How to Succeed in a Recession

Posted by Barry Strauss on May 7, 2009

Even in a recession, someone always makes money. You’ve just got to have the right product to sell. Today’s newspaper carried a report that antiques are doing well, especially at the high end. The rich, it seems, need someplace to put their money, and many distrust the stock market these days. So why not buy a Louis XV chair? Or a mosaic?
Other products are also prospering in hard times. People eat out less but buy more supermarket food. New car sales have plummeted but old cars require maintenance, and so the auto after-market is booming. Executives are smiling at cut-rate kings Wal-Mart and McDonald’s.
We might have predicted silver linings among the economic clouds by studying Spartacus. His revolt plunged the Italian countryside into chaos. Yet when the rebels made their winter camp in the port city of Thurii, they were visited by…merchants. Even in a slave rebellion, someone was making money. Add in arms makers, the lower end of the free labor market (who would have been needed to replace slaves) and pirates, and the circle of selective prosperity widens.
War, it seems, is not the only arena in which the Romans behaved strategically.