Friday, November 21, 2008

Aristotle on Obama

Here is Aristotle, from Ch. 5 Book V of the Politics, on how democracies fail. Does Obama fit the description of Aristotle's popular leader of unprincipled character? One thing seems sure: Obama's plan of expropriating the wealth of notable citizens and spreading it around has had predictably bad results for at least 2500 years:

"In democracies the most potent cause of revolution is the unprincipled character of popular leaders. Sometimes they bring malicious prosecutions against the property-owners one by one, and so cause them to join forces; common fear makes the bitterest of foes cooperate. At other times they openly egg on the multitude against them. There are many instances of the kind of thing I mean. At Cos the democracy fell when the popular leaders deteriorated, the more notable citizens combining against them. Similarly at Rhodes, when the democratic politicians provided pay for naval ratings and tried to stop refunding to naval commanders the expenses which they had incurred. These, therefore, weary of incessant law-suits, were obliged to form an association and put down the democracy. At Heraclea too the democratic party was brought low just after the foundation of the colony - and all because of their own leaders, whose unjust treatment of the upper-class citizens caused these to leave the city one after another; finally the exiles gathered forces, returned, and put down the democracy.  The democracy at Megara was dissolved in a similar way: here the popular politicians, in order to have money for doling out to the people, banished many of the notable citizens; this went on until the number of those thus exiled became so large that they returned, won a battle against the people, and established an oligarchy. Sometimes, in order to win the favour of the multitude, they oppress the leading citizens and cause them to unite; methods of oppression include forced capital-levy, as well as a levy on income for public services; another method is to bring slanderous accusations against the rich with a view to getting their money transferred to the public purse."

No comments: