Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Economony of Byzantium, State Intervention and Voluntary Exchange: Part Five – Conclusions

For Part One go here

For Part Two go here

For Part Three go here

For Part Four go here

Finally, what conclusions may we gather about Byzantine economy and society?

Byzantium originally started out as a continuation of the Late Roman Empire of Constantine I the Great (r. 306-337), so much her own citizens, despite shunning Latin and practicing forms of Christianity which diverged more and more from Western European Catholicism, called themselves Romaioi, Romans. The Late Roman Empire had nothing of the prosperous realm of Trajan described by Pliny the Younger. It was much poorer, much less secure and much less free. The State was everywhere, meddling in trade, pricing and religion. There was of course an exception to this rule, namely the Middle East: Syria, Palestine, Egypt etc. While Europe descended deeper and deeper into the interminable cycle of civil wars, the Middle East was an area of relative stability.
While the Galliae and Hiberia were ravaged from end to end by marauding armies and robbed of their accumulated wealth by ravenous tax collectors, Syria, Egypt and the other Middle Eastern lands remained relatively peaceful and stable.
The Arabs to the South were usually well disposed towards Rome (mostly thanks to generous “subsidies”) and on this frontier only one power faced the Empire: Sassanid Persia, heir to the ancient and highly advanced Iranic civilization.

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The Economy of Byzantium, State Intervention and Free Exchange: Part Four-Monetary Developments

For Part One go here

For Part Two go here

For Part Three go here

This penultimate installment will concern a topic which is the source of many debates in the academic community and many myths among laymen: monetary developments.

It has often been written Byzantine coinage was remarkably stable throughout most of the Empire’s history. This is incorrect.

Byzantium followed originally the old Diocletianic pattern of coinage: gold and silver coins were struck in Constantinople and the prefectures of Thessalonika, Rome (later Ravenna) and Carthage, bronze coins in the same places as well as the diocesan capitals (Antioch, Kyzikos, Nikomedia and Alexandria). These were supplemented by a few other for regions deemed important for various reasons (Catania and Syracuse for Sicily, Constantia for Cyprus and Cherson) and by temporary mints which issued coins for military purposes (examples are Isaura, Alexandretta and Seleukia).

This scheme was disrupted by the disasters of the VII century: the Persians and then the Arabs ravaged the Eastern regions and North Africa, the Slavs took the Balkans and the Lombard overrun Italy while the Popes in Rome began to assert their complete independence. In the meantime the plague raged throughout the whole Mediterranean and the Middle East, hitting highly urbanized Byzantium and Persia, already weakened by a decades long war, the hardest.

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Inescapable Ignorance & Open Discourse

I find the most important aspect of Hayek’s work to be the extent of individual ignorance. All disciplines are full of stunning complexities and many phenomena which would elude our understanding if they were not pointed out to us by others. Omniscience is forever denied to man, and therefore it is foolish for anyone to be perfectly confident in their understanding.

Hayek

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Raico on Klaus and the Czechs

The LRC Blog publishes Ralph Raico’s appraisal of Vaclav Klaus:

Sorry to have to disagree with a couple of my LRC pals, but as far as I’m concerned Vaclav Klaus was no hero of freedom. In the mid-1940s, the Wehrmacht withdrew from Bohemia and Moravia, and the Czechs, who hadn’t uttered a peep (some resistance fighters had to be flown in from Britain), suddenly found their virility. Led by Edvard Benes, all Germans were expelled from their ancestral lands in the Sudetenland, from Prague, and elsewhere. “Czechoslovakia” from the beginning was a fraud cooked up at Versailles; it contained more Germans than Slovaks, and the Slovaks were discriminated against to the advantage of the Czechs, as was the Hungarian minority (expelled with the Germans). Probably around one and a half million Germans–almost all women, children, and old men–died in the brutal expulsion. Some years ago, the Czech president, Vaclav Havel, apologized for the crime, defying public opinion. Vaclav Klaus ostentatiously refused to do so. So, no, Klaus was no freedom fighter, just another amoral center-right politico.

Klaus

Raico posits Klaus is an amoral figure because, unlike Vaclav Havel he refused to apologize for the expulsion of the Germans from Czechoslovakia when Klaus was 4-years old. I must admit I am not entirely clear on the details of this apology business. Why was it expected Klaus would apologize when his predecessor, Havel had already done so? Is one time enough, or are these apologies something the Czechs are obliged to issue periodically, every so-and-so years?

