Friday, January 04, 2008

A Thought Regarding the Iowa Caucuses

Some have noted that those who seek power are often the least suited to wielding it. Livy, in his History of Rome, tells us about Cincinnatus, who was made dictator by the Senate to save Rome from military attack. He did not seek this power, he accepted the power although it would harm his personal interests, he exercised this power wisely, and he set this power aside quickly.
"A large force of Sabines, committing dreadful devastation advanced almost up to the walls of the city. The fields were laid waste, the city was smitten with terror... it was determined that a dictator should be appointed to retrieve their shattered fortunes, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was appointed by universal consent.

"It is worth while for those persons who despise all things human in comparison with riches, and who suppose that there is no room either for exalted honour, or for virtue, except where riches abound in great profusion, to listen to the following: Lucius Quinctius [Cincinnatus], the sole hope of the empire of the Roman people, cultivated a farm of four acres on the other side of the Tiber, which is called the Quinctian meadows, exactly opposite the place where the dock-yard now is. There, whether leaning on a stake while digging a trench, or while ploughing, at any rate, as is certain, while engaged on some work in the fields, after mutual exchange of salutations had taken place, being requested by the ambassadors to put on his toga, and listen to the commands of the senate (with wishes that it might turn out well both for him and the commonwealth), he was astonished, and, asking whether all was well, bade his wife Racilia immediately bring his toga from the hut. As soon as he had put it on and come forward, after having first wiped off the dust and sweat, the ambassadors congratulating him, united in saluting him as dictator: they summoned him into the city, and told him what terror prevailed in the army..."
Cincinnatus, using his power of dictatorship, guided the army to victory over Rome's enemies. However, he did not retain this power, rather wanting to go back to his farm.
"Quinctius laid down his dictatorship... having been invested with it for six months."
Electioneering is perhaps the most distasteful and compromising part of our political system, based as it is on conflict, in-fighting, deceit, and hidden influence. Anyone who desires the Presidency is almost certainly not fit to serve in that high office.

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