The Macabre Cycle of the Human Herd
by Tim Case
by Tim Case
“Power, which holds itself in opposition to law, is evil and tyrannical. No one is required to be bound (by) it, and it may be legitimately resisted. There is no imaginable reason why wickedness can oblige anyone. We are under no commandment to suffer the abuse of wicked men...”
~ Samuel Rutherford's LEX REX — 1644
The Greek historian, Polybius (203? B.C.—120 B.C.) was one of the leaders of the Achaean League — a confederation of cities on the Gulf of Corinth — and a close friend of the League's greatest general, Philopoemen. As such Polybius was very influential in Greek politics. During the war between the Romans and Macedonians Polybius advocated the Achaean League take a neutral stand, this in turn caused the Romans to be suspicious of Polybius and question his intentions toward Rome. The results of Rome's mistrust were to deport Polybius along with almost 1000 of the League's leadership to Rome in 167 B.C. after the defeat of Macedonia in 168 B.C.
While in Rome Polybius' social standing, education, and culture allowed him to be treated as a guest and trusted in the highest levels of Roman society. One of the Roman elite who offered Polybius his protection was Aemilius Paulus, the head of a very old aristocratic patrician family known as Aemilii Paullii.
Paulus' influence in Roman society was enormous and due in part to the fact that it was under Paulus' generalship that on June 22, 168 B.C. the decisive and final battle of Pydna was won, bringing the Third Macedonian war to an end. This act was greatly celebrated by Rome since he literally flooded the Roman coffers with the immense plunder collected from Macedonia and Epirus.
It was Paulus who entrusted Polybius with the education of his sons, Fabius and Scipio the younger — the same Scipio who years later would invade Carthage and force that African city's unconditional surrender — it was under the younger Scipio's protection that Polybius undertook his monumental work entitled The Histories, known also as The Rise of the Roman Empire.
The Histories is a 40-volume work of which only five books remain fully intact, however, of the remaining books we have very generous fragments in which Polybius in his inimitable and unique manner sought to discover and explain the sudden rise of Rome as a dominant world power. His highly analytical mind, attention to detail, historical accuracy and unbiased truth of the Roman experience cover a substantial period from before 220 B.C. to 146 B.C., while giving us insights into events often times overlooked or unknown to other historians.
In Book VI of The Histories, Polybius undertakes the explanation and justification, in a historical setting, of the Roman constitution.
Polybius begins by addressing the composition, structure and historical flaws of the six systems of government common to all men throughout history.
Polybius proselytizes that mankind has in the past, and will again in the future, be brought to the edge of extinction. That this is a naturally occurring event in the history of man due to floods and famine, or caused by man's predisposition for self-destruction.
Thus, it falls to the survivors, in starting over, to increase “in numbers” thereby forming tribes or social units “just like other animals form herds — it being a matter of course that man too should herd together with those of their kind owing to their natural weakness — it is a necessary consequence that the man who excels in bodily strength and in courage will lead and rule over the rest. We observe and should regard as a most genuine work of nature this very phenomenon in the case of the other animals which act purely by instinct and among whom the strongest are always indisputably the masters — I speak of bulls, boars, cocks, and the like.”
Thus a duly instituted monarchy is formed because of man's propensity for “herding together like animals and following the lead of the strongest and bravest…”
Polybius further observes that a monarchy is only a fleeting state in man's spiral from survival to degradation. It is only the ruler's strength which is “the sole limit to his power.” However, when the monarch is found to rule justly and “in the opinion of his subjects he apportions rewards and penalties according to desert,” the subjects no longer bow to the monarch's rule because of their fear of his use of force “but rather because their judgment approves him. They join in maintaining his rule, even if he is quite enfeebled by age, defending him with one consent and battling against those who conspire to overthrow his rule. Thus by insensible degrees the monarch becomes a king, ferocity and force having yielded their supremacy to reason.”
The fatal flaw of a kingship that Polybius detects is not with the original king but with his progeny and the descendant heirs to the throne, for it is only a matter of time before a just kingship disintegrates into tyranny.
The tyranny of a kingship occurs by way of the heirs to the throne who have “found their safety now provided for, and more than sufficient provision of food, they gave way to their appetites owing to this superabundance, and came to think that the rulers must be distinguished from their subjects by a peculiar dress…”
This leads to later kings who decide that they, by birth, are entitled to live in greater and greater luxury at the greatest and backbreaking expense of their subjects; that the king and his court should be denied nothing “in the pursuit of their amours, however lawless. These habits having given rise in the one case to envy and offence and in the other to an outburst of hatred and passionate resentment…”
The offence engendered by unwarranted opulence is initially toppled by a conspiracy. This conspiracy is fashioned among those who are the most noble, most high-spirited, and most courageous; while being the least able to put up with the arrogance, haughtiness and overbearing pride of the king and his court. The anger of the conspirators creates a wave of destruction that completely abolishes the monarchy.
