Saturday, March 6, 2010

From Thucydides

Cleon (the speaker) was a contemporary of Thucydides.  In fact, I believe he was actually present for this speech.  

..."What you do not realize is that your Empire is a Tyranny over subjects who do not like it and who are always plotting against you; you will not make them obey you by injuring your own interests in order to do them a favor; your leadership depends on superior strength and not on any goodwill of theirs."...

This is a form of the 'peace through strength" argument, or deterrence, if you prefer.

...that lack of learning combined with a sound common sense is more helpful than the kind of cleverness that gets out of hand, and that as