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Long before our own time, the customs of our ancestors moulded admirable men, and in turn these eminent men upheld the ways and institutions of their forebears. Our age, however, inherited the Republic like some beautiful painting of bygone days, its colors already fading through great age; and not only has our time neglected to freshen the colors of the picture, but we have failed to preserve its form and outlines. For what remains to us, nowadays, of the ancient ways on which the commonwealth, we are told, was founded? We see them so lost in oblivion that they are not merely neglected, but quite forgot. And what am I to say of the men? For our customs have perished for want of men to stand by them, and we are now called to an account, so that we stand impeached like men accused of capital crimes, compelled to plead our own cause. Through our vices, rather than from happenstance, we retain the word “republic” long after we have lost the reality.–Cicero, De Re Publica

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3 replies to this post
  1. Many historians suggest that Rome *needed*, for social and economic reasons, to expand from a Republic to an Empire. Thus, much as Cicero, Cato, Brutus and Cassius may have opposed it, the path taken by Julius Caeasar — empire — was more or less inevitable given the circumstances.

    Why? Because Rome (the city) at that point had a huge population of idle citizens who needed to eat. To feed them, Rome had to control outside food sources, such as North Africa.

    Meanwhile, the equestrian class was growing still richer.

    Disparities in land ownership is also cited as a contributing factor.

    Based on correspondences between then and now, what changes might we make to preserve our Republic? Some possibilities: (1) energy independence; (2) land redistribution (return to a somewhat more agrarian society; e.g., break up huge corporate, thousand-acre farms and supply 20-acre parcels to individual families); (3) reduce the radical disparity in political power, such that 1% of the population (the elite, super-rich) currently, via Wall Street, controls Congress.

  2. John, excellent comment. The Roman Empire was itself a consequence of the disparities; the City of Rome was a vast welfare state that needed the empire to supply its needs. The Republican form continued for centuries, complete with expensive elections for Republican offices that no longer held any real power. The parallel with our own oligarchy is striking.

  3. Both of you two have some some interesting points of view. As try not to digress from thoughtful deliberation, I would like for you guys to think about something. John M you said, "the City of Rome was a vast welfare state that needed the empire to supply its needs." Well if it were truly a republic, then it would need itself to supply its own needs. It either needs or it doesn't. The soul either looks to God or the body(the earthly things of this world, the temporal). When the soul looks to God, the body follows, when the soul looks to the body, we digress like animate objects, like needy kids who say, "I'm bored, I need something to play with." God does supply what we need, we just have to trust, sometimes we starve, sometimes we die, but such as life. There is a beginning and an end to everything. We have a purpose, some as angels, and life is the story of the fulfillment of that purpose.

    John M, you have an excellent historical analysis. However, I am more and more disturbed by the distinctions in the rich and poor, the classes.. When Tocqueville came to America he was amazed by what he saw as the "equality of the classes.." I believe that all of man's problems come from the inability to sit in a quiet room and think, completely satisfied with any temporal object like a class status, God is in control of that and as we try to become conscious of this moving thing, we digress. We can't be aware of being cool and being cool at the same time. This is the last thing I'm going to say about this, you know, we could go try and divide up land, or it could just be, we need the individual wills to do this, not one person to do it for us, not one thing, or and empire to tell us how to think and what to do… This is a period of anti self, anti intellect.. We are made from the inside out not the outside in. The mind controls the heart, which pumps the blood to the limbs, which my yardman picks up after a storm. Have a good day everyone. Be blest and do work.

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