Tag Archives: Politics

The evils of democracy and the mob: Quotes from some of the greatest minds in history.

Fisher Ames: “A democracy is a volcano, which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption, and carry desolation in their way.”

John Jay: “Pure democracy, like pure rum, easily produces intoxication, and with it a thousand mad pranks and fooleries.”

Lord Acton: “The one prevailing evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.”

George Washington: “It is one of the evils of democratical governments, that the people, not always seeing and frequently misled, must often feel before they can act.”

Alexander Hamilton: “If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy.”

Alexander Hamilton: “Real liberty is neither found in despotism, nor in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.”

James Madison: “Where a majority are united by a common sentiment, and have an opportunity, the rights of the minor party become insecure.”

James Madison: “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.”

Alexis de Tocqueville: “The will of the nation is one of those phrases most widely abused by schemers and tyrants of all ages.”

Cicero: “No tempest or conflagration, however great, is harder to quell than mob carried away by the novelty of power.”

Cicero: “This excessive licence, which the anarchists think is the only true freedom, provides the stock, as it were, from which a tyrant grows.”

Plato: “Is it not the excess and greed of this and the neglect of all other things that revolutionizes this constitution too and prepares the way for the necessity of a dictatorship?”

Plato: “And is it not true that in like manner a leader of the people who, getting control of a docile mob, does not withhold his hand from the shedding of tribal blood, but by the customary unjust accusations brings a citizen into court and assassinates him, blotting out a human life, and with unhallowed tongue and lips that have tasted kindred blood, banishes and slays and hints at the abolition of debts and the partition of lands.”

Plato: “And a democracy, I suppose, comes into being when the poor, winning the victory, put to death some of the other party, drive out others, and grant the rest of the citizens an equal share in both citizenship and offices.”

Plato called democracy “a delightful form of government, anarchic and motley, assigning a kind of equality indiscriminately to equals and unequals alike!”

Polybius: “And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence. For the people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the houses of office by his penury, institute the rule of violence; and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch.”

Tocqueville on why people demand equality over freedom

From Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (page 585 in my edition):

The advantages of liberty become visible only in the long term and it is always easy to mistake the cause which brought them about. The advantages of equality are felt immediately and you can observe where they come from daily.

Democrats adopt the Monty Python strategy: Running Away

The Washington Post reports:

Democratic legislators embracing tactic to gain leverage: Fleeing

Yes, that’s the actual headline. So what does this remind me of?

Brave Sir Robin [Fleeing begins at 2:30] (HT Instapundit):

Attacking a French Castle [Fleeing begins at 3:07]:

Killer bunny [Fleeing begins at 1:55]:

The end of that clip omits the most important part. It’s leaves off the Democrats’ strategy:

ROBIN: Would it help to confuse it if we run away more?

ARTHUR: Oh, shut up and go and change your armor.

GALAHAD: Let us taunt it! It may become so cross that it will make a mistake.

And there is the strategy of the Democrats. Run away to confuse people and taunt their enemies hoping they’ll make a mistake. Hey, it’s easier than learning how to govern.

Again, Hat Tip to Instapundit.

Thoughts on Governance

Writing for What Would The Founders Think?

In this post, Michael Newton tries to restore precision to our language. The American experiment was conceived as a republic, not a democracy. Present day efforts to conflate the terms not withstanding, the Founders were wary of democracies and they had good reason.

Read the rest of this entry »

We don’t want democracy in Egypt! We want republicanism.

Now that Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, the media, analysts, politicians, and just about everybody else is calling for democracy in Egypt. For example:

I believe these calls for democracy are made out of ignorance of the word’s real meaning. While we want a democratic system over there, we don’t want true democracy. Alexander Hamilton said at the Constitutional Convention:

“We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism, nor in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.”

Here are some more quotes about the evils of democracy:

“Now the first of these to come into being is monarchy, its growth being natural and unaided; and next arises kingship derived from monarchy by the aid of art and by the correction of defects. Monarchy first changes into its vicious allied form, tyranny; and next, the abolishment of both gives birth to aristocracy. Aristocracy by its very nature degenerates into oligarchy; and when the commons inflamed by anger take vengeance on this government for its unjust rule, democracy comes into being; and in due course the licence and lawlessness of this form of government produces mob-rule to complete the series.” [Polybius, The Histories 6.4.7-13.]

“And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence. For the people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the houses of office by his penury, institute the rule of violence; and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch.”[Polybius, The Histories 6.9.7-9.]

“And a democracy, I suppose, comes into being when the poor, winning the victory, put to death some of the other party, drive out others, and grant the rest of the citizens an equal share in both citizenship and offices.”[Plato, Republic 557a.]

“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.” [James Madison, Federalist No. 10.]

