HISTORY SPECIAL: The Rosetta Stone was actually a tax amnesty?



I think we all can agree that the Rosetta Stone is one of the most important archeological finds of all time.


Yet it seems to me is that everyone knows what the Rosetta Stone is, but no one knows what the Rosetta stone says.


The Rosetta Stone is a tax amnesty


It is a tax amnesty written in three scripts because when it was written, there were three scripts being used in Egypt. Hieroglyphics, which were used in official or religious documents. Demotic script was the everyday script of Egyptians. And the third was Greek, as Greeks were ruling Egypt since Alexander the Great took over Egypt in 332 BC.


So why was this tax amnesty written in stone? In three languages?


Because King Ptomely, the ruler who declared the amnesty must have meant it. Egypt was in ruins by aggressive and out of control tax collections. People stopped engaging in commerce because the tax consequences were ruinous. Yet King Ptolemy knew that if he wrote the tax amnesty in papyrus, his tax collectors would probably pretend they never received it. And he knew that if he wrote it in one language, that would the the one language the tax collectors would claim not to know. Rather, this tax amnesty was so important to Egypt that it had to be permanently inscribed in all three languages. Oh yeah, by being written in stone, it was fairly impossible to destroy.


Rulers who want to help their citizens vs those who don’t


Tax Amnesties are obvious, rooted in logic, and easy to understand – especially when a country’s existence is on the line. Tax laws are unobtrusive and make sense when governments are good.


Whereas tax laws that benefit the ruling class tend to be the opposite. I think of Roman emperor Caligula. He wrote his tax code so small and posted it so high, that no one had any actual knowledge of the law. So if Caligula ever had a beef with someone, he knew he could hoist them up on tax evasion charges.

So my question for you is, do you find the current US tax system more like King Ptolemy’s open and notorious Rosetta Stone tax amnesty, or is it more like Caligula’s impossible fine print?