right” or “left”, “progressive” or “conservative”. It seems to be a question of using cognition to satisfy a will to domination…
      Anyway, thanks again! I am doing Roman history backwards, up the flow from consequences to causes, as the salmon goes up the stream…


  4. SDM Says:

    Unfortunately the many so-called progressives are basically corrupted by the money they are paid by corporate media. One must seek out the news from the internet only broadcasts and journalists. Corporate media is bound by the donor class and is highly vigilant of any truth telling getting out to the people.
    Occasionally someone slips up but usually gets back in line before they go too far and get axed from TV. Anytime someone reveals the truth, they tend to disappear from “mainstream” media.
    The power of money runs deep and the consolidation of the media only makes it worse. NYT times, WaPo, etc., are just as bad. Thoroughly corrupt propaganda machine. Sanders campaign was a victim of this. The rot in the DNC was exposed and still hilarious got the popular vote. Crazy times indeed.


  5. Bill Gorrell Says:

    “All media people use to make up their minds, is owned by plutocrats; one can’t have democracy when minds of people are made up by masters.”

    Bill Gorrell: Edward Bernays was the most evil man who ever lived. He’s responsible for much more death, destruction and insanity than Hitler.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      I confess I never heard of Edwards Bernays before. Yes, he helped tobacco, United Fruit, etc. He was twice nephew of Freud, and turned down the Nazis, though (he said)… Here is from Wiki:

      In 1920 Bernays worked on the first NAACP convention in Atlanta, Georgia. His campaign was considered successful because there was no violence at the convention. His campaign focused on the important contributions of African-Americans to Whites living in the South. He later received an award from the NAACP for his contribution.

      Bernays also worked on behalf of many non-profit institutions and organizations. These included, to name just a few, the Committee on Publicity Methods in Social Work (1926–1927), the Jewish Mental Health Society (1928), the Book Publishers Research Institute (1930–1931), the New York Infirmary for Women and Children (1933), the Committee for Consumer Legislation (1934), the Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy (1940),[32][33][34] the Citywide Citizens’ Committee on Harlem (1942), and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (1954–1961).

      In 1920, Bernays organized the publication of Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis in the U.S., sending royalty money back to his uncle in Vienna. Freud turned down further offers at promotion such as a possible lecture tour an invitation to write 3,000-word newspaper columns, for $1,000 each, on topics such as “The Wife’s Mental Place in the Home” and “What a Child Thinks About.”[35]

      “When a person would first meet Bernays,” says Scott Cutlip, “it would not be long until Uncle Sigmund would be brought into the conversation.


  6. MARX: For Tyranny All Along. Why Fighting Plutocracy Is Better. | Patrice Ayme's Thoughts Says:

    […] https://patriceayme… […]


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