VERY old—2500 years, at the very least.
The vulnerability of political freedom and popular sovereignty to tyranny has been a constant theme in political philosophy for 2500 years. It profoundly influenced the creators of the Constitution, an important purpose of which is to forestall the tyranny that destroys political freedom and citizen rule. In the writings of Classical philosophers and historians the Founders could see the blueprint for such a tyranny––one we have seen unfolding in the last few decades, and accelerating in the policies of the current administration.
The Greek historian Polybius in the second century B.C. laid out how a democracy degenerates into tyranny:
So when [the rich] begin to hanker after office, and find that they cannot achieve it through their own efforts or on their merits, they begin to seduce and corrupt the people in every possible way, and thus ruin their estates. The result is that through their senseless craving for prominence they stimulate among the masses both an appetite for bribes and the habit of receiving them, and then the rule of democracy is transformed into government by violence and strong-arm methods. By this time the people have become accustomed to feed at the expense of others, and their prospects of winning a livelihood depend upon the property of their neighbors, and as soon as they find a leader who is sufficiently ambitious and daring…they introduce a regime based on violence.
Many of these preconditions already exist in our country.
A litany of specifics follows, all of which will no doubt be familiar to CF Lifers, before the piece closes out with the part I really wanted to get to:
Finally, Polybius’ link of tyrannic ambition to mediocre politicians who “hanker after office, and find that they cannot achieve it through their own efforts or on their merits,” describes Biden to a T. Biden is a long-time senator with few legislative achievements he still will own, a vicious pit-bull on the Senate Judiciary Committee where he shamelessly demagogued Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, a plagiarizer and unseemly harasser of women, a two-time loser in his bid for the presidency, a fabulist and grifter who monetized the office of Vice President to enrich his family, and a lightweight so light that his own boss, Barack Obama, said, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to fuck things up.” Only a pandemic, disruptive lock-downs, and the Democrat primary threat of socialist Bernie Sanders––along with a probably fraudulent election, and a groveling media running interference–– could get such a meritless mediocrity into the Oval Office.
It made me giggle a little, seeing those one-hundred-percent-true-and-accurate characterizations all gathered together in one convenient paragraph. How bizarre that the wholly lackluster, unpleasant, and talentless C-list actor Biden had been stalled in the role of The Guy Nobody Wanted for so many years, only to suddenly find himself recast by the producers of the show as The Guy Everybody Would Accept just as the final curtain was falling.