Pennireef Papers


Information for this article is taken from an outstanding book by Charles Adams,
“For Good and Evil” published by Madison Books,
4720 Boston Way, Lanham, Maryland 20706.

An advanced form of civilized life existed in Egypt along the Nile River before 3000 B.C. and lasted until after the fall of Rome.

Longevity was one of the most significant features of Egyptian civilization. Annual flooding of the Nile distributed nutrients to the soil and brought a rich harvest to the people. This was taxed at 20%. Agricultural land was owned by the state and leased to the peasants who were subject to the harvest tax. This was not based on actual production but on what the pharaoh estimated the production should be.

Tribute existed in Egypt long before Moses. The earliest historical records indicate a wise and fair system of taxation that gradually, over the years, became corrupt and ugly. In the fourth century B.C., direct tax assessments by foreign tax agents began. This oppressive system required extensive surveillance in colonial territories. Dissent was crushed by military might using informers who received a percentage of the evaded taxes. Sound familiar?

The Bible alludes to colonial informers when Judea was under Egyptian suzerainty and was described as a land full of tears for the oppressed. Informers and spies of the pharaoh were everywhere and we are told that, “a bird of the air shall carry the voice” of the person who cursed the king in secret. (Ecclesiastes 10:20) Shades of Romania during the years we worked there and a fore–shadowing of America if we do not have serious tax reform — soon.

Napoleon began his military career by trying to conquer Egypt, but the British sent him packing in short order. Before leaving, he ransacked the tombs and sent back to France many priceless relics including the Rosetta Stone. This important artifact, which brought about amnesty for the rebels and immunity for priests, is a tax history of Egypt around 200 B.C. It was written when Egypt was plagued by civil war brought on by excessive tax burdens imposed by the Greeks.

The decay in Egyptian society was the result of lawlessness in the tax bureaucracy and the unabated tyranny of Egyptian tax collectors which produced a nationwide decline in incentive. Farmers lost their desire to work and agricultural land fell into disuse. Businessmen moved away, workers fled, sound money disappeared and raging inflation destroyed what capital there was.

The tax history of ancient Egypt illustrates what happens to a society burdened with a totalitarian revenue system that eventually brings the nation down. Today the tools have changed but not the system.

By the time of Rome’s fall it too had become tax oppressive to the point of enslaving the populace. When Moslem armies arrived in
the seventh century it was relatively easy for them to take over Egypt because they offered no taxation to anyone converting to Islam.

Edited by: Bill Bathman, 23 April 2010

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