What's Next -- Dreaming of Mussolini?

Violet at Reclusive Leftist writes in an article entitled, "Dreaming of Diocletian":

When the Roman Empire was broken, Diocletian fixed it. He completely revamped the imperial government, discarding centuries of tradition in favor of a new organizational structure designed to meet the challenges of the day. You can do stuff like that when you're an emperor. It was sort of a one-man Constitutional Convention.

I think of Diocletian whenever I contemplate the political mess in this country.

Let's make sure we understand what Diocletian did.  What she calls "fixing the Roman Empire" was in fact the imposition of a new level of autocracy.  The best modern equivalent would be if Putin were reunify the old Soviet Union through military force and repression.  Would we celebrate this? No?  Then why do we celebrate when it happened 18 centuries ago?

Certainly since Augustus, the Empire had been ruled autocratically, but there were checks on the Emperor's power, not the least of which was the fact that the Empire simply didn't have the bureaucracy or communications for real command and control governance.  Further, the Emperors had at least maintained a facade, and sometimes a reality, of being a servant of the people - calling themselves Princeps , or something like the "first man."

Diocletian changed all of that.  He demanded people call him Dominus and Deus, meaning Lord and God.  But Lord is a poor translation of Dominus - literally dominus meant master to a slave.  The Empire became a nation of slaves with one master, Diocletian.  Any who approached Diocletian for audience had to approach on hands and knees with face averted.  If Diocletian ruled in ones favor, he was allowed to crawl on hands and knees and kiss the hem of the Emporer's tunic.

Diocletian was faced with an enormous economic problem - the debasement of a currency by generations of emperors who spent more than they had (sounds familiar).  Instead of forcing the hard changes to re-establish a sound currency, Diocletian dealt with the rampant inflation from the debased currency by setting maximum prices for every good and service in the Empire, with violations punishable by death.

When the inevitable shortages occurred (as happen whenever the government enforces a price ceiling), Diocletian dealt with the shortages by forcing key businessmen (bakers, sausage makers, etc.) to remain in business (can you say directive 10-289?)  Further, he mandated that all children of these men must remain in the same profession perpetually.  If your father was a baker, by law you were to be one as well.  He also did this for a number of underpaid government jobs that no one wanted - making them hereditary so people of the future would be forced to fill them.

Diocletian also had a tax problem.  Much of his taxes came from property taxes on farm land.  The tax was attached as a fixed amount to certain pieces of land.  When those values got too high, the occupants abandoned the land and moved to the city, and no one was there to pay the tax.  Diocletian took a census and forced peasants to return to the land of their birthplace, and forced them to remain in perpetuity on certain plots of land and then pay the taxes on that land to the government  (eventually these taxes morphed into rents to the local government noble in charge).

If you see the origins of much of the worst of the middle ages in all of this -- serfs tied to the land, paying rents to the master, with hereditary professional guilds in the towns -- you are not far off.

When I dream of Diocletian, all I get is a nightmare.

PS- Which is really what the quoted author wants, some sort of fascism by females.

  • http://evilredscandi.blogspot.com Evil Red Scandi

    As I always say:

    Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.

    Those who learn history are also doomed to repeat it, because we're badly outnumbered. But at least we know how the story ends.

  • http://evilredscandi.blogspot.com Evil Red Scandi

    Anyone who hasn't already should scan the comments of the linked post. Not the comments themselves, which are the usual leftist drivel - just the names. Nothing like a lengthy discourse between Violet Socks, Aspen, Northwest rain, riverdaughter, Mojave Wolf (no relation to Coyote, I'm certain), Kookaburra, hipparchia, octogalore, etc.

  • Anonymous Mike

    The amusing part is that she has added an annotation to her post saying essentially I was kidding and denigrating all of those who took her Diocletian-reference seriously.

    There are two ways of looking at her post. Either it started off as the old daydream of Queen/King for a day and here's what I would do and throwing in obscure historical reference to make her self look smart... we typically get over that royalty phase by the time we are out of college

    Or...

    It was a Tom Friedmaneseque comment - how great it is to have an authoritarian dictatorship for quickly making decisions that I find favorable.

    Actually the proper response to her is basically along the lines Warren suggests in that Diocletian eliminated centuries-old limitations and assumed god-like powers in order to rearrange social relations that stood int he way of his will. Gosh do we have any examples of that in the 20th Century? So yep Warren hit the nail on the head - Diocletian is just an obscure enough reference so you can daydream using his name in way you couldn't using say Mussolini or Mao (well I guess you could use Mao if you were Anita Dunn)

    She got cute and got caught and now she claims we are all stupid

    Nope Dicoletian is a major league creep. Just finished part of an audio book where the author makes the point that Diocletian unlike previous emperors launched a truly systematic persecution of the Christians that would have finished the job if it was sustained beyond Diocletian's death - the author never really went into why he had it in for them beyond the need for a scapegoat but you can fill in the rest of the picture

  • me

    Ah :)

    You know, I used to miss critical journalism. I am glad to see it alive and well in the blogosphere. Thank you, Coyote!

  • Dr. T

    "Which is really what the quoted author wants, some sort of fascism by females."

    Sounds like my household where my wife and two daughters reign.

  • Alex

    This is by far the most disgusting quote:

    "women need to build an Underground Railroad of abortion providers and patient transportation (working with Planned Parenthood, for example) so we’re not just at the mercy of the goddamn Democrats. Enough with the blackmail!"

