Category Archives: Liberty

Supporters of Liberty Are Always Attacked

Members of the tea party have been called tea baggers, extremists, racists, and Nazis by opponents of the grass-roots pro-liberty movement. While this shows the lack of “civility” of the left, supporters of liberty are always attacked for their beliefs.

Socrates spent his life fighting for freedom of speech and freedom of religion and became a martyr for these causes. In 399 BC, Socrates was charged and put to death for disbelieving in the official Greek pantheon and for corrupting the youth of Athens. But Socrates had also angered most of Athens for praising Sparta while the two were at war with each other, insulting the intellectuals of Athens by claiming he was the wisest man alive, criticizing the leaders of Athens, and arguing against democracy. Admitting that he enjoyed stirring up trouble, Socrates said at his trial: “For if you put me to death, you will not easily find another, who, to use a rather absurd figure, attaches himself to the city as a gadfly to a horse, which, though large and well bred, is sluggish on account of his size and needs to be aroused by stinging. I think the god fastened me upon the city in some such capacity, and I go about arousing.” [Plato, Apology 30e.] Socrates’ criticism of ancient Athens’ political system and leadership got him killed.

Demosthenes fought bigger government, higher taxes, and political corruption in ancient Athens. But he is best remembered for his opposition to Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. For years, Demosthenes spoke constantly against Philip, but had little success gaining allies. Nevertheless, Demosthenes demanded action, arguing it is “better to die a thousand times than pay court to Philip.” [Demosthenes, “Speeches” 9.65.] When Philip finally marched against Greece, his army easily won the battle and occupied Thebes but spared Athens. When Philip was assassinated, Demosthenes again attempted to form alliances and encouraged the territories under Macedonian control to rebel. But Philip’s son Alexander marched on Thebes, which immediately submitted to him. Thebes and Athens rebelled yet again upon mistakenly hearing that Alexander was dead, at which Alexander destroyed Thebes and placed Athens under Macedonian control. When Alexander the Great died, Demosthenes again tried to rally the people for independence, but Antipater, Alexander’s successor in Greece and Macedon, defeated the Athenians in battle, forced them to dissolve their government, and Demosthenes committed suicide before he could be arrested and executed.

Cicero was one of the most powerful men in ancient Rome and its Senate. Cicero fought for property rights, arguing “I do not mean to find fault with the accumulation of property, provided it hurts nobody.” [Cicero, De Officiis 1.25.] Cicero also fought against government-provided welfare, abolition of debts, and redistribution of land and wealth. But he is best remembered for his fight against imperial power. In his quest for power, Julius Caesar asked Cicero to join his Triumvirate with Pompey and Crassus, but Cicero declined, fearing it would hurt the Republic. When Julius Caesar was assassinated, Cicero as leader of the Senate and Mark Antony as consul and leader of those who supported Caesar became the two leaders of Rome. Cicero opposed Antony and made a series of speeches against him, known as Philippics for the similarity of his speeches to those of Demosthenes against Philip of Macedon. Mark Antony formed the Second Triumvirate with Octavian, Julius Caesar’s heir, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, a former consul and strong supporter of Julius Caesar. They immediately sought to exile or kill their political opponents, especially Cicero. Cicero was captured on his way to the coast, where he had hoped to escape to Macedonia. Cicero’s capturers “cut off his head, by Antony’s command, and his hands — the hands with which he wrote the Philippics.” [Plutarch, Parallel Lives Cicero 48.6.]

