Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

What do we do about the wealthproducers? Especially foreign ones?

Everything in our power to indicate our distaste for them, seems to be the answer.

The Greek essayist and soldier Xenophon would wonder what we were playing at.

In 355 BC Athens was in desperate financial straits. It was then that Xenophon, whose military career had taken him as far as Persia and who knew a bit about rich foreigners, wrote the pamphlet Poroi ('Revenues'). It is a programme for economic recovery quite unlike the usual Athenian public spending cuts and taxation schemes. His most bold and original proposal is to establish a state capital fund, with a decent return for investors, to, for example, invest in publicly owned slave labour to increase output at the silver mines; run state-owned trade facilities to increase business at the harbour Peiraieus; and set up a state-owned merchant shipping fleet. But he warns that, for this to succeed, Athens must be at peace. Only thus will it be able to lure 'ship-owners and traders, people with an eye for business and money, workers, teachers, philosophers, poets, top play directors' and so on. The concept of the 'peace-dividend' is not new. …

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