    Agree or disagree with legalized abortion, one has to admit that the comparison to slavery and blatant disregard for the law of land is shameful and sad. Feminists want a government that will prevent harms to women and society in general, but when they want to commit harms for their own personal gains, they instantly turn into rabid libertarians.

    I should add that the women's rights argument for legalized abortion is a joke. Women are actually more likely to be pro-life then men are. Shouldn't women have the right to choose what kind of laws they want to have?

    http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2009/11/supplemental-stuff-on-female-leftism.html

  • jmmllr

    Reading subsequent posts, Violet indicates that she was whimsically referring to a way to change our system to help serve feminine interests, (Diocletian was able to institute sweeping changes to an outmoded system) and no, she didn't mean that we should go towards autocratic rule.

    The post and comments are here rather snotty, indicating that she is stupid and deserves to be put in her place. Of course she couldn't be smart enough to know what Diocletian really did, right? That is what is being assumed here. I've read Violet for awhile (and I read this blog too), and Violet is not stupid.

  • perlhaqr

    Alex: Shouldn’t women have the right to choose what kind of laws they want to have?

    NO!

    Why the hell does everyone have this stupid idea that they should be allowed to tell other people how to behave if they aren't harming anyone? What you're really saying is that 51% of women should be able to tell 49% of women what to do. Why can't the 51% just behave as they want to behave, and leave the 49% alone?

    What if the 49% grew to 51% and voted to force abortions on the group that disapproves of them? Would you still be squalling about the "law of the land" and "giving women the right to choose what kind of laws they want to have"?

  • DrTorch

    Some referenced this lecture a few months ago, if it was from this board, please take due credit.
    It's particularly appropos.

    http://mises.org/story/3663

    perlhaqr:
    Why the hell does everyone have this stupid idea that they should be allowed to tell other people how to behave if they aren’t harming anyone?

    If you're talking about abortion, it most certainly is guaranteed to harm at least one person. QED.

  • Dr.D

    "I think of Diocletian whenever I contemplate the political mess in this country."

    Sounds like she is right in tune with Rahm Emmanuel, Axelrod, and even the Liar in Chief. That is the sort of thinking they all reflect, whether they bother to express it in those terms or not.

  • http://southbend7.blogspot.com/ SB7

    Certainly since Augustus, the Empire had been ruled autocratically, but there were checks on the Emperor’s power, not the least of which was the fact that the Empire simply didn’t have the bureaucracy or communications for real command and control governance. Further, the Emperors had at least maintained a facade, and sometimes a reality, of being a servant of the people – calling themselves Princeps , or something like the “first man.”

    Domitian also abandoned use of Princeps, stopped paying even cursory lip service to the authority of the Senate, declared the seat of government to be wherever he personally was, etc. Things got turned back towards the Rule of Law under the Five Good Emperors enough that Diocletian got to thoroughly screw things up again, though.

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  • the other coyote

    DrTorch beat me to it, but I've got to second the statement.

    perlhaqr said:
    Why the hell does everyone have this stupid idea that they should be allowed to tell other people how to behave if they aren’t harming anyone?

    Um, isn't killing someone harming them?

    Question back to you: Why the hell does everyone have this stupid idea that they should be allowed to screw anybody they want whenever they want without taking any responsibility for their actions or bearing any consequences?

    As my grandma used to say, play with fire, you gonna get burned.

  • perlhaqr

    Given that the timeline for ensoulment of the fetus is still, as yet, subject to debate, you are assuming facts not in evidence when you claim that abortion is "killing someone".

    As for your question: your desire to punish people for engaging in behaviour you find distasteful is just as obnoxious as when anyone else does it. Imposing your values on others when those people aren't harming anyone (and consensual sex certainly doesn't count) is just the same statist crap that gets us where we are today.

  • http://last-waltz.com G.G. Vandagriff

    Fascinating! I began my novel The Last Waltz (http://last-waltz.com)about the decline and fall of the Austrian Empire and Austria's descent into fascism 40 years ago. I finally grew up enough to finish and publish it this year. Little did I know that it would actually prove to be topical. When we're searching for a hero to rescue us, we have to make really certain we know his/her agenda. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf for crying out loud.

  • Elliot

    Hey, Vandagriff;
    Enough static (couldn't resist). The Mein Kampf of the new century will be written by those on trial in New York for their actions on 9/11. Stay tuned.

    E

  • Rick Caird

    In the end, Violet is arguing that, somehow, she can remake government into her image of what government should be. But, she seems blithely unaware that her image could be turned against her because, by definition, she is giving her image of government even more power than it has now.

    Rick

  • http://www.thedjbay.com Xealot

    Diocletian wasn't really a "Roman" emperor. Rome as we think of it died in the crisis of the third century. What emerged was the precursor to the Byzantine Empire. Though Constantine would go on record as the founder of that state, it was Diocletian who set those wheels in motion.

    It was an old-style Eastern state in the mold of the old Persian Empires, where the ruler was a God, or the appointee of God. Only the facade was Roman, and even that wore away eventually. Byzantium gave birth to the Russian Empire through contacts in the 9th - 15th centuries. It was the land of the Czars (a title they inherited from Byzantium) whose architecture, culture, titles and even names were distinctly Byzantine. That, in turn, gave way to Communism. Always, the divine right of Kings was there until simply replaced by the "will of the party."

    One might say Diocletian was the first Communist dictator or at the very least is the first man on the road that lead to that sort of thing. He was one of the first to realize that it is possible to bankrupt a country, enslave its citizenry and still be hailed as a great man by idiots millenia later.

    Violet dreams of the same, only with a great Feminist replacing the traditionally male dictator. The evolution of stupidity continues.