finem respice

The State of the Empire is Strong

Submitted by ep on Fri, 12/07/2012 - 06:07
who will join me?

It would be extraordinarily difficult to identify a document hailing from ancient Rome more controversial than Scriptores Historiae Augustae, more commonly known as the "Historia Augusta" or the "Augustan History." At one point or another nearly everything about the document has been associated with the terms "fiction," "fraud," or (somewhat charitably) "imagination." About all that can be said for sure about the document is that its origins do indeed lay in ancient Rome. As to its author(s), factual validity, or historical relevance... who knows?

Despite its mysterious and sketchy backstory (or perhaps because of it) Scriptores Historiae Augustae provides a wealth of entertaining reading in the tradition, as it were, of a single bound archive comprising the complete and compiled works of Us Magazine, People Magazine, and In Touch Weekly. To wit:

I should like this passage to be read by Junius Messalla, with whom I will dare to find fault frankly. For he has cut off his natural heirs and bestowed his ancestral fortune on players, giving a tunic of his mother's to an actress and a cloak of his father's to an actor — and rightly so, I suppose, if a gold and purple mantle of his grandmother's could be used as a costume by a tragic actor! Indeed, the name of Messalla's wife is still embroidered on the violet mantle of a flute-player, who exults in it as the spoils of a noble house. Why, now, should I speak of those linen garments imported from Egypt? Why of those garments from Tyre and Sidon, so fine and transparent, of gleaming purple and famed for their embroidery-work? He has presented, besides, capes brought from the Atrabati and capes from Canusium and Africa, such splendour as never before was seen on the stage. All of this I have put into writing in order that future givers of spectacles may be touched by a sense of shame and so be deterred from cutting off their lawful heirs and squandering their inheritances on actors and mountebanks.1

Whatever the identity of our mysterious scribe(s) TMZ is quite lucky said author was reduced to dust over a thousand years ago (though a persistent rumor has him writing a contemporary column under a pen name for the New York Times' "Features" section).

Still, celebrity gossip magazines can occasionally provide some color of interest, even in Ancient Rome. Who, for instance, could deny the glittering, if ancient, charm of:

The most noteworthy event of the rule of Carus, Carinus and Numerian was the series of games that they gave the Roman people, distinguished by some novel spectacles, a painting of which we have seen in the Palace near the portico of the stables. For there was exhibited a rope-walker, who in his buskins seemed to be walking on the winds, also a wall-climber, who, eluding a bear, ran up a wall, also some bears which acted a farce, and, besides, one hundred trumpeters who blew one single blast together, one hundred horn-blowers, one hundred flute-players, also one hundred flute-players who accompanied songs, one thousand pantomimists and gymnasts, moreover, a mechanical scaffold, which, however, burst into flames and burned up the stage — though this Diocletian later restored on a pmore magnificent scale. Furthermore, actors were gathered together from every side. They were given also Sarmatian games, than which nothing affords greater pleasure, and, besides, a Cyclops-performance. And they bestowed on the Greek artists and gymnasts and actors and musicians both gold and silver and they bestowed on them also garments of silk.

But although all these things have a certain charm for the populace, they are of no importance in a good emperor. In fact, a saying of Diocletian's is current, uttered when one of his treasury-officials was speaking to him with praise of Carus' exhibition, saying that he and his sons, while emperors, had gained great favour by means of theatrical spectacles and spectacles in the circus. "And so," he remarked, "Carus caused great laughter during his rule." In fact, when Diocletian himself presented spectacles, after inviting all nations thereto, he was most sparing in his liberality, declaring that there should be more continence in games when a censor was looking on.2

And on this particular topic, the Scriptores Historiae Augustae is not the only source to note the surreal opulence of these displays. To take just one example:

The spectacles of Carinus may therefore be best illustrated by the observation of some particulars, which history has condescended to relate concerning those of his predecessors. If we confine ourselves solely to the hunting of wild beasts, however we may censure the vanity of the design or the cruelty of the execution, we are obliged to confess that neither before nor since the time of the Romans so much art and expense have ever been lavished for the amusement of the people.

By the order of Probus, a great quantity of large trees, torn up by the roots, were transplanted into the midst of the circus. The spacious and shady forest was immediately filled with a thousand ostriches, a thousand stags, a thousand fallow deer, and a thousand wild boars; and all this variety of game was abandoned to the riotous impetuosity of the multitude.

