Chapter 168

Baya sharply eyed her elderly father as she laid down her argument. Her expression was as if she would hurt her father if she had the chance. Jaejun scrunched his face.

“Do you have something in mind?”

“Before the empire has a chance to operate under its new reform, we need to shake the place up. We need chaos rather than order right now.”

“Chaos?”

“A large-scale chaos,” Baya quietly corrected.

Jaejun closed his eyes. His mouth filled with bitter saliva. He never wanted to see this side of his daughter. How did things become like this? She was still his daughter, right?

She was no longer the daughter he knew. She was willing to throw away her father and the entire family. She had become a monster… Jaejun had used her to get to the next prospective emperor, but she had turned into an uncontrollable monster instead. However, she was just one of the many people who were spreading throughout their family like poison…

***

[Note: Rain’s reform and its process]

What tension and discomfort did Rain’s reform present to those in power within the Damun Empire, and how were the reforms implemented?

Rain suggested reform in the following stages.

To persuade the imperial courts on the need for reform, Rain summarized the empire’s problems into three points:

First, the empire’s financial insolvency was getting worse. The Imperial courts mainly created revenue from three sources: revenue directly given to the emperor from his lands, the revenue from the monopoly businesses operated by the imperial courts, and the large amount of money each principality and powerful family paid three times a year.

The amount of income each year was roughly the same. There was no glaring issue on the revenue side. The problem was in expenditures. Though, there were no major irregularities in the expense records.

However, the expenditure of the imperial family over the past three years had greatly exceeded its income. If this practiced continued, there was a possibility that the imperial courts’ finances would soon be exhausted due to chronic overspending. Fundamental measures were needed for financial improvement. There were two ways to resolve this issue: decrease expenses or increase income.

Second, the composition and bias of personnel was a huge problem. More than 50% of all positions filled within the government were from individuals who came from large families. Among them, 80% of the important positions in the imperial courts, excluding government organizations, were from the three most powerful families.

It was very difficult to hire individuals from small families or cultivate new talents. As a result, the excellent talents of the empire were leaving the empire for greater personal opportunities.

The possibility that the outflow of talent would soon become a great threat to the empire could not be ruled out. In addition, as information and positions were currently concentrated in the three main influential families, there was a growing concern about the formation of a third-party coalition that could vie against the emperor and ultimately overthrow the current throne. Securing loyal talents within the imperial court was important for the health and future of the empire. Immediate measures had to be taken. 

Third, it was necessary to improve the financial and personnel management systems in place. The numbers that flowed out from the current administration systems did not match. The flow of goods and the flow of money could not be transparently seen as it was often obfuscated through complexity or inability to verify. Money was leaking out from every opening. Elements of waste and luxury were clearly visible here and there, but no one knew how large these leaks were. The management of the imperial organizations that managed the administration of the empire was also inefficient. This was because the imperial court’s personnel were dispatched with those from influential families, so the command-and-control systems were dispersed and decentralized. The biggest problem that arose from this decentralization was the possibility that internal information of the imperial courts could be leaked or manipulated. There was an urgent need for immediate management reform measures.

The dignitaries reacted to these problems with an atmosphere of surrender and agreement. They didn’t take any time to think twice. Though they knew of the inefficiencies that existed within the system, they would point to the imperial courts as being the problem and not take any action or responsibility themselves. The personnel issue was not a recent issue either. The solution would require the great families to concede some concessions.

Rain’s reform came up with a solution.

She focused her reform measures to increase tax revenue and increase monopoly business transactions to secure the finances of the imperial courts and to take administrative measures to secure basic data collection. Rain’s report of the empire’s issues was made public, but it was the first time the high-ranking officials saw the reform measures that Rain was suggesting.

However, the high-ranking officials were ready. If the reforms infringed on the interests of their respective families, they had planned to gather their opinions and oppose the measures… or so they thought.

