In reading an essay on Cicero's On the Republic I stumbled across a couple of passages that force me to consider their pertinence to our modern times.
Speaking to a Democratic Republic form of government and society, (ours) ...
"Yet, in this greatest of strengths also resides the deepest of weaknesses. When the people enjoy true liberty, they often fail to identify its source, admiring its effects rather than its causes. In particular, they misunderstand the necessity of virtue to the health of a society, misbelieving it the possession of the haughty and elite."
“For when, on account of this mistaken notion of the common people, the State begins to be ruled by the riches, instead of the virtue, of a few men, these rulers tenaciously retain the title, though they do not possess the character of the best,” he laments. “For riches, names, and power, when they lack wisdom and the knowledge of how to live and to rule over others, are full of dishonour and insolent pride, nor is there any more depraved type of State than that in which the richest are accounted best.”
"The best society, Cicero continues, cultivates us as free individuals, not for our benefit, but for the benefit of the community."
“For, in truth, our country has not given us birth and education without expecting to receive some sustenance, as it were, from us in return; nor has it been merely to serve our convenience that she has granted to our leisure a safe refuge and for our moments of repose a calm retreat,”
*from a second essay of On the Republic
... he argues forcibly and persuasively.
“On the contrary, she has given us these advantages so that she may appropriate to her own use the greater and more important part of our courage, our talents, and our wisdom, leaving to us for our own private uses only so much as may be left after her needs have been satisfied.”
"Though unpalatable to modern libertine ears, Cicero’s words certainly anticipate those of Edmund Burke. Additionally, Cicero notes, a man must act not merely on behalf of his own republic, but on behalf of the universe as seen through the republic and the actions of its citizens. "
“Do you not think it important for our homes that we should know what is happening and being done in that home which is not shut in by the walls we built, but is the whole universe, a fatherland which the gods have given us the privilege of sharing with them.”
These two essays aren't the heavy read the quotes imply. If you have a Conservative or Libertarian perspective they are worth the 15 or 20 minutes reading for the challenge of forcing you to validate the strength of your convictions.
Can you/we, (I have a semi-Conservative perspective), deny the truth of his philosophy?
Or is this thought a waste of time, here, because it isn't a Trump thread?
ps. I anticipate a Liberal perspective might read this as an "Aha! I told you so." but a full read of the essays won't support that thought either.
[EDIT] I must be slow this morning. Who else is reminded of JFK's famous "Ask not..." speech?
GA, it is an interesting read.
It proves one thing I'm sure we can all agree on. It is something a wise man once told me, "Times change but people don't."
I agree with that wiseman Mike. Although I label it human nature, it appears that thousands of years of society prove the point.
Apparently, Cicero's basic tenants of the best Republic government haven't changed either.
He prescribes a mixed Republic government; a monarch, (our Executive), the Aristocracy, (as wise Magistrates, our Judiciary), and democracy, (our representative legislature).
So it looks like our U.S. Constitution was on the right track. Also, like our Founding Fathers - he saw total democracy, (Athens was the example of his time), as a bad, doomed to fail form of government.
But here is where he may be speaking to our times. He speaks of Liberty and License. Liberty is life without a master, (a good thing), and License is the perversion of Liberty to be free to do as you want, regardless of society, (a bad thing).
I think our modern elevation of the democracy part of our government has led us to believe in License at the expense of Liberty.
Thousands of years of society seem to have proven that there is such a thing as too much democracy.
It was even a Roman from Cicero's time that encapsulated the point with one of Wilderness' favorite phrase; 'bread and circuses'. (the phrase, used it to decry the selfishness of common people and their neglect of wider concerns)
Yep, one person - one vote, pure democracy. How do you like it now?
So,GA the so-called minority non-common people have earned their right to dominate and exploit as they in fact grasp the wider concerns, as opposed to the majority defined as mere rabble?
Only conservatives are afraid of democracy, they have opposed extending the franchise to every deserving group since the inception of the Republic. They don't deserve the time of day, in my opinion.
Of course, they want to maintain the status quo as it gives them the advantage. Well, in 2020, that too will be challenged. They resist at every new expansion of participation in a democracy, but they will lose as they always have.
Are rightwingers really afraid of democracy? That has been my theme.
In this culture and society today, too much democracy is the least of my concerns.
Have to Brush up on myRoman history, though. You bring up int resting points, but no cigar.
... "the minority/non-common" versus "mere rabble." (who is who?)
Dare I guess? whites vs blacks?
"Only conservatives (Whites?) are afraid of democracy (how could this be true?) They oppose extending (giving?) the franchise (which franchise?) to every deserving group (which includes Blacks?) since the inception of the Republic. (Proof, please)
Furthermore, the conservatives (Whites?) want to maintain the status quo (of what? the power of the Whites?), as it gives them an advantage." (what is it? power?)
"... in 2020, that (status quo? power?) will be challenged. They will resist every new expansion of participation (the black vote?) in a democracy, but they (the Conservatives? Whites?) will lose (what? power?) as they always have (lost. power, control and dominance?)