More to the point, absent actual discontinuation of injustice, what difference does an apology make? How come the amoral Klaus may be contrasted to Havel when neither did anything to enable the expelled Germans to reclaim their property? Suppose you were driven from your home. Suppose that after a while the people who drove you away apologized to you, but still did not allow you to return. (“We’re sorry for continuing to keep you from your home. Please forgive us.”) Would you feel the apology had partially corrected the injustice you were suffering, or would it just increase your anger? Would you even consider it an apology at all? Since it is clear you would not, it follows the only real difference between Klaus and Havel was that Klaus did not insult the intelligence of expellee-Germans with apologizing for something he was obviously not sorry about.

In fact such apologies by heads of states are problematic in themselves. In his apology Havel stated he was apologizing on the behalf of the Czech people. This reeks of a ridiculous level of pretentiousness and self-importance. The only valid apology a stateperson may make is one on the behalf of the state itself. But they should never be encouraged to appoint themselves the spokesperson for an entire people, least of all by libertarians such as Raico. Havel could not speak for the Czechs as a whole and it was outrageous of him to claim otherwise. Furthermore, the ultimate logic of such an apology, made in the name of an entire people, implies the guilt of the people as a whole (regardless of any caveats and disclaimers to the contrary in the statement itself). It implies the notion of collective responsibility, which is something that Raico has (correctly) argued against in the context of the crimes of Nazi Germany and the German people.

The Czechs

Raico writes that the Czechs “hadn’t uttered a peep” during German occupation, but when “in the mid-1940s, the Wehrmacht withdrew” then “suddenly found their virility” and went about expelling the Germans. It is safe to say stating the Czechs “hadn’t uttered a peep” is a very uncharitable characterization of the level of Czech resistance to the German occupation. The Czechs offered less resistance to the forces of the occupation than some occupied nations, but more than others. On May 5th 1945 the Czech resistance launched an effort to eject the Wehrmacht from Prague and fought it on its own for four days until the Red Army rolled in on May 9th.* Altogether some 5,700 Czechs were killed in Bohemia in May 1945.** Some of these were killed in German reprisals, as civilian victims of German artillery or bombs, or were executed as alleged collaborators, but many of them perished in combat as members of the Czech resistance fighting the armed forces of Nazi Germany. If one is so inclined, one may cavalierly dismiss this level of resistance as not arising to a level of a “peep”, but if so, it seems to me such a severe judge of the Czechs better be certain that in similar circumstances he would have done more. Failing such conviction a measure of caution, and even respect, would seem to be more appropriate.

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Market Theory Made Easy: Part 2

The wait is finally over!

Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Innovation

In Part I we looked at a certain world without uncertainty, yet this is not the world in which we live. No one knows whether or not a productive process will really yield a profit because no one can be certain what consumers will demand in the future. We call the people who take risks by starting and funding businesses “Entrepreneurs”. They are the movers and shakers of the market economy.

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A Neodoxian Week

Well things over here at VR have been rather quiet lately. Since I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I’d like to over the past few months, I’ve decided to help fill the gap by working on a number of articles I hope to publish over the course of this week. The first of these articles, as you can see, has already been published. These articles will mainly focus upon some heavier stuff I’ve been doing with economics, as well as some lighter articles dealing with socialism and left-libertarianism.

So check in over the course of the next week to enjoy some of my wonderful articles as well as any other materials published by some of the great authors here at VR. Thank you all for your reading and I hope you continue to support the Voluntaryist Reader.

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-Neodoxy

The Inherent Contradiction of Democratic Socialism

Democratic Socialism and Democratic Efficiency

This is a basic argument that attempts to expose a contradiction at the heart of all forms of radical democratic socialism; namely Marxism, left-libertarianism, and anarcho-socialism. The argument can be extended to criticize any explicitly pro-democratic ideology, yet it is especially devastating against all democratic forms of socialism that fully reject capitalism. This argument should not be interpreted as a criticism of authoritarian anti-democratic socialism such as the form of governance practiced in the U.S.S.R, Communist China, and practically every other explicitly “socialist” country to ever exist, nor should it be considered an argument against “moderate” democratic socialism such as modern day Sweden and Norway.

Vote

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