Cato the Younger was a very stubborn man who vehemently opposed corruption, demagoguery, and immorality. In the Senate, Cato focused especially on taxes and wasteful government spending. When Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus created the First Triumvirate, Cato was an immediate opponent. Cato opposed Caesar’s first major proposal to distribute public lands to the people. “No one spoke against the law except Cato, and him Caesar ordered to be dragged from the rostra to prison.” [Plutarch, Parallel Lives Cato 33.1.] Though the Senate disagreed with Cato’s position, they forced Caesar to free him from his unjust imprisonment. Seeing the growing tyranny, “Cato warned the people that they themselves by their own votes were establishing a tyrant in their citadel.” [Plutarch, Parallel Lives Cato 33.3.] But the people refused to listen to Cato and continued to support Caesar. Ten years later, Caesar and his army crossed the Rubicon, thus declaring war on the Roman Senate. The Senate fled and Caesar chased after them. Seeing that Caesar had won and knowing Caesar would have him executed, Cato committed suicide.

When you are attacked for supporting liberty, know that you stand on the shoulders of giants. And let us thank God and country, for we live in a society in which we have freedom of speech and in which the supporters of government tyranny can do no more than insult their opponents.

Electoral College: What the Founders Thought

Britain on the path to tyranny?

The title of my book and the blog is The Path to Tyranny. The book describes how the demand for free gifts from the government leads to tyranny. But this road does not always lead straight to tyranny. It often falls into anarchy first.

Today’s headline at Drudge Report:

ANARCHY IN THE UK: PROTESTERS ATTACK ROYALS!So how exactly does anarchy lead to tyranny? First, I’ll share a couple of quotes from some people much smarter than me.

John Adams in A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America:

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.

Plato’s Republic:

And so the probable outcome of too much freedom is only too much slavery in the individual and the state… from the height of liberty, I take it, the fiercest extreme of servitude.

Montesquieu explains exactly how anarchy leads to tyranny in his Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline:

For in a free state in which sovereignty has just been usurped, whatever can establish the unlimited authority of one man is called good order, and whatever can maintain the honest liberty of the subjects is called commotion, dissension, or bad government.

I already expounded upon this quote in a previous blog post:

This is the real reason so many today advocate anarchy and anti-globalization. They do not really want anarchy. Instead, they want to establish a situation which would call for immediate order, to be established by the government and “intellectual elites.” First stage is anarchy, second is totalitarianism. These “anarchists” hope they can direct events towards socialism, as they successfully did in Russia in the 1910s and attempted to do in Italy and Germany, though other collectivist regimes beat out the socialists and communists, though both the Fascists and Nazis adopted socialist platforms to win favor among the people.

The ultimate result of the anarchy spreading through Europe is not yet known. History shows that this often, but not always, leads to tyranny.

The situation reminds me of Germany in the 1920s, except that all of Europe and the United States is in a similar situation to the Weimar Republic with huge deficits and debts that cannot be paid off. That led to the tyranny of the Nazis. Will we be able to avoid the mistakes of the past?

Favorite Quotes from Aristotle’s Politics

More than 2000 years ago, Aristotle literally wrote the book on politics. Aristotle’s Politics most certainly rivals and probably exceeds Plato’s Republic and Machiavelli’s Prince in its understanding and explanation of political philosophy, though it seems to be less popular than those other works. Aristotle’s Politics was possibly the most influential political book until Montesquieu wrote his Spirit of the Laws, which our Founding Fathers relied on quite heavily in developing the United States Constitution.

In writing The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny, I used Aristotle’s Politics as a prime source for information on ancient Greek politics and political philosophy in general. Here, I share some of my favorite quotes.

Aristotle’s principles of liberty:

One principle of liberty is for all to rule and be ruled in turn. [Politics Book 6 Part 2]

The majority must be supreme, and that whatever the majority approve must be the end and the just. Every citizen, it is said, must have equality. [Politics Book 6 Part 2]

A man should live as he likes. This, they say, is the privilege of a freeman, since, on the other hand, not to live as a man likes is the mark of a slave. This is the second characteristic of democracy, whence has arisen the claim of men to be ruled by none, if possible, or, if this is impossible, to rule and be ruled in turns; and so it contributes to the freedom based upon equality. [Politics Book 6 Part 2]

Aristotle’s definition of tyranny:

For tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only. [Politics Book 3 Part 7]

Aristotle explains the motivations of tyrants:

