Did you know that today is the birthday of Octavian, more commonly known as Augustus because, well, he was august. Whenever I read about Augustus, I think that nobody better personifies both the promise and peril of effective public administration more than him. This lecture discusses why. Go read, it’s short. Here’s the money quote:
He immediately faced four distinct problems. (1) He had to secure the northern frontiers against attack. Civil wars had involved the army and had led to a weakening of the frontiers of the border. (2) The army had grown too large and unmanageable: the army formed a state within a state. (3) The urban population and small farmers had to be helped. (4) His new government had to promote confidence among the senatorial class which was necessary for efficient rule.
The system had problems, but it worked, even in the hands of far, far less competent men, well for 200 years. And it might have lasted longer if the Romans had been as strategic about figuring out the rules of succession.