Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Cassandra In Denial of His Own Vision?

A pessimistic bon mot of author Jerry Pournelle was made quote of the day by Kevin Baker last week.

Sort of a twofer:

I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

John Adams, letter to John Taylor (15 April 1814).
The remedy, of course, was to form a Republic, and for over two hundred years the Republic endured. Now it is to be converted into a democracy, and the result is predictable and predicted. There are many good studies of what happens when a democracy commits suicide. If it is fortunate it gets a Claudius Caesar, but more often it must first endure a Caligula so that Claudius seems a blessed relief. And after Claudius as likely as not comes Nero. But I digress. For the moment we do not yet have Marius.[Highlighting by PF]

For the record, on 10 June I sent the following request to Mr. Pournelle.
Please explain why you say we do not yet have Marius. Aside from the fact we do not have as head of state the general of his own army, there is a long list of benchmark achievements in the last dozen years that come close to Marius'. (If you'd like an absolute: I'd say it is clear that there is no Sulla in sight.)

Maybe, as you consider a response, you might provide your opinion as to what fraction of Marius' standard we are currently enduring.
No reply yet.

Maybe he meant there is not one man -- a Marius -- and didn't think the question worthy. But just because we cannot point to one man, that does not mean we haven't endured the same sort of inroads on our republic and our individual sovereignty that are associated with Marius and the ancient republic.

Or maybe it was his way of dismissing his own worries about the further degradations to Caligua/Claudius/Nero -- by denying that we are knee deep in the sort of cultural destruction that Marius introduced.

One more thing.
Should amnesty ever be passed, we will have matched (ironically?)  Marius' granting the Latins (of Italy) Roman citizenship, and then that will have changed our status from near knee deep to about neck deep.

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