Tuesday, July 1, 2014
The Roman Model: A do-nothing Senate leads to Civil War
In pre civil war Rome, every Roman politician talked about the the Res Publica; the "Republic" that which was for the benefit of the Public as imagined by Rome's Founding Fathers: the original Senate.
This conception of the Res Publica was modeled after the Greek Demos Kratia: which translates as Power to the People or the Demos: which is really the citizenry.
But for all the Roman talk about serving the Res Publica, no substantive legislation was passed over the period of several decades because the Roman Senators didn't want the credit for good legislation to fall upon rival Senators or factions. So there was total gridlock. It was a do nothing Senate.
Really what each and every Senator wanted and fought for with all their might was to rise to the top of a political faction so they could receive support to become Consul for a year (sort of like Party Head). Then after their year was up they would be made Pro Consul and serve in a lush province which they could rape for a grand personal fortune.
Sort of like out polilticians who do nothing for the people but then retire - or simply use their political clout to reap personal fortunes by repping (consulting, lobbying) for our lush provinces: the multi-national Corporations.
So? We're like Rome? Big deal!
Eventually the Roman Senate was so despised by the Roman people that Rome was ripe to be taken over by some charismatic tyrant.
Well, that wildly charismatic figure appeared in the form of Julius Caesar, a populist war hero from an old aristocratic family. Every thing Romans loved. Caesar, backed by his army and with the full embrace of the Roman people, took over the Republic and ruled as a Tyrant. The funny thing is, this tyrant, Julius Caesar, actually tried to use his power to help the Roman People through much needed building projects for the mass unemployed, and through long promised land settlements for the vastly overextended army.
Things that were greatly needed at the time. Sound Familiar?
But these projects, which were wildly popular with the Roman Citizens, were deplored by the do nothing Roman Senate. Not because they were against them in principal, mind you, but because they were hastily enacted without the proper oversight, and without going through traditional channels. Every senator was pro-military and pro the Roman People, of course. But these things had to be done in the proper way and at the right time.
"Populist Senators" got together and plotted to murder Caesar, figuring the citizens would hail them as liberators from the Tyrant.
The Roman Citizens rioted at the loss of their Hero Tyrant. Rome was plunged into an extended and horribly bloody civil war. Which ended with the Advent of a new era - of Hereditary Tyrants.
But don't worry, that was a long time ago. We're way too sophisticated now. It could never happen here, right?