The tragedy of the succeeding day consisted in the massacre of a hundred lions, an equal number of lionesses, two hundred leopards, and three hundred bears.

The collection prepared by the younger Gordian for his triumph, and which his successor exhibited in the secular games, was less remarkable by the number than by the singularity of the animals. Twenty zebras displayed their elegant forms and variegated beauty to the eyes of the Roman people. Ten elks, and as many camelopards, the loftiest and most harmless creatures that wander over the plains of Sarmatia and Aethiopia, were contrasted with thirty African hyaenas and ten Indian tigers, the most implacable savages of the torrid zone. The unoffending strength with which Nature has endowed the greater quadrupeds was admired in the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus of the Nile, and a majestic troop of thirty-two elephants.

While the populace gazed with stupid wonder on the splendid show, the naturalist might indeed observe the figure and properties of so many different species, transported from every part of the ancient world into the amphitheatre of Rome.

But this accidental benefit, which science might derive from folly, is surely insufficient to justify such a wanton abuse of the public riches. There occurs, however, a single instance in the first Punic war, in which the senate wisely connected this amusement of the multitude with the interest of the state. A considerable number of elephants, taken in the defeat of the Carthaginian army, were driven through the circus by a few slaves, armed only with blunt javelins. The useful spectacle served to impress the Roman soldier with a just contempt for those unwieldy animals; and he no longer dreaded to encounter them in the ranks of war.3

Indeed, when you attract such a degree of hawkish fiscal attention from the "English Giant of the Enlightenment," you might wish to re-examine some of your spending habits.

It is certainly true that frivolity took place in many forms by the reign of Carus. If the point needed any further support it would be easy to find such in the works of any number of scholars of ancient Rome. Among them, Justin Ott:

Not all imperial expenses functioned with the strict purpose of running the empire, and many had the sole purpose of incurring favor with the people. Several examples from the Historia Augustae can help illustrate just how expensive this process could be. When mutinous soldiers murdered Emperor Gallienus in the hope of booty, the military elite placated them “by the usual means of winning their favor” by giving each soldier 20 aurei. In the early 270s, Emperor Aurelian gave a daily ration of bread, pork, and oil to all men within the city of Rome and planned to give them wine also, but restrained himself from this. A final example coming from the early 280s shows the waste of imperial resources quite clearly. The most noteworthy event from the reigns of Carus, Carinus, and Numerian was the series of games that they gave the Roman people. It is worth noting that the reigns of all three of these emperors were quite short, Carus likely died from a battle wound and both Carinus and Numerian fell to assassins, which might suggest they were not successful in their efforts to achieve popularity. The primary problem with these attempts was that they established precedents that future emperors were expected to follow. Giving donatives to the soldiers, feeding the people of Rome, and providing extravagant games could not be avoided if an emperor wished to retain his throne for an extended period of time. In the late imperial period, these obligations became increasingly burdensome for the imperial administration.

To meet the growing expenses of the Roman Empire, increased taxation was required to bring in necessary revenue. Taxation on agriculture seems to have produced over 90 percent of imperial revenues. However, taxation had always been extremely unpopular and tax evasion was not uncommon. When this is combined with the severe instability during the Third- Century Crisis, collecting taxes would have proven phenomenally difficult on an empire-wide basis. Where taxes could still be collected it appears that the level of taxation was beyond oppressive as can be seen in a petition to Emperor Philip the Arab in 245:

"We are suffering extortion and illegal exactions beyond all reason at the hands of those who ought to be preserving the public welfare...Soldiers, powerful men from the cities, and your own officials leave the highways, descend on us, take us from our work, seize our plough and oxen and illegally extort what is not due to them."

The evidence above allows two conclusions to be drawn. First, those who could be taxed were taxed at extremely high levels, and secondly, in spite of this heavy taxation the Roman government still did not have enough money to meet its financial obligations.

