Should Caesar Have Been Killed?
By David Henderson
Is this a day to celebrate or to mourn the death of Julius Caesar? That’s the question for the Ides of March. Here’s what Wikipedia says about his policies:
When the triumph was over, Caesar set forth to passing an unprecedented legislative agenda. He ordered a census be taken, which forced a reduction in the grain dole. Then he mandated that jurors could only come from the senate or the equestrian ranks. Next he passed a sumptuary law which restricted the purchase of certain luxuries. After this, he passed a law that rewarded families for having many children, in an effort to speed along the repopulation of Italy. Then he passed a law which outlawed professional guilds, except those of ancient foundation, since many of these were subversive political clubs. He then passed a term limit law applicable to governors. Next he passed a debt restructuring law, which ultimately eliminated about a fourth of all debts owed. The Forum of Caesar, with its Temple of Venus Genetrix, was then built among many other public works. Caesar also tightly regulated the purchase of state-subsidised grain and reduced the number of recipients to a fixed number, all of whom were entered into a special register. From 47 to 44 BC he made plans for the distribution of land to about 15,000 of his veterans. The most important change, however, was his reform of the calendar. The calendar at the time was regulated by the movement of the moon, and this had resulted in a great deal of disorder. Caesar replaced this calendar with the Egyptian calendar, which was regulated by the sun. He set the length of the year to 365.25 days by adding an intercalary/leap day at the end of February every fourth year. To bring the calendar into alignment with the seasons, he decreed that three extra months be inserted into 46 BC (the ordinary intercalary month at the end of February, and two extra months after November). Thus, the Julian Calendar opened on January 1, 45 BC. This calendar is almost identical to the current Western calendar.
Shortly before his assassination, he passed a few more reforms. He established a police force, appointed officials to carry out his land reforms, and ordered the rebuilding of Carthage and Corinth. He also extended Latin rights throughout the Roman world, and then abolished the tax system and reverted to the earlier version which allowed cities to collect tribute however they wanted rather than needing Roman middlemen. His assassination prevented further and larger schemes. He wanted to build an unprecedented temple to Mars, a huge theater, and a library on the scale of the Library of Alexandria. He also wanted to convert Ostia to a major port, and cut a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth. Militarily, he wanted to conquer the Dacians, Parthians, and avenge the loss at Carrhae. Thus, he instituted a massive mobilization.
Now, changing the calendar: that’s serious stuff. The writers of Wikipedia would have you believe that that’s more important than trying to conquer other people.
By libertarian standards, there appear to some good and some bad. My quick take is mainly bad. What do you think? Reasons (stated briefly) appreciated.