29 January 2009

The Romans as Inspiration in the Banking Crisis

Should Barnabas Francus hold the next hearing of his House banking committee atop this cliff?
Tom Ricks notes the similarities between the current financial crisis and the financial crisis of the Roman Empire in 33 CE.

It appears that regulations limiting the amount of interest charged caused a collapse of lending, and from there it became a collapse of property values.

Finally, Emperor Tiberius disperses something over 100 million sesterces to the banks with explicit instructions to lend to anyone who can provide collateral that is double the amount borrowed.

It is a little different, it's not an insolvency problem, it's an illiquidity problem, and as I have noted before, the prescription is rather different.

That being said, one of the things that Tiberius did does look rather appealing:
Tiberius also raised funds by accusing Sextus Marius, the richest man in Spain, of incest -- almost certainly a trumped-up charge -- and then having him thrown headlong from the Tarpeian Rock (see below), a cliff at the edge of Rome's Capitoline Hill. "Tiberius kept his gold mines for himself," Tacitus notes.
I want a bigger cliff though.


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