1. Rome needed tax money. The
government needed to pay the legions, and build roads, sewers,
aqueducts, and arenas. They needed to pay for the welfare program put in
place to help feed the growing number of poor in Rome. They needed
a lot of money, and they needed more and more as Rome grew.
To get this money, Rome used tax farmers.
To become a tax farmer, all you had to do was pay a flat fee to the
Senate of the Roman Republic. That put you, the tax farmer, into
business. Your business was the job of collecting taxes. This all sounds
very nice, but there weren't any rules. Rome wanted as much money as
possible. So they didn't set limits on what a tax farmer could collect.
That was up to the individual tax farmer.
Everyone understood that tax farmers
expected to make a profit. It cost a lot of money to become a tax
farmer. The fee was high. It was also understood that all citizens had
to pay taxes. But, since there were no rules on how much a tax farmer
could charge, or even that the charges had to be fair, or based on
income or earnings - there were no rules - you can imagine, under this
system, how many abuses there were. It was horrible.
A tax collector had the legal right to
charge one person almost nothing, and charge another person a great deal
of tax, knowing that person could not pay. If you did not pay the
taxes you owed, according to the amount set by the tax collector in your
region, you could be sold into slavery.
2. Under the
Republic, elected officials used their positions to get rich. Under
the Republic, there was no law against buying votes. The poor were quite
happy to sell their votes to the highest bidder. So, if you had
enough money, you could get elected to government.
A great many people bought their way into
office. Once there, the laws they created were not always very good
laws. But, many were not there to create good government. They were
there to get rich. People paid a lot of money to change the laws or to
add new ones. Plus, elected officials whose fees to accept for various
For example, elected officials decided
whose fee would be accepted to become a tax farmer in a certain region.
An elected official in a region might decide that the best person to get
the job was a family member. They had the power to do this.
Under this system, it did not take long
before Rome had very bad government.