"Are conservatives (whites) really afraid of democracy? That has been my theme. (really?) Today, too much democracy is the least of my concerns. (Since you are black?)"
@ Credence: Such a lack of concern is not wise in the least. Democracy often yields to the tyranny of majority faction. This you should know, of all people, it seems to me, based on your usual stance.
You are barking up the wrong tree, KH.
This is not about race. I was referring to this excerpt from an earlier comment.
"It was even a Roman from Cicero's time that encapsulated the point with one of Wilderness' favorite phrase; 'bread and circuses'. (the phrase, used it to decry the selfishness of common people and their neglect of wider concerns"
Are the aristocrats, privileged and plutocrats the uncommon people and why are they to be considered SO virtuous, unselfish and altruistic?
I will take my chances with democracy anytime over the rule from a privileged few. There are plenty of safeguards within the Constitution that protects from tyranny from the majority, but I will not trade in democracy for the control of a few that is to know so much more than the rest of us.
The biggest danger the "big shots" face today are the laws in place and popular sovereignty and you can bet they will do everything possible to undermine this.
"There are plenty of safeguards within the Constitution that protects from tyranny from the majority..."
And that is because our governing manner is not one of pure democracy. If it were those safeguards and protections could easily be overridden.
And then where would the restrictions that would stop a majority from voting for all the "bread and circuses" they want. If they are the majority in a pure democracy what would stop them?
For example, the 14th Admendment prohibits the confiscation of life, liberty or property without due process of law. So a majority of the population cannot vote nor a legislature legislate provisions denying a specific group the right to vote.
But I will always trust the will of the people over some oligarchy anytime, GA.
But, but, but ... leaving our governing to "some oligarchy" was never part of the discussion. I wouldn't leave it to some oligarchy either.
Neither would Cicero; "... nor is there any more depraved type of State than that in which the richest are accounted best."
ps. Relative to your "14th..." statement, yes they could deny what you claim they can't. In a pure democracy, the majority could simply vote to rewrite the rules. Any of them.
No Cred, "...the so-called minority non-common people have not earned their right to dominate and exploit..." nor does Cicero, (or our Constitution), propose that they have.
The concept is that they have a place in his, (and our), tripartite structure of governing. Put aside his words of monarch and aristocracy and use our equivalent ones of Executive and Senate/Judiciary.
Let's take a look at how your pure democracy might work.
I think it would be fair to say that in pure democracy the majority rules. I also think it is not a stretch to say that another way to see that is as mob rule - if the mob is the majority
Do you disagree with that?
In the U.S. there are more white folks than black folks, so pure democracy would allow us to roll back all of the Civil Rights gains - if we whites banded together. Can you support disagreeing with that?
I think you might understand what I mean with this example;
Take the NASCAR fans, (sorry for the implication folks, but I think the Leftist's perception of you will be easily understood), at a Winston 500 race, and take the protesters that participated in the Occupy Wall Street protest, (the ones we saw in the media) - if either of those groups were the majority, would you want them making the rules for your society? That would be the power of pure democracy.
Far from being the least of your concerns, it should be one of the biggest. All of the detriments you are railing against are the result of "pure democracy" being used to elect those Representatives and Senators that are causing you so much angst.
Just imagine if those elected representatives weren't constrained by the
other two parts of our government.
ps. don't overlook the fact that in a pure democracy all those minority protections and constitutional safeguards could simply be changed by the majority vote.
"I think our modern elevation of the democracy part of our government has led us to believe in License at the expense of Liberty."
RIGHT ON ! !
some things change but there is a constant:
The imperfection of human nature never changes.
Those who become perfect don't come back to earth, unless they do so to help others, but they are one in a ... billion or so.
"As people enjoy true liberty, they need to admire its causes. In particular, they need to understand the necessity of VIRTUE to the health of a society.
V I R T U E
- which leads us to the question of Plato's:
Q.What is virtue?
A. It is justice and the giving of what is owed.
Q What is owed a man?
A. His rights. His God-given rights. The rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ...
And each man must give each man (human) his/her due.
(and to each human, beginning at the moment of conception.)
As I understand it.
1. An authorization granted by a government or company to an individual or group enabling them to carry out specified commercial activities, e.g., providing a broadcasting service or acting as an agent for a company's products.
synonyms: warrant, charter, license, permit, authorization, permission, sanction; More
2. The right to vote
GA Anderson: "... a man must act not merely on behalf of his own republic, but on behalf of the universe as seen through the republic and the actions of its citizens. "
What is the meaning behind the word "universe" do you suppose?
“Do you not think it important
for our homes
that we should know what is happening
and being done in that home,
which is not shut in
by the walls we built,
but is the whole universe,
which the gods have given us
of sharing with them.”
Hi Kathryn, I take "universe" as used by Cicero to simply mean the world outside their Republic. I think a shorthand modern phrase conveys the same thing; No man is an island - extrapolated to no nation, (Republic), is an island.
He understood that in any matter of society or Republic you cannot ignore the world outside of your own little one.
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