This shortage of revenue is evident from the policy of many emperors during this period to heavily debase the coinage. This was not a new phenomenon as debasement of the coinage had occurred as far back as Emperor Nero, but the rate of the debasement took place on a scale never before seen in the Roman Empire. After 235, emperors debased silver coinage, and raised taxes repeatedly to meet financial shortages hoping that windfall profits from military victories would make these measures temporary. The problem with this theory was that there were no windfall profits to be had as wars were simply no longer profitable. Every emperor from Decius to Claudius II debased the silver antoninianus condemning his predecessors’ money to the melting pot. By 260, rapid recoinages of currency only a few years old destroyed public confidence in imperial money.4

Of course, the always erudite finem respice reader will remember the lurid details of these various debasings from prior pieces in these pages, specifically: Private, Equity, "Losing Confidence in the Widening Confidence Interval of Confidence," Finem Respice (November 27, 2011).

But lest we be reduced to exclusively anecdotal analysis, Herr Ott introduces us to the magnificent Richard Duncan-Jones by way of his essential "Money and Government in the Roman Empire," wherein the curious may discover rather impressively researched analysis of the fiscal and monetary goings on in the period of the "Crisis of the Third Century," and the years before, and where Duncan-Jones sketches out the golden ratio of Rome's fiscal death spiral:

The pattern of financial management set by Augustus was one of extreme openhandedness. Augustus prided himself on the vast sums which had passed through his hands and been spent on distributions, games and buildings. His gold temple offerings could be seen as a marginal form of saving. But consecrated temple treasure could not be drawn on under normal circumstances. The amounts Augustus bequeathed were small by comparison with what he had spent.

Any serious departure from this pattern of openhandedness by later Emperors ran the risk of unpopularity. Tiberius was almost the only ruler to put that to the test. Thus Emperors were committed to heavy public spending in the capital and in the army camps. Coupled with this was the need to show princely generosity towards individuals.

Other features of government policy ignored economic rationalism. Willingness to assign tax burdens in accordance with political privilege rather than capacity to pay emerges in different ways. Ancient rights were allowed to persist, protecting some communities from the rigours of taxation. New anomalies and exemptions showed little respect for economic constraints. Fresh tax-immunities went on being created.5

If all this begins to sound vaguely familiar to the modern ear (eye), it is trivial to bring the mirror image into distressingly sharp focus when Duncan-Jones describes the assaults mounted on "the rich" to fill the gaping maw of a cash-hungry Empire:

Property of the Condemned (bona damnatorum):

A recurrent theme is the condemnation of the rich for treason or social dereliction.... In practice, legislation which allowed substantial rewards for successful accusers left opportunities which were rarely neglected for very long. The initiative might come from the accusers themselves. From time to time, professional or self-appointed delatores were declared outcasts, to be scourged and driven from Rome by Titus, or cast adrift by Trajan. The impact of accusations could be as great in the provinces as in Rome. Since extortion from provincials was apparently the cornerstone of many great fortunes at Rome, absorption of private wealth by the state could be seen as one means of compensating for low provincial tax-rates.6

Budgetary Bliss7

All told, by 215, under Caracalla, the Empire was running on around 1.5 billion sesterces a year.8 Say what one will about the early Emperors, for the 65 years from 150 to 215 they somehow managed to keep annual growth in spending by the central government down to 0.87% and in the process kept the balance between military spending as a percentage of total budget (77.28% and 77.09%) and what might crudely be called entitlement programs (the rest of the budget including civilian employees, "handouts," and "other items" but minus "building") remarkably stable (20.31% v. 21.55%).

But, then, the Emperors had little way to borrow to fund their expenditures. Public finance in this sense did not exist in Rome. Occasionally tax farmers would advance the public treasury expected revenues that would then be mercilessly collected (the surplus passing to the farmer), but there were effectively no "Roman treasury bonds" to be had in the either the early or late eras of the Empire. Rome was limited in her spending by her collections. Or so it would have appeared before the mid-second and early third centuries.

Even in this period, populist inclinations and the all too familiar "blue model" crept in to public finances. As early as 51 AD fourteen days of bliss for the "Roman Games" cost the public treasury 760,000 sesterces. The "Plebeian Games" syphoned a "mere" 600,000 sesterces out of the public trough, 380,000 sesterces went to the games dedicated to Apollo, and so forth. Combined, the expense of just these three events would pay an early Empire Roman legion for 4 months. And this is only Rome's "structural" spectacle budget. Added to this were irregular (but obscenely expensive) triumphs for returning conquerers, lavish banquets, celebrations of the nth birthday of Rome's founding, etc., etc., etc.

