.Your Letters, Week of March 8

When in Rome

Ancient Roman democracy had curbs on individual economic behavior. They had a highly placed government official called the “censor,” who had two responsibilities: to enact a census and to watch out for wealthy people who were acting irresponsibly with their wealth.

One historian writes, “The Roman Republic labored all throughout its history to curb conspicuous expenditure.” An example was the elaborateness of funerals. Kings may have buried their family members in pyramids, but democracies buried them in simple ways to show one person was just as good as another. In Rome, personal accounts of adult “spendthrifts” were turned over to legal guardians until they could learn how to deal with income and wealth.

Many young American athletes, media stars, Hollywood starlets and studs, investment speculators, drug lords, corporate executives, lottery winners, heirs and heiresses come into a horde of cash they have little ability to manage, so they spend like bandits and set horrible examples for the rest of the country. Rome didn’t tolerate that because they knew it led to monarchy and aristocracy. America doesn’t care.

Kimball Shinkoskey

North Bay


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