Friday, April 07, 2006

The dangers to a republic

Long before there was Caesar, there was Marius.

The Cunning Realist noted the exchange between Harry Taylor and president Bush, and wrote:
History's proven that the greatest danger to a nation sometimes is not a wayward leader, but the unthinking masses desperate to surrender freedom to someone---anyone---promising to "protect" them. It's during those times that the individual's most lethal enemy is not his government, but his next-door neighbor.

Instead of "booo," the audience at the president's event might just as well have bleated "baaahhh."
More and more, this president reminds me of the Roman tyrant Marius -- though we should be thankful that our Marius has been less efficient and productive. From Plutarch's Life of Gauis Marius (my emphasis because Plutarch did not have Blogger):
Marius was now in his fifth consulship, and he sued for his sixth in such a manner as never any man before him had done, even for his first; he courted the people's favour and ingratiated himself with the multitude by every sort of complaisance; not only derogating from the state and dignity of his office, but also belying his own character, by attempting to seem popular and obliging, for which nature had never designed him. His passion for distinction did, indeed, they say, make him exceedingly timorous in any political matters, or in confronting public assemblies; and that undaunted presence of mind he always showed in battle against the enemy forsook him when he was to address the people; he was easily upset by the most ordinary commendation or dispraise. It is told of him, that having at one time given the freedom of the city to one thousand men of Camerinum who had behaved valiantly in this war, and this seeming to be illegally done, upon some one or other calling him to an account for it, he answered, that the law spoke too softly to be heard in such a noise of war; yet he himself appeared to be more disconcerted and overcome by the clamour made in the assemblies. The need they had of him in time of war procured him power and dignity; but in civil affairs, when he despaired of getting the first place, he was forced to betake himself to the favour of the people, never caring to be a good man so that he were but a great one.


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