And while later figures on the price of games are difficult to come by it bears noting that that by the time of Claudius Rome marked 159 official state holidays per year of which 93 were devoted to spectacles and games paid for from the public treasury, leaving only post-modern France as a historical contender for the title of "most slothful population." Further, the single largest Imperial expense, the Roman legions, skyrocketed between 193-238 AD as successive emperors raised army pay to 7,200 sesterces a year, a sustained growth rate of 4.06% per annum for 45 years. With the army itself growing from some 250,000 men in 15 AD to 450,000 in 211 AD (though Duncan-Jones suggests closer to 500,000) the expense began to get excessive.9

Weighing in the favor of defenders of Imperial fiscal responsibility was the pension scheme for a Roman solider. After 25 years those Roman heroes who managed to stay alive were entitled to a praemia of 12,000 sesterces. Figures from the second century show this award was given to approximately 120 men every year. Given a legion size of 5,500 men this implies an annual mortality rate of 44%, or 55%(!) if the regular re-stocking of legions with fresh recruits is taken into account. Certainly, health insurance costs in a socialized medicine system would have been low without the need for much rationing or death panels. It could be said that Germania and Gaul provided death panels aggressive enough that Roman administrators had no need to duplicate them.

Given how susceptible the largest item on the Imperial budget was to the Imperial printing press (even at its peak expansion rate army salary averaged only about 4% annual growth over any real period of time, and often was frozen for decades on a stretch) it is unsurprising that the debasement of Roman coins was so sudden, dramatic and destructive. Recalling Ott for a moment:

By 260, rapid recoinages of currency only a few years old destroyed public confidence in imperial money.10

But such measures are delaying tactics only, and represent the last death throes of a desperate, rear-guard action against the inexorable advance on all fronts by the armies of that redoubtable foe (already quite familiar to the loyal and always well-read finem respice reader) the King of Mathematics.11

True, one might fault the Emperors of the Late Empire for falling prey to the ratchet of populist handouts, but they did not have access to the financial sarin of sovereign bonds, and lived in an age when price controls were easy to enforce. The damage they could do in a short period was really quite limited. Instead, it took centuries of accumulated entitlement spending to inculcate deep-rooted dependence on the Emperor's largess.

If one takes Duncan-Jones' assertion that this process began with Augustus as a given, the span defined by end of his reign in 14 AD until the onset of the "Crisis of the Third Century" (occasioned by the assassination of the Emperor Alexander Severus by his own troops in 235) endured 221 years. In the chaos that followed there were no fewer than 21 claimants, including a series of ever-bloodier coups by one or another Roman General, to the Imperial laurels in the 50 years after Severus' dispatching. The Empire never really recovered and continued to disintegrate despite a brief respice provided by Aurelian's vanquishing of the Vandals and other distasteful foreigners in 270 AD and beyond. The newly restored cohesion would not last long.

It will be noticed that the contemporary counterparts of the Emperors of the Late Roman Empire have done an even more complete job of boxing themselves into a three front war with the forces of the King of Mathematics. It is the exploration of this similarity that serves as the crux of the instant piece. The post-modern Emperors love their grand gaming forums as well as their long-dead predecessors. All that remains is to select a reasonable example for comparison. Of course, the most obvious candidate must be Emperor Rahm Israel Emanuel of Chicago.

Only a few days ago an otherwise obscure ruling in bankruptcy court threatened to shine a flicker of light into the furthest reaches an otherwise dark and dank corner of "blue model" logistics: The funding, erection, operation, and promotion of colosseums arenas and spectacles convention centers. To wit:

A bankruptcy judge today dealt a blow to a plan for a key hotel development next to McCormick Place, an action that could help clear the way for a new basketball arena for the DePaul Blue Demons.

The judge rejected the owners' development plan for the site and gave them until Dec. 17 to turn in a new plan.

The action is the latest complication in the long-running court fight over the 4.9-acre tract, whose owners, Pam Gleichman and Karl Norberg, want to build two hotels, a data center and retail space and have filed for Chapter 11 twice to prevent lender CenterPoint Properties Trust from foreclosing.

Should CenterPoint regain control of the property, it may clear the way for it to sell the land to Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the agency known as McPier, for a DePaul arena.12

The slow to wake but unshakable curiosity of finem respice having been piqued, it seemed prudent to wonder which use case would best fit the needs of 5 acres in the heart of the city. That meant exploring the record of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. A general description is easy enough to find. To wit:

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) is a municipal corporation created by the Illinois General Assembly. Its Board of Directors is appointed by the Governor of Illinois and the Mayor of Chicago.

MPEA owns McCormick Place and seeks to promote and operate conventions, fairs and expositions in the Chicago area, in an effort to strengthen the local economy. Historic Navy Pier is also owned by MPEA and the Authority is charged with carrying out the recreational, commercial and cultural redevelopment and operation of Navy Pier, which has become Chicago's most popular visitor attraction.

MPEA is also active in the community, and oversees a variety of programs that positively impact the thousands whose jobs are tied to McCormick Place and Navy Pier, as well as the millions who visit both venues each year. Take a look at our contributions and then plan to visit acclaimed McCormick Place and multi-faceted Navy Pier in the near future.13

"Its Board of Directors is appointed by the Governor of Illinois and the Mayor of Chicago." Indeed! Let the Imperial Spectacles begin!

By way of Imperial history, it bears noting that the "fireproof" exposition hall of the original McCormick Place (financed back in 1960 with a $40 million bond issue) was razed to the ground in 1967 after standing for only seven years, prompting Emperor Richard J. Daley to rebuild the facility. The new facility opened in 1971.

By 1984 it seemed that 300,000 square feet was insufficient for feeding vendors of consumer electronics to the lions, and so the "North Building" was proposed. It would add another 600,000 square feet to the complex. The addition was initially funded by another bond issue, this time for over $250 million. Of course, a big spike in the local "hotel tax" and a legislative commitment to use the proceeds to pay the bonds were necessary to keep rates down to a reasonable level (bear in mind that the 10 year treasury yield to maturity in 1984 varied from 11.5% to 13.5%). The bonds were sold in 1984 at 10.3% interest (one assumes that rates lower than the 10-year at the time were the result of tax exempt municipal debt status).

Alas, by June 1985 various problems developed:

"All of us are gravely concerned with the possibility that the much-needed McCormick Place expansion might not be completed by the promised date of May 15, 1986," said Patrick O`Malley, chairman emeritus of Canteen Corp. and an officer of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau.

O`Malley and the other business leaders made their plea at a press conference on the balcony of the McCormick Center Hotel, across the 23d Street bridge from the annex construction site.

McCormick Place officials announced two weeks ago that higher-than-expected bids by contractors will push the project $48 million over its original $205 million budget. They asked the Illinois General Assembly, now in the final week of its spring session, to authorize a $55 million bond issue so the project can be completed on time.

They said the $55 million would provide enough to pay contractors and make interest payments, pay bonding fees and maintain a reserve account.

The last-minute request for more money prompted House Republicans to call for an immediate audit of the project and to recommend that control of the convention complex be transferred from the Metropolitan Fair and Exposition Authority, where board appointments are split between the mayor and governor, to a new state agency responsible only to the governor and the legislature.

O`Malley did not address that issue, nor did he discuss who is to blame for the the cost overruns.

"Don`t ask me why there`s a $55 million overrun," he said. "That`s the board`s business."14

Only a month later the "overrun" was up to $60 million and the Imperial state treasurer was being asked to buy $34 million in "interim notes" to keep the contractors fed until the legislature could fund a full bailout.

Troublemakers in the legislature (traitors to the Emperor, no better than running dogs, really) had been insisting on forming a new state agency to take control of the project but by November this bit of oversight seemed off the table, pushed out by loyal Imperial subjects like House Speaker Michael Madigan (who was, in that same November heard to insist that his law firm's connection with Schal/McHugh, the principal contractors for the new construction, had in no way whatesoever at all influenced his sage and considered decision to fight to the death to pass the bailout authorization). In the last, sleepy hours of the fall legislative session Madigan was quoted thusly:

In addressing the issues raised in this complex matter, I wish to make known to this body and to the public generally that my law firm has performed legal services for clients, including some of the principals of Schal/McHugh....


Those services were performed on matters totally unrelated to McCormick Place and those two construction companies. In an abundance of caution and in order to dispel possible questions that may arise in the future as to this issue and my relationship with some of the principals of this firm, I wish to declare and disclose my law firm`s services in these matters, again which are totally unrelated to McCormick Place and which will in no way bear upon my considered judgment on the merits of the bill at hand. Long live the Emperor and Imperial Rome!15

In December 1985, the state sold $60 million in "bailout bonds" at 8.8% to continue the project. The Emperor had his victory and, fear not, gentle reader, those traitorous dogs opposing the Emperor and the glory of Rome would be dealt with presently.

