From the Mises store:

How Government in the Ancient World Tried to Deal with Modern Problems

What a fantastic way to learn ancient history: via the parallels with modern times.

H.J. Haskell was a journalist with a huge background in ancient history, and here he does what everyone has wanted done. He details the amazing catalog of government interventions in old Rome that eventually brought the empire down. He shows the spending, the inflating, the attempt to fix prices and raise wage, the infrastructure boondoggles, the gross displays of public entertainment, the welfare scams, and much more.

At every step he draws a parallel with modern times. Modern governments also destroy the money to fund the state, extend vast military empires that are unmanageable, try to control the market order, and attempt to rig political decision making in order to buy off the population.

The comparisons between then and now generate ominous lessons for our times.

This book was a smash hit when it first came out in 1939, and yet it went out of print, and hasn’t been in print in half a century.

It seems fascinating and the PDF of the book is available here.

Update: From the conclusion:

The fundamental modern social problem is the problem that Rome failed to solve. It is the problem of building a unified yet free society, with decent minimum standards of living. A society so intelligently and justly organized that there is no menacing submerged class. A society that provides reasonable incentives for the free rise of a general staff of competent managers whose ranks are always open to fresh recruits. A society that develops a social pressure under which leaders accept an enlightened and far-sighted view of their responsibilities. This is the society which the long experience of Rome sets as a goal before the modern world.

As ever, it seems, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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