Monday, October 10, 2016

The Rise Of Tyrants

The rise of tyrants: Sadly, nothing new

Plato was a Greek philosopher who lived in the city-state of Athens. In 380 A.D., Plato wrote “The Republic,” where he described in Books 8 and 9: “States are as the men are; they grow out of human characters. … Like state, like man.”

“The Republic” is written as a collection of conversations of Plato’s teacher Socrates. It gives insights into human behavior which is amazingly similar to today. Plato described government going through five stages:

  • Royal and Aristocratical
  • Timocratical
  • Oligarchical
  • Democratical
  • Tyrannical

Fifth Stage

And that is the fifth stage – “tyranny.” The tyrant is a lover of power.
Plato wrote: “Last of all comes … the tyrant. … In the early days of his power, he is full of smiles, and he salutes every one whom he meets … making promises in public and also in private, liberating debtors, and distributing land to the people and his followers, and wanting to be so kind and good to every one. … This … is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector. … Hinting at the abolition of debts and partition of lands … he … begins to make a party against the rich. … that they may be impoverished by payment of taxes, and thus compelled to devote themselves to their daily wants and therefore less likely to conspire against him? … And when a man who is wealthy and is also accused of being an enemy of the people sees … he flees … and is not ashamed to be a coward. …”

Plato explained that “the protector” then yields to avarice and uses his newly-acquired power to target his political opponents: “And the protector of the people … having a mob entirely at his disposal, he is not restrained from shedding the blood of kinsmen; by the favorite method of false accusation he brings them into court and murders them, making the life of man to disappear, and with unholy tongue and lips tasting the blood of his fellow citizen. … And if any of them are suspected by him of having notions of freedom, and of resistance to his authority, he will have a good pretext for destroying them. …”

Plato described how the tyrant would keep power: “The tyrant must be always getting up a war. … He is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader. …”
James Madison warned of this at the Constitutional Convention, June 29, 1787 (Max Farrand’s “Records of the Federal Convention of 1787,” vol. I (1911, p. 465): “In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

James Madison wrote in “Federalist No. 47” (Jan. 30, 1788): “The accumulation of all powers, Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
Plato described what happens when a tyrant loses popularity: “Then some of those who joined in setting him up, and who are in power, speak their minds to him and to one another, and the more courageous of them cast in his teeth what is being done. … And the tyrant, if he means to rule, must get rid of them; he cannot stop while he has a friend or an enemy who is good for anything. … Some he kills and others he banishes

“Thus liberty, getting out of all order and reason, passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery. … May we not rightly say that we have sufficiently discussed … the manner of the transition from democracy to tyranny? Yes, quite enough, he said. … A tyranny is the wretchedest form of government … the longer he lives the more of a tyrant he becomes. …”

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