A tyrant, as has often been repeated, has no regard to any public interest, except as conducive to his private ends; his aim is pleasure. [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

The idea of a king is to be a protector of the rich against unjust treatment, of the people against insult and oppression. Whereas a tyrant, as has often been repeated, has no regard to any public interest, except as conducive to his private ends; his aim is pleasure, the aim of a king, honor. Wherefore also in their desires they differ; the tyrant is desirous of riches, the king, of what brings honor. And the guards of a king are citizens, but of a tyrant mercenaries. [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

As of oligarchy so of tyranny, the end is wealth; (for by wealth only can the tyrant maintain either his guard or his luxury). [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

Aristotle explains how men became tyrants:

In any of these ways an ambitious man had no difficulty, if he desired, in creating a tyranny, since he had the power in his hands already, either as king or as one of the officers of state. Thus Pheidon at Argos and several others were originally kings, and ended by becoming tyrants; Phalaris, on the other hand, and the Ionian tyrants, acquired the tyranny by holding great offices. [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

Panaetius at Leontini, Cypselus at Corinth, Peisistratus at Athens, Dionysius at Syracuse, and several others who afterwards became tyrants, were at first demagogues. [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

History shows that almost all tyrants have been demagogues who gained the favor of the people by their accusation of the notables. At any rate this was the manner in which the tyrannies arose in the days when cities had increased in power. [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

Aristotle explains the ruthlessness of tyrants:

Another mark of a tyrant is that he likes foreigners better than citizens, and lives with them and invites them to his table; for the one are enemies, but the Others enter into no rivalry with him. [Politics Book 5 Part 11]

From democracy tyrants have borrowed the art of making war upon the notables and destroying them secretly or openly, or of exiling them because they are rivals and stand in the way of their power; and also because plots against them are contrived by men of this class, who either want to rule or to escape subjection. [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

Aristotle explains how tyrants oppress the people:

These are, (1) the humiliation of his subjects; he knows that a mean-spirited man will not conspire against anybody; (2) the creation of mistrust among them; for a tyrant is not overthrown until men begin to have confidence in one another; … (3) the tyrant desires that his subjects shall be incapable of action, for no one attempts what is impossible, and they will not attempt to overthrow a tyranny, if they are powerless. [Politics Book 5 Part 11]

Another practice of tyrants is to multiply taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that within five years his subjects should bring into the treasury their whole property. [Politics Book 5 Part 11]

The people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy; also the offerings of the family of Cypselus, and the building of the temple of Olympian Zeus by the Peisistratidae, and the great Polycratean monuments at Samos; all these works were alike intended to occupy the people and keep them poor. [Politics Book 5 Part 11]

The tyrant is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader. [Politics Book 5 Part 11]

The Balance of Power in the Roman Republic, the US Constitution, and Today

The Path to Tyranny featured on Conservative Bookstore!

The Conservative Bookstore is featuring my book, The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny, on their site this month.

W.J. Rayment of the Conservative Bookstore posted the full review at Conservative Monitor. Here is the full review for you enjoyment:

Even in the days of ancient Greece, political science was a subject earnestly studied and remarkably well-understood. The multiplicity of city states allowed philosophers to discern patterns in the ebb and flow of historical events. What the Solon’s of the age noticed was that when pure democracy was allowed to reign in any state that the inevitable result was a rapid destruction of the economy and a sudden move to tyranny coupled with an almost complete loss of liberty.

Michael E Newton in his seminal work, The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny, we are treated to historical examples of what happens when a society allows rampant, uncontrolled democracy to subvert constitutional balance within a government. Newton begins with ancient Western Civilization where in both Greek and Roman society broke down because the mass of people figured out they could violate property rights through the government. When this happened, productivity was discouraged by ever rising taxation. The declining availability of goods and services caused the frustration of the under-classes (because that an exploited economy could not support their demands). Thus, they would resort to a demagogic dictator who would ring society dry for the support of the masses in the aggrandizement of his own wealth and power.

