Price Fixing in Ancient Rome

As might be expected, the Roman Republic was not to be spared a good many ventures into control of the economy by the government. One of the most famous of the Republican statutes was the Law of the Twelve Tables (449 B.C.) which, among other things, fixed the maximum rate of interest at one uncia per libra (approximately 8 percent), but it is not known whether this was for a month or for a year. At various times after this basic law was passed, however, politicians found it popular to generously forgive debtors their agreed-upon interest payments.

A Licinian law of 367 B.C., for instance, declared that interest already paid could be deducted from the principal owed, in effect setting a maximum price of zero on interest. The lex Genucia (342 B.C.) had a similar provision and we are told that violations of this “maximum” were “severely repressed under the lex Marcia.” Levy concludes that “Aside from the Law of the Twelve Tables, these ad hoc or demagogic measures soon went out of use.” (Continue to FULL story…)

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