A to Z of Historical Blunders: Episode 20

The only two certainties in life; taxes and death

Welcome to the A to Z of Historical Blunders, the show that reminds us about the dangers of history repeating itself.

Well might we laugh at First Century AD Roman emperor Vaspasian placing a tax on urine, or to be more precise, taxing the buyers of said urine. The tax was lucrative because the ammonia in urine made it an indispensable cleaning agent in laundries for keeping the iconic Roman toga whiter than white. Benjamin Franklin was right in his assessment then that “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”  The pain of unfair taxation was felt as keenly in ancient Rome as it was in pre-revolutionary France; in colonial America as in Thatcher’s Britain or post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. But isn’t it interesting that it was so often the essentials of life that were taxed – salt, candles, fireplaces, windows; or the few simple pleasures of the poor – tea and sugar?

The article on which this episode is based can be read here

Guests this week: Ray Keary and Shane Macken