The first measures of Rain’s reforms targeted the unification of classifications – the weights and measurements used by the empire. The reforms would unify the standards of length, weight, and time under a unified standard set by the imperial courts. This unified classification would extend and apply to all territories and kingdoms under the empire’s rule. Measuring instruments such as scales or rulers would also have to follow uniform standards designated by the imperial courts.

The high-officials and public’s reactions to these changes were generally positive. The lack of standards was something everyone felt uncomfortable about. No family or organization objected, especially because the imperial court would take on the cost and burden of implementing this new standard. Rather, there was a greater interest in who had the right to manufacture and supply the measurement tools. Thus, this measure in Rain’s reform was approved without much objection.

The second measure of reform dealt with rewriting the continent’s map. The map the imperial courts currently used had been drawn up fifty years ago. The maps were more schematically drawn than accurate. There was a clear need to improve the location and geological formations that detailed areas that produced basic materials and resources, such as forests and mines, which were leased from the imperial courts to the feudal lord a long time ago. Many of these feudal lands had fallen due to neglect and poor management, or the land had to be recovered after the fall of the feudal lord. Furthermore, the roads and other improvements between the respective estates and the imperial capital were often not updated. This reform would take a tremendous amount of money and manpower…

This measure was unexpectedly welcomed by the imperial great families. The development and recovery of the neighboring feudal estates would increase the income of the imperial courts, and in the long run, it would also benefit the noble families in power. This was because these newly utilized resources would eventually be redistributed as domains to the descendants of the imperial court officials who would become public officials and gain titles to lands over time. Currently, the aristocracy within the courts had increased their offspring and descendants through a period of strong fertility under the empire’s lax polygamous system, but the land of the empire was insufficient to fulfill everyone’s desires. To be sure, none of the landholders wanted to divide up their own territory and share it with their children. Therefore, Rain’s proposal was approved without difficulty. Recycling land usage and increasing the overall pie was a good thing for everyone.

The third measure was an imperial census. The measure sought to systemically configure the traditional method of counting the population to increase tax revenue. The current census model was time consuming, taking several years to complete, and often not accurate. There was no reason for anyone to object because it was a very principled imperial practice and setbacks would inevitably delay implementation of any new system, so many felt that this reform would take time before fully implemented, giving them time to prepare for any potential headwinds. Thus, this measure was also passed without much objection.

The fourth measure was to determine the standard of a bed and the size of the house. The imperial court would set the standard bed frame and mattress sizes, and all adult subjects above commoner status would be required to buy a mattress and frame that conformed to this new standard. In addition, all buildings must have standard-sized flooring, which would be like modern square feet, on the floors. The material of the mattress, frame, or flooring didn’t matter. The number of mattresses would determine the number of people living in the household, and the square footage would denote the size of each home. This measure was meant to provide clear estimates of the population and size of each property.

If one wanted to change one’s mattress, one needed to swap it out for a used mattress. When a new mattress was purchased, the local census office would add one additional person to the household. This meant that the standards for an inhabitant tax and property tax could be established. In addition, this measure could be used to prevent excessive expansion and waste.

There was quite a bit of opposition to this measure. Rain smiled and offered the idea that exclusive rights would be given to certain producers to supply the mattresses and regulated flooring. All families attending the meeting would have exclusive supply rights, rotating every three years. If the new reform policy was implemented, huge demand was to be expected. In three years, the income a family would collect from this endeavor would be much greater than the tax the entire family had to pay.

The people attending the meeting looked at each other and growled, baring their teeth at each other as they all sought to take advantage of this seeming economic boon. Thus… the bill itself passed unanimously. No one paid any attention if the measure itself would be poisonous for their respective families in the long run…

Fifth, the issuance of receipts would become mandatory. Three receipts were obligatory whenever a transaction took place. A receipt was required to be submitted to the seller, the buyer, and the imperial government. No one in the meeting understood the meaning of this method. There was no objection, but there was also no one eager to implement the measure.

