Thursday, March 28, 2013

Government for Sale

1,820 years ago, on this day, March 28th, there was a change in political leadership in the Roman Empire. Normally, this wouldn't be worth commenting on, but what was special about this political transition was how new emperor was chosen: by auction.

After the murder of Pertinax (28 March 193), the Praetorian assassins announced that the throne was to be sold to the man who would pay the highest price. Titus Flavius Claudius Sulpicianus, prefect of the city, father-in-law of the murdered emperor, being at that moment in the camp to which he had been sent to calm the troops, began making offers, when Julianus, having been roused from a banquet by his wife and daughter, arrived in all haste, and being unable to gain admission, stood before the gate, and with a loud voice competed for the prize.
As the bidding went on, the soldiers reported to each of the two competitors, the one within the fortifications, the other outside the rampart, the sum offered by his rival. Eventually Sulpicianus promised 20,000 sesterces to every soldier; Julianus, fearing that Sulpicianus would gain the throne, then offered 25,000. The guards immediately closed with the offer of Julianus, threw open the gates, saluted him by the name of Caesar, and proclaimed him emperor.

Interesting system. Instead of millions of dollars being wasted on ad campaigns, give it to the people directly in exchange for political power. Let's LBO the government! (I wonder how the valuation models would work?)