Neck on the line

In the last 300 years of the Western Roman Empire, the average reign of a ruler was between 2 or 3 years. The majority of reigns lasted less than a year.

The Roman Emperor wielded great power and bore the stamp of divine authority. However, this power also came with massive responsibilities and a huge downside. People across the empire were plotting to overturn the emperor. And once an emperor was deposed, he and his entire family would be duly executed by the new ruler to eliminate rival claimants to the throne.

If you read between the lines, you realize how one or many royal families were massacred once every 2 or 3 years. Two of the greatest of Roman emperors, Augustus and Constantine, were led to exile and kill various members of their own family to secure their position as rulers. Yes, these men were ruthless, but they suffered greatly because of these actions.

When we think of the rulers of antiquity, we often have an impression of carefree luxury. However, these kings led hard lives. They had difficult responsibilities and ruled with a sword hanging above their heads. It is because of this downside that people bowed down to their authority.

In modernity, we have upset this balance. The people who bear the most amount of power – politicians, bankers, owners of large tech corporations – all of them have big upsides from their position. However, if they screw up, they don’t have a proportionate downside. They are able to walk away without consequences from the crises they have created.

Consider the last manmade financial crisis. How many people who created it were punished because of their actions? Who bore the brunt of this crisis?

We have several professionalss today who retain upside without any downside – ‘expert’ analysts on TV, wealth managers, management consultants. It is best to stay away from their advice, given that their neck isn’t on the line.

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