As The Path to Tyranny so ably illustrates, in example after example, the ultimate result of this process is the loss of freedom, the degradation of the economy, and general misery. This is one of those history books where Santayana’s famous quote rings loud and rings true, “Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.” There are lessons here for America. Mr. Newton’s clear and concise writing style makes them crystal clear.

This is the great thing about this book. It can be understood by both the academic as well as the layman. As a student of history myself (I wrote a textbook on Modern European History), I found myself gesticulating, scribbling in the margins, and generally agreeing with point after point. I kept thinking that this book is irrefutable. I can’t imagine an academic or politician arguing intelligently with Newton’s assertions or his conclusions. Of course, there are three self-interested groups who would argue that America’s present course is a good one. They would be those who believe they will benefit from government largesse in the form of welfare payments, “free” health care, and social security. Then there are those academics who arrogantly think they are smart enough to manage a centralized economy better than Smith’s invisible hand. Finally, most ominously, there are those politicians who wish to harness the lazy greed of those who would suck off the system, using it to propel their own political careers in a tyrannical direction…Ironically, in the U.S. most of these politicians are currently called Democrats.

The Path to Tyranny is well-documented – with ample citations, a bibliography, and a comprehensive index. Besides ancient Greece and Rome, it covers ancient Israel, Communist Russia, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and of course the current state of affairs in the United States. In a fascinating section, Newton also nails the dictatorship of Hugo Chavez. After reading this book anyone who subscribes to the democratic agenda, must be stupid, delusional, or a demagogue!

Must Read!

Thank you Mr. Rayment for your great review. I’m glad you enjoyed the book.

ELEFTHERIA I THANATOS!

Americans think politicians are corrupt. That’s why the Founders gave us a constitutional republic.

In a recent poll, Americans said they blame politicians and not the system:

Optimism about the American system of government is at a 36-year low, yet most Americans blame the people in office — not the system itself — for all that’s going wrong, according to a new ABC News/Yahoo! News poll.

While I agree that politicians are corrupt, I don’t agree that this is the problem we are now facing. The real problem is the system of government we have. We have left our the republican roots of our Constitution and become too democratic.

If you study the history of free society and its descent, you will see one corrupt politician after another. You will discover the demagogues of ancient Greece, the tyrants of Rome, the totalitarians of the twentieth century, and the many corrupt politicians in our own history.

Our Founding Fathers knew that we too would have our fair share of corrupt politicians, just as all societies do. Not trusting government to corrupt, power-hungry men, the Founders established a constitutional republic for us in which “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” [Madison. Federalist #51.]

In ancient Rome, there were three power centers: the people, the aristocracy, and the monarchy. Rome balanced these three powers with the people, often called the mob, the Senate representing the aristocracy, and the magistrates acting similar to monarchs.

Our Founders created a similar balance between the three. The House of Representatives are the people. The Senate is the aristocracy as they were originally chosen by the states, not directly elected. And the President acts like a monarch, especially in war time when he is very similar to the temporary dictators of ancient Rome.

The Founders also established a balance of powers between the federal government and the states, designed to prevent either one from becoming too powerful:

This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will  both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them. [Hamilton speech to New York Ratifying Convention]

Few today would argue that the states act as a check on the power of the federal government. With the power of the military, federal court system, and printing press (enabling federal government to spend nearly unlimited amounts of money whereas states can’t print money to pay off debts), states are powerless to stop any federal tyranny.

Additionally, in 1913 the Seventeenth Amendment provided for direct election of Senators. Prior to that, Senators were elected by their state legislatures. Not only did this direct election reduce the power of the states even further, it also removed the Senate’s aristocratic nature and made it democratic, little different from the House of Representatives.

Thus, the balance of powers has been severely weakened as the states can no longer check the federal government and the Senate has become another tool of the power. In effect, we have become a federal democracy.

Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. [Madison. Federalist #10.]

It should be no surprise then that we are now living in such turbulent times.