The crushing expense of the North Building bonds and the bailout issue forced the Emperor to refinance them in 1987 (10-year treasuries floated between 7.0% and 9.5% in this period).

By 1989 the Emperor had restructured the operations of the glorious spectacle forums, and the new Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority was created, again, with board members nominated by the two Roman Consuls Mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois.

The group plunged quickly and enthusiastically into the trying task of perpetuating the glory of Rome. That is to say they pled for a mere $1 billion to expand McCormick place to the most glorious spectacle forum in the Empire, or, indeed, the world. Oh, also, if they could have a $150 million bond issue to clean up that smelly pier that the Navy abandoned long ago, that would be cool too.

It wasn't two years of careful, sage, independent, and dispassionate consideration before the legislature approved $987 million (oh, and yeah, you can have the $150 million too). Five years later, the shiniest and most glorious addition yet (and with the scintillating moniker "The South Building") opened, bringing to 2.9 million square feet the largest of all spectacle fora. Hail Caesar!

It cannot escape the analyst of these efforts that all glory is fleeting, and must be eternally pursued to the exclusion of all else, less the magnificent state fall victim to a "glory gap." To wit:

With its now-approved expansion, McCormick Place is likely to end up in the record books too.

At present, the Guinness Book of World Records gives the title of world`s largest single-building exhibition hall to the 2.5-million-square-foot International Exposition Center in Cleveland.

But McCormick Place`s new South Building, to be completed by August 1996, is to have 3 million square feet.

In addition, John Schmidt, chairman of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which oversees McCormick Place, notes that, when used together by a trade show, the South Building and the upper level of the complex`s North Building would comprise a single floor of 1.2 million square feet, forming the largest room of any sort in the world.

As it is, McCormick Place has already racked up a handful of bests:

- The complex, which has 1.2 million square feet of prime exhibit space, ranks first among U.S. convention halls, and will strengthen its lead when it grows to 2.1 million square feet with completion of the South Building.

- The $675 million contract, awarded last year to a consortium of design and construction firms to put up the South Building, was the largest public works contract in Chicago`s history.

- The $1 billion bond sale completed earlier this month to pay for the South Building and other improvements related to McCormick Place was the largest sale of government-backed bonds in the history of Illinois.

Schmidt said McCormick Place is expanding because trade shows keep getting larger and need more and more space.

Staying No. 1 is a secondary, but not unimportant, consideration, he said.

"We've had the title (of largest convention complex in the U.S.) since the '50s," Schmidt says. "If somebody took away that title, there would be some intangible loss. It would be taken in the industry as a sign that Chicago is no longer number one."16

Despite these efforts (which had been sold partly on their ability to keep the Consumer Electronics Show from defecting) the Chicago exhibition of the Consumer Electronics Show tired of the facility and began to rotate its historically "Chicago only" summer event to differing cities starting in 1995, one year before the opening of the South building.

This, of course, prompted the facility in 1998 to seek to erect a truly awe-inspiring 800-room hotel (108 million sesterces dollars), a six-story parking garage, a conference center, a corporate center, and a dedicated bus line to the spectacle forum, their having been no such connection for the prior three decades, (at the bargain price of $100 million).

Surely the Emperor was shocked to be confronted just the next year with the necessity to restructure a large portion of this debt with an issuance of $270 million in new bonds (it being unavoidable, you understand, to use 25% of these proceeds for further expansion, some repairs, and new projects, rather than debt restructuring).

And here the pace of additions to the complex having the overall effect of advancing the glory of Rome becomes too frequent and numerous to describe in detail, seeing as they consist of:

Approval for a 470,000 square foot exhibit expansion in 2001.
Approval of a 250,000 meeting room space in the same year.
Plans for the construction of one of the worlds "largest ballrooms". (It is larger than a football field. The Emperor must project glamor to all the peoples of the world, you understand, and the people simply demand that the world record for "most simultaneous Viennese waltzers" be set within the Empire's glorious walls).
Plans for a new dedicated 2.5 mile busway in 2002.
The groundbreaking of "McCormick Place West" in 2004 (470,000 square feet at a cost of $882 million).

