- Apr 2018
- Upland, Sweden
I am not saying the Roman system didn't encourage the kind of behaviour you're speaking about, but I do think that it's easy to be blind to the advantages of their system and the downsides of our's. What is it that makes a certain behaviour be "corrupt"? To me there seems to be quite a lot of large scale behaviours that we moderns have essentially formalized as parts of our political systems, and we call them "checks and balances" or "party interests" or "lobbying". All of these things phenomena might be different but what they have in common is that they are some kind of concession to the social reality that people and groups are self-interested, and that people with power also risk taking that self-interest and screw everybody else over unless there is some kind of way in which these interests can be legitimately channeled. So, to restate the examples from my previous post: If in a parliamentary democracy the "chief-whip" makes the individual members "follow the party line", or a party leader does something which he knows is not in the national-interest (or more commonly, refrains from doing something that is in the national interest but would rock the boat) but which would make his constituents, donors, party members or the party elite happy.... what would you call that kind of behaviour? I would call it corruption. Maybe it's not corruption in the legal sense of being for example bribery, but it is still a bunch of self-interested assholes sitting around refusing to their duty to the public and only caring abour their own personal or group gain, to the detriment of the citizens and taxpayers of the country.Less susceptible? The whole system operated on a form of public largesse that invited corrupt behaviour. People went to their local patrican, senator or not, to ask for favours, money, or simply 'lick his rear'. The patron, for his part, didn't give money away for nothing, expecting compliance or favours. Since this form of feudal control was based on individual relationships and was conducted in the atriums of the patrons private homes (exactly what Nero didn't like for instance), the advantage to the patron was that private deals could be concluded and information traded. There was no regulation of this behaviour. And they understood corruption very well. They had laws against it, and those found to be corrupt were in danger of punishment.
Romans thought of 'the state' as the city of Rome, not its empire. They had in the way of constitution but instead relied on their system of law. something Romans were generally very proud of. I do agree that Romans had far less awareness of spacial division, but their awareness of social relationships was more finely honed than our own, and fundamental to their society.
Isn't that the actual essence of corruption, and not whehter or not a transaction has taken place, or whether or not something fits the formal requirements for "transparency"?
I am sure the Romans had these issues as well, but my idea is that they seem to have been much less hypocritical about these things than we are. Maybe I'm wrong though - as I said, I'm not an expert on this. It's just my general feeling. I'm curious, how would you say that the Romans understood corruption? How did the laws look, more specifically? I believe they had laws for mishandling public funds and not doing your job properly, and they had laws against treason obviously - but what kind of laws did they have against corruption, and how did it they work?