“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, 1814]

“The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.” [Lord Acton]

I for one shall hope that Egypt forms a republican and moderate government, just as Alexander Hamilton recommended for our own country more than 220 years ago.

FuturePundit asks: “Why Not Philanthropic Book Buying?”

FuturePundit writes:

Say you are reading a book you really like and want others to read it too. Maybe you just one certain friend to read it. Maybe you want to try to influence millions of people you do not even know. Or somewhere in between. It should be possible to easily buy restricted or unrestricted book distribution rights.

For example, imagine some wealthy guy with an interest in some policy area, someone who already might now be donating to think tanks like, say, the Manhattan Institute (and I happen to know such people in that specific case). They come across a book that delivers some message (could be about health care, banking reform, immigration, etc) they so enthusiastically agree with that they want to see it reach a much wider audience. It ought to be possible to go to a web interface of an online bookstore or publisher and bid for the right to make the next 10,000 copies of the book free to download. Or bid for the right to make the book freely downloadable for the next 3 days or the next month. Or make it free to download only in one geographic area (e.g. where a measure is on a ballot and you want people to read a relevant book).

Continue here….

If any philanthropists would like to “subsidize” the sale of The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny, let me know and we’ll work something out.

Arabs waking up? We shall see.

One political analyst told AP:

Arab peoples used to fear their authoritarian regimes. Things have changed and now Arab leaders fear their peoples.

Reminds me of a famous, often misattributed, quote by John Basil Barnhill:

Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.

Let us hope and pray these authoritarian regimes are replaced by something better. As I write in The Path to Tyranny:

Furthermore, once tyranny is established, it is difficult to abandon. Most often, upon the death or overthrow of one tyrant, another tyrant takes his place. Aristotle points out that “a tyranny often changes into a tyranny, as that at Sicyon changed from the tyranny of Myron into that of Cleisthenes.” Sian Lewis gives an even more impressive example: “When one looks before a tyrant such as Pittacus or Cypselus to see what kind of government they replaced, one tends to find not aristocracies or monarchies, but an infinite regress of tyrants, each apparently overthrown by a successor in the name of liberty: at Mytilene, for instance, Pittacus overthrew the tyrant Myrsilus, who had in turn overthrown Melanchrus, and before Melanchrus we hear of Megacles, who put down the rule of the club-wielding Penthelidai.”

This succession of one tyrant followed by another makes it all the more important to avoid the first tyrant. Plutarch reports that Solon “uttered the famous saying, that earlier it had been easier for them to hinder the tyranny, while it was in preparation; but now it was a greater and more glorious task to uproot and destroy it when it had been already planted and was grown.”

Overthrowing authoritarianism and replacing it with republicanism will not be an easy task. But for the first time in recent history, it appears that the Arabs desire and are willing to fight for true freedom.

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]

Favorite Polybius Quotes

Polybius on the evolution and de-evolution of political systems:

Monarchy first changes into its vicious allied form, tyranny; and next, the abolishment of both gives birth to aristocracy. Aristocracy by its very nature degenerates into oligarchy; and when the commons inflamed by anger take vengeance on this government for its unjust rule, democracy comes into being; and in due course the licence and lawlessness of this form of government produces mob-rule to complete the series. [The Histories 6.4.7-13]

Polybius describes how democracies kill themselves:

And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence. For the people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the houses of office by his penury, institute the rule of violence; and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch. [The Histories 6.9.7-9]

Polybius on checks and balances in government:

The constitution should remain for long in a state of equilibrium like a well-trimmed boat, kingship being guarded from arrogance by the fear of the commons, who were given a sufficient share in the government, and the commons on the other hand not venturing to treat the kings with contempt from fear of the elders, who being selected from the best citizens would be sure all of them to be always on the side of justice; so that that part of the state which was weakest owing to its subservience to traditional custom, acquired power and weight by the support and influence of the elders. [The Histories 6.10.6-10]

Polybius on how the Roman Republic created its “best of all existing constitutions” through trial and error:

The Romans while they have arrived at the same final result as regards their form of government, have not reached it by any process of reasoning, but by the discipline of many struggles and troubles, and always choosing the best by the light of the experience gained in disaster have thus reached…the best of all existing constitutions. [The Histories 6.10.13-14]

Polybius on the success of the Roman Republic’s system of checks and balances:

Such being the power that each part has of hampering the others or co-operating with them, their union is adequate to all emergencies, so that it is impossible to find a better political system than this… For when one part having grown out of proportion to the others aims at supremacy and tends to become too predominant, it is evident that…none of the three is absolute, but the purpose of the one can be counterworked and thwarted by the others, none of them will excessively outgrow the others or treat them with contempt. All in fact remains in statu quo, on the one hand, because any aggressive impulse is sure to be checked and from the outset each estate stands in dread of being interfered with by the others… [The Histories 6.18]