Monday, January 23

Ships and Silver, Taxes and Tribute: A Fiscal History of Archaic Athens

So I'm hoping to start another Phd this fall at UCL son. Where this professor teaches. It's got a great history department. Completely new subject in history so let's see how that pans out. 
But funny thing happened last week. I posted something about how Israel imposed price controls on books. And with the sad and completely predicable collapse of the book industry in Israel. Great idea, to increase prices so that authors can live but basic economics son, people would switch from books to toys or games. With the result that the authors are now in a worse situation. And I said that price controls usually end up fucking up the market place like rent controls. 
One labour supporter took umbrage at it. And said that's not true. When I pointed out that we have been doing rent controls since 1915 and every time we did that, the availability of housing has gone down. And then he said, economists do not live in the real world. 
Quite a curious statement. The economic illiteracy is about as expected in this election phase but to say I'm not going to learn from history or economics is not even illiteracy but seriously gobsmacking. 
This book talks about how Athens used taxation for its wars. And that also gives you an indication why I hate wars. They raise taxes and lead to some of the most unproductive use of human capital. I'm reading about Athens 2500 years or so later and its fiscal situation and shaking my head. 
History is a vast early warning system son and as you can see from the election, our politicians and our fellow citizens do not want to learn. We are going to be in a world of hurt now. Be prepared for the government to grab more of our money. 

Hans van Wees. Ships and Silver, Taxes and Tribute: A Fiscal History of Archaic Athens. London: I. B. Tauris, 2013. 240 pp. $90.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-78076-686-7.
Reviewed by Nikolaus Overtoom (Louisiana State University)
Published on H-War (January, 2015)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
Institutional Power and Public Finance in Archaic Athens
Hans van Wees’s Ships and Silver, Taxes and Tribute: A Fiscal History of Archaic Athens argues that the financial and institutional advances associated with classical Athens were developments of the archaic period. The book charts the rise of institutional power in archaic Athens with a focus on public finance. Van Wees is at odds with many of the generally accepted historiographical traditions of the fiscal history of Athens. His revisionist history uses, as Paul Millett calls it, “new fiscal history.” Van Wees reconsiders literary evidence from authors, such as Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Aristotle, and supplements them with archaeological evidence. He concludes that the accounts of later authors either were biased toward making classical Athens seem more spectacular by overlooking the archaic period or were anachronistic. The scope of the work roughly ranges from the reforms of Solon in 594 BCE to the transfer of the war chest of the Delian League to Athens in 454 BCE. In seven chapters, he discusses the obstacles in studying archaic Greece, the background to public finance in archaic Greece, Athenian financial institutions, public spending, public revenue, and the media of public finance. A brief concluding chapter, a short appendix on Persian naval expansion, a sizable bibliography, and a helpful select index of passages accompany the work. Van Wees is Grote Professor of Ancient History at University College London and is the author of several works on ancient Greece.

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