Sun, 27 April 2014
Professor Ian Morris of Stanford University knows how to sell his work. He has just published a book the central thesis of which is that war, over the long range, is good. The implication is that we should want more of it, because war brings peace.
He has written the short version in an article published by the Washington Post last week. His logic isn't hard to follow. War leads to to expansion, which leads to empire, which leads to law, which leads to order, which is ... well ... peace. What holds it all together is economic interest.
Empires were established to enrich those who ran the base countries. Romans wanted to tax dominated subjects. It was messy, but it worked. They put taxing franchises up for local bid in the conquered provinces. Those individuals who paid enough for the privilege were given their quotas. At tax time, they sent the required amount to Rome. If they collected more, they were allowed to pocket the difference.
That pretty much explains how tax collectors are viewed in the New Testament, and why the fact that Jesus would occasionally commune with them was a potent accusation. Tax collectors were not popular people.
But empires also benefited from trade. Trade routes were protected from lawlessness. Trade had the unintended effect, from the viewpoint of the rulers, of benefiting both sides of each bargain. The Empire was enriched, and so were those in conquered territories.