Thursday, October 14, 2010

On the Upcoming Elections...

A GOOD MAN does not have the desire to rule over his fellow countrymen. Were power an intrinsically good thing, then we would not see so many evil men — or women — wielding it. Boethius tells us:
'Besides, if there were any element of natural and proper good in rank and power, they would never come to the utterly bad, since opposites are not wont to be associated. Nature brooks not the union of contraries. So, seeing there is no doubt that wicked wretches are oftentimes set in high places, it is also clear that things which suffer association with the worst of men cannot be good in their own nature. Indeed, this judgment may with some reason be passed concerning all the gifts of fortune which fall so plentifully to all the most wicked. This ought also to be considered here, I think: No one doubts a man to be brave in whom he has observed a brave spirit residing. It is plain that one who is endowed with speed is swift-footed. So also music makes men musical, the healing art physicians, rhetoric public speakers. For each of these has naturally its own proper working; there is no confusion with the effects of contrary things—nay, even of itself it rejects what is incompatible. And yet wealth cannot extinguish insatiable greed, nor has power ever made him master of himself whom vicious lusts kept bound in indissoluble fetters; dignity conferred on the wicked not only fails to make them worthy, but contrarily reveals and displays their unworthiness. Why does it so happen? Because ye take pleasure in calling by false names things whose nature is quite incongruous thereto—by names which are easily proved false by the very effects of the things themselves; even so it is; these riches, that power, this dignity, are none of them rightly so called. Finally, we may draw the same conclusion concerning the whole sphere of Fortune, within which there is plainly nothing to be truly desired, nothing of intrinsic excellence; for she neither always joins herself to the good, nor does she make good men of those to whom she is united.'
— Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

Traditionally, the solution is to thrust authority only upon those who do not seek or desire it. Nowadays, we want to get things done — even though we sharply disagree on what it is that ought to be done — and we will chose the shrewdest self-serving politicians for this end. Boethius instead encourages us to develop an interior, contemplative life, to increase our virtue and to be happy and blessed. We cannot have a good government unless the people involved are also good.

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