Taxing the Rich in the Just City: Cicero and Dionysius on Fiscal Fairness
Andrew Monson, NYU
November 4, 2022 · 12:00 pm—1:30 pm · 209 Scheide Caldwell
Program in the Ancient World
In 43 BC the Roman senate decided to levy tributum, a direct tax on property, on citizens for the first time since its suspension in 167 BC. Roman citizens were once again confronted with the question of fiscal fairness: who should bear the burden on behalf of the republic? Cicero recognized the urgency in 43 BC and was disappointed when his wealthy peers did not contribute their fair share. In general, however, he considered property rights to be natural or pre-fiscal, so the state’s purpose was to protect them. Cicero’s normative political theory was, in this respect, less consistent with what I call an autonomous fiscal state than his Stoic models. He and his peers in Rome’s oligarchy celebrated King Servius Tullius for entrenching property rights into the constitution by means of the census. Cicero’s contemporary, the Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus, on the other hand, presents a more democratic version of the Servian reforms and articulates a compensatory justification of taxation by an autonomous fiscal state.
Andrew Monson is an ancient historian interested in Greek relations with the Near East, the Hellenistic kingdoms (especially Ptolemaic Egypt), and the eastern Roman Empire, with interests in economic and social history as well as political theory and institutions. His publications cover topics such as administration, religion, private associations, land tenure, taxation, agriculture, law, economic development, and social relations. His books include: From the Ptolemies to the Romans, and Agriculture and Taxation in Early Ptolemaic Egypt and he recently edited a volume with W. Scheidel, Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern States, for Cambridge University Press and is now writing a book about taxation in the ancient world.
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