Rain explained that the purpose of the measure was to better calculate the transaction tax that merchants had to pay the empire. There was a general atmosphere of opposition because many did not fully understand the consequences of this measure. Most of the large families ran their own merchant businesses. It was generally not a good idea for their respective transaction details to be so clearly exposed to the imperial courts.

Rain presented the high officials, who represented the major families of the empire, with the right to issue official receipts and a stamping fee. The method was the same as the mattress and flooring supply rights. The backlash to the measure softened a little, but the gathered officials were still wary and did not hide their suspicions.

In the end, the emperor said a few words. Did the gathered not want to do business with the empire? With just a few words by the emperor, the matter was immediately passed unanimously. After all, for the families, the empire and imperial courts were their single largest customer. Why throw away a goldmine just because of a receipt…

The sixth measure dealt with monetary reform. Rain proposed a plan to unify gold, silver, and bronze coins into a common currency, keeping only the bronze coinage, and expand the power of the empire’s mint to distribute banknotes. The payment of gold for banknotes would be guaranteed by the imperial courts. It was a central bank concept.

The current currency of the empire was based off three denominations of coinage: gold coins, Tongbo, and Chunbo.

One Tongbo, which was the most basic unit, was given a value of a certain commensurate rate of silver. The current exchange rate was ten bronze Chunbo for one Tongbo. Gold coins were usually circulated with the understanding that they represented ten Tongbo.

However, from a certain point, the gold coinage started to become distrusted in the marketplace as brass-mixed counterfeits started appearing in greater numbers.

The principle of economics, ‘Inflation begets more inflation’ also applied here. In a situation where counterfeit money was circulating in large quantities, large amounts of real gold coins were hidden in closets. These gold coins were genuine and issued by the imperial courts, but their value was decreasing by the day. Furthermore, the imperial courts relied on these values and their store of gold coins to fulfill the empire’s needs. As a result, inflation due to the decrease in the value of money had progressed to a serious degree.

This phenomenon was mainly focused on the consumption side of the equation, which put considerable pressure on the finances of the imperial courts to constantly increase the amount of real gold coins in circulation.

Who was benefiting? Who was creating this situation?

Rain’s reform plan was for the empire to buy all the gold in the market, and instead issue banknotes and coins guaranteed by the imperial courts using this gold as collateral. Although in principle, the distribution of gold would not be prohibited by the empire, if the empire secured the credit to issue and back paper money, gold would become a very inconvenient and questionable means of currency in mainstream transactions. In the end, this policy allowed gold to flow into the imperial court’s coffers, which had the effect of increasing the empire’s credibility.

As for this new reform plan, everyone gathered in the meeting declined to comment. They did not have the slightest idea what this new form of money circulation meant, and even if they knew, the act of opposing this measure would be a self-incriminating act of allowing counterfeiting to continue and could cause misunderstanding or even bring unwanted charges of treason.

Many of those gathered possessed a substantial amount of gold, so they thought that there was nothing to lose from the implementation of this measure. The measure was passed after a firm few words by the emperor.

Finally, imperial finance and talent-development management measures were presented. A financial management method called ‘accounting’ and a personnel management method called ‘human resources’ was planned to be implemented.

The imperial courts would implement a financial management system based on double-entry bookkeeping. To this end, 3,000 experts would be trained in this new method over the next five years, and the accounting standards would be applied to the entire empire as soon as the practice was fully codified and established.

Additionally, personnel would be hired through a system of examination. Currently, 50% of the imperial personnel were given positions through a process of testing. This would be increased to 70% in the immediate future. Examinations would be conducted under the supervision of the Han-Sung Clan and the General Secretary’s Office. 

The last measure passed surprisingly quietly.

There was no reason to interfere with the method of managing the imperial court’s finances, and there was no reason to raise concerns over personnel because the great families felt that they had an advantage in testing or other means of personnel development and placement.

Thus, Rain’s reforms began. Many were relieved and snickered at Rain and her seemingly low impact reform measures…

However…

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