I now know how Rome fell. Historians have been arguing for the better part of 1500 years (since it regrouped after the fall), for the exact reasons why. But I know.
It was the insipid TV Tax.
Well, not quite exactly, but close.
After the Goths, the Barbarians, the Despot Emperors and the Popes ran off with pretty much everything there was to run off with, leaving a few dozen cattle grazing in the Forum, a few tax authorities and what was left of the store owners, decided to pretty much pillage the population to make up for the losses by overcharging and overtaxing the populace until they simply threw themselves in the Tiber or ran off to Gaul, where corporate and church greed promised great rewards.
At that time, Rome was reduced from a peak of 1.5 M people, to about 25,000 (although who was left to take the census, I’d like to know.) Trying to make up for the tremendous fall in revenues, the Romans soon found themselves with a faulty postal service, taxes on all the roads leading to Rome, taxes on hay for their horses, taxes per chariot wheel (if they owned one), taxes on candles for lighting, and prices on basic foodstuffs, namely bread & pasta, through the roof. Salaries, of course, were nonexistent, having plunged into subsistence living standards.
Bandits of course were making out, like…well, bandits, which was the most successful enterprise in the country.
And in all this, I’m sure that encased somewhere in the Virgin Vaults was a papyrus scroll which set forth the tax on listening to public speeches in the forum.
Even if you weren’t exactly listening, but just happened to be waiting for your husband, or turning tricks, you’d be taxed for having been in earshot.
Fortunately for us, there were as many tax evaders back then as now, for without them, Rome would never have made it to the Renaissance.
Every so often, the RAI State Television, in cohoots with the tax authorities, unravels an old parchment of their own. Citing a 1938 law (well before TV was ever even imagined), they are setting out to recoup all the losses in TV Tax revenues from all the people who claim not to have one, or just don’t cough it up.
They state that every household must be taxed if they have any sort of gadget that can receive any sort of image; that means, cell phones and pcs, macs and iPods.
A few years back, the tax was 200 euro (already more than double its pre-euro level). This year, households starting receiving bills for over 600 euro, along with letters threatening to put ‘the boot’ on cars and garnishees on wages if they didn’t pay up. Consumer’s Unions are fortunately on the attack, having filed a formal complaint for “abuse of office”.
It is hard to fathom the reaches of this kind of thought process. But perhaps the tax authorities can take a cue from a brethren, Karl Marx. As he so astutely paraphrased,
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”