With the destruction of the monarchy the void is filled by a government ruled by either those deemed to be best qualified to lead or by a confederation of the remaining nobility: an aristocracy.
At first this upper class of well-mannered, virtuous, refined rulers gladly acquires the mantel of authority. They quickly reestablish an equitable, dispassionate, and unprejudiced system of justice, relieve the burdens of taxes to support the elite, and regard “nothing as of greater importance than the common interest, administering the private and public affairs of the people with paternal solicitude.”
However, as with the king and his heirs, so the heirs to the wealth, power, and prestige of those who were the noble men of the aristocracy leap haughtily into the abyss of degradation. “…(H)aving no experience of misfortune and none at all of civil equality and liberty of speech, and having been brought up from the cradle amid the evidences of the power and high position of their fathers, they abandoned themselves some to greed of gain and unscrupulous money-making, others to indulgence in wine and the convivial excess which accompanies it, and others again to the violation of women and the rape of boys; and thus converting the aristocracy into an oligarchy…”
At this juncture Polybius deems it an axiom of history that the oligarchy will arouse “in the people feelings similar to those of which I just spoke, (concerning the tyranny of the monarchical government) and in consequence meet with the same disastrous end as the tyrant.” I am sure Polybius, due to his reputation for unbiased truth, had ample historical proofs for what he wrote.
Polybius sees the destruction of the oligarchy not brought on by a conspiracy, as in the case of the heirs of a king. Rather, Polybius reports it as a general uprising of the citizenry: “For whenever anyone who has noticed the jealousy and hatred with which they are regarded by the citizens, has the courage to speak or act against the chiefs of the state he has the whole mass of the people ready to back him.”
Certainly, recent history has not proven Polybius correct. On the contrary, the reign of a small elite group seems to have saved itself by morphing into a democracy or at least declaring itself as a democracy.
Regardless, the results of a democracy on the people are the same. In the beginning there is every effort to hold in highest esteem equality of all under the law, and the freedom of speech. People seek and assume responsibility for their conduct, while keeping to the needs of their own affairs. Law is once again established as "malum in se” (wrong in itself) while laws which prohibit action by government edict (malum prohibitum) are kept to a minimum.
However, as before, succeeding generations have forgotten the struggle for freedom. Having become “so accustomed to freedom and equality that they no longer value them, and begin to aim at pre-eminence; and it is chiefly those of ample fortune who fall into this error. So when they begin to lust for power and cannot attain it through themselves or their own good qualities, they ruin their estates, tempting and corrupting the people in every possible way.”
This insatiable lust for power will and has “created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them…” paid for by the theft of our personal property.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe in his work, Democracy The God That Failed, gives us the end results of such foolishness.
“…(I)f government property-rights violations take their course and grow extensive enough, the natural tendency of humanity to build an expanding stock of capital and durable consumer goods and to become increasingly more farsighted and provide for ever-more distant goals may not only come to a standstill, but may be reversed by a tendency toward decivilization: formerly provident providers will be turned into drunks or daydreamers, adults into children, civilized men into barbarians, and producers into criminals.”
Indeed we are now, without question, at precisely the point Lenin stated was the basis of Communism.
“Communism is power based upon force and limited to nothing, by no kind of law and by absolutely no set rule.” Lenin's Collected Works, Vol. XVIII, page 361.
So as a democracy on the verge of social, economic, and moral implosion, what does the future hold?
As the state tries to take more and more control of our daily lives, our food sources, and our property, destroy our wealth through inflation and war, and dictate our morality to the point of controlling our thoughts and speech; we will be faced with food riots and water riots, coupled with a whole host of murderous forms of social unrest.
We will become accustomed to martial law, rations, lack of medical aid, troops patrolling our streets, and having to ask permission for even limited travel. The nightly news will talk only of how looting, murder, death and destruction have become pandemic. In short every city in this country is on the verge of becoming another Baghdad!
We know it and we feel it coming. On whom do we lay the blame if not the human herd which is ruled by consent?
Yet there is persistent support, from all quarters of society, for the seeds of our destruction, bolstered by religious orders, which continue to preach reliance on that very system that seeks to raze everything we hold dear.
Ludwig von Mises in his 1957 thesis Theory and History saw these same events occurring.
“The Christian churches and sects did not fight socialism. Step by step they accepted its essential political and social ideas. Today they are, with but few exceptions, outspoken in rejecting capitalism and advocating either socialism or interventionist policies which must inevitably result in the establishment of socialism.”
Maybe its time we take a good hard look at ourselves along with our social and religious orders. Maybe it is time to take Samuel Rutherford's words to heart: …“I would go so far as to say that there is no real place in Scripture where passive obedience in the face of tyranny is commendable except in the minds of deluded dreamers.”
I'll leave it to the reader to decide where they stand in the herd.
October 28, 2005
Tim Case [send him mail] is a 30-year student of the ancient histories who agrees with the first-century stoic Epictetus on this one point: “Only the educated are free.”
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