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[FOUNTAIN]Money and power are linked

July 18,2003
Money cannot buy power. But without money, obtaining power is unthinkable.
Whether it is the era of heroes who conquered the world with military might or the modern age, when image making is most vital for political success, money has performed its role as a controller behind the scenes. The problem is the attitude toward money.
Julius Caesar was severely in debt. At the age of 30, Caesar, a neophyte politician at the time, was hounded by creditors as he was about to leave Rome for Spain.
Nanami Shiono, the author of “Historic Gestures of the Ancient Romans,” said Caesar’s debts totaled 1,300 talent, an amount equivalent to one year’s salary for Rome’s 110,000 soldiers. Marcus Licinius Crassus guaranteed Caesar’s debts to the shouting creditors.
Crassus was one of the richest men in Rome, but his popularity as a politician was extremely low. After 10 years, Caesar invited him to be a member of the ruling triumvirate which included himself and Pompey. He had repayed his debt.
Caesar’s debt is attributed more to the necessity of spending money to enhance his popularity than to vanity. He spent money lavishly on his friends and patrons. He enthralled Romans with gladiatorial fighting contests. He also spent money on public projects such as repairing roads and building plazas. He emerged as a leader of the Populares, a political faction representing the common people, when he built a monument for Gaius Marius, who had been a hero to the citizens.
The reason the Optimates, Caesar’s political foes, could not capitalize on his debt problems was the way he spent the money ― he did not merely try to enhance his own wealth.
The successful politician’s approach to money seems to be not that different from Caesar’s. He does not hesitate to borrow money from businessmen when he needs it. And he does not forget to pay it back, not necessarily with money. But he does not fill his own coffers.
If there are differences from Caesar’s era, they would be that modern politicians should care about the law more, issuing receipts and keeping to the legal limit on donations, and their accounts could be subject to tracing if they spend too much money. Even so, the sentiment toward a politician’s money is similar: People think the worst thing is using money to fill one’s stomach.


by Chun Young-gi

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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