But soon there was the lingering matter of dealing with the enemies of the Empire to address:

Between 2005 and 2010, Mr. Madigan stopped five refinancing bills, ignoring declining interest rates that would have saved hundreds of millions. At the time, he never explained why, but his reasons seem petty and political: McCormick Place CEO Juan Ochoa, an appointee of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, had fired a Madigan ally at the convention center, and lawmakers from both parties say the speaker wanted retribution.

"It was no secret that Madigan had a beef with Ochoa and wanted him gone," says state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, an Elmwood Park Republican who sponsored refinancing bills in 2005, 2007 and 2009. "As long as Ochoa was there, Madigan wasn't going to give McCormick Place anything."
But politics may not have been Mr. Madigan's only motivation. By holding up refinancing, the speaker also denied McCormick Place the money to build a new hotel. That bought time for clout-heavy developers Gerald Fogelson and Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc. to push a controversial land swap and hotel deal with McCormick Place on property just north of the convention center. Both were then clients of Mr. Madigan's law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, but the speaker denies any connection.

As the recession raged in early 2010, the collapse of the real estate market scuttled the deal. That May, after Mr. Ochoa resigned, the General Assembly finally passed legislation that lowered McCormick Place's debt payments, allocated funds to expand the existing Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and imposed wage restrictions and new work rules on union labor. The House sponsor was Speaker Michael Madigan.17

And how has the facility faired in the last half decade?

Behold! The Latest Glorious Figures Available!18

Are you not entertained?

It seems on very safe ground, does it not, to assert, particularly on the strength of such consistent outperformance, that no reasonable citizen could possibly object to permitting the MPEA to take over management of property for the DePaul Blue Devils Ludus? And, finem respice hastens to add: The state of the Empire is strong.

  1. 1. "Carus, Carinus, Numerian," Scriptores Historiae Augustae Vol. 3 § XIX, Translated by David Magie, Harvard University Press (1968).
  2. 2. "Carus, Carinus, Numerian," Scriptores Historiae Augustae Vol. 3 § XIX, Translated by David Magie, Harvard University Press (1968).
  3. 3. Gibbon, Edward, "History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," Volume I, Chapter XII, Part III (1782).
  4. 4. Ott, Justin, "The Decline and Fall of the Western Roman Empire," Iowa State University (2009).
  5. 5. Duncan-Jones, Richard, "Money and Government in the Roman Empire," Cambridge University Press (1994).
  6. 6. Duncan-Jones, Richard, "Money and Government in the Roman Empire," Cambridge University Press (1994).
  7. 7. Duncan-Jones, Richard, "Money and Government in the Roman Empire," Cambridge University Press (1994).
  8. 8. With the caveat that it is highly problematic to compare currency to currency against a gap of 2,000 years, depending on your proclivities you might find interesting the fact that a common Roman soldier was paid 900 sesterces per year before the late first century when Domitian boosted that figure to 1200 sesterces per year.
  9. 9. An outstanding review of these expansions and the pay of the Roman army generally can be found in Speidel, Alexander "Roman Army Pay Scales," The Journal of Roman Studies Volume 82 (1992).
  10. 10. Ott, Justin, "The Decline and Fall of the Western Roman Empire," Iowa State University (2009).
  11. 11. See Generally: Private, Equity, "Contemplating Valiant Rearguard Actions Against Intractable Foes," Finem Respice (November 23, 2012).
  12. 12. Galland, Zoe, "Judge's Ruling Boosts Possible DePaul McPier Arena," Chicago Real Estate Daily (December 5, 2012).
  13. 13. "About MPEA," The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority
  14. 14. McCarron, John, "McCormick Place Bailout Urged," Chicago Tribune (June 26, 1985).
  15. 15. Egler, David "McCormick Bailout Stumbles," Chicago Tribune (November 14, 1985). (Imperial loyalty declaration may be dramatized).
  16. 16. "City Can Boast The Best and the Blightest," Reardon, Patrick T., Chicago Tribune (December 21, 1992).
  17. 17. Yilsela, James Jr., "The High Price of Political Payback at McCormick Place," Cranes Chicago Business (November 14, 2011).
  18. 18. Metropolitan Pier and Expansion Authority Annual Reports.
[Art Credit: unknown artist "How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic," film (September 4, 2005), from the author's private collection.. Who can but marvel at the John Milius masterpiece of sex, violence, and not-yet-debased Roman coin?]

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