Here is an excellent, if problematic, article that purports to show how Roman central planners destroyed the Empire’s economy. He is absolutely dead-on regarding Diocletian’s reforms, so beloved of textbook authors. Students interested in the decline/transformation of the Roman world will find this fascinating.
My problems with the article. The author has interesting things to say about the economy of the Late Republic, then jumps too quickly to the third century. He ignores the huge boost that expansion – and the new human capital in the form of slaves – brought Rome. Once the frontiers stabilized, these injections of new wealth ended. He also misses the huge drain on the imperial treasury occasioned by the revolving door emperors of the third century. New emperors needed to make “donations” to the troops to buy their loyalty. More troops were needed to defend the frontiers against marauding tribes. What a mess!
Problems aside, a nice, quick essay.