Introduction
Roman Macroeconomics

This final section brings together my thoughts and speculations on the implications of the preceding chapters on individual markets. When I began working on Roman economics, I did not think there was enough information to deal with macroeconomic questions of economic growth and the size of the economy. I still believe that the shortage of information makes these questions difficult and elusive. I hope that readers who have followed me so far in my intellectual journey will be encouraged to stay along for thoughts and speculations about what all the market activity of the Roman Empire meant for ordinary Romans.

I start with a review of the theory of economic growth and the problems of measuring it. Chapter 9 reveals that scholars trying to understand Roman macroeconomics are in far worse shape than economists dealing with more recent economies. I suggest some ways of using proxies for actual measures of economic growth in classical times and place them in the context of other research. It is important to understand the theory that lies behind our efforts to make sense of the scattered Roman data.

There is, however, a problem with this approach. Rome did not have an industrial revolution. Without this momentous change, Rome was subject to Malthusian pressures that limited its economic growth. Chapter 10 shows how to square this circle. It reveals even Malthusian economies can have economic growth, that is, can have rising standards of living. This can go on for a long time, even centuries, even though without industrialization, it is doomed to end. Once we understand that there is room for at least temporary economic growth in the Malthusian model, interesting questions emerge about the nature of economic growth in Roman times.

If there was economic growth, then the standard of living in Rome should have increased. How far did it go, even if it did not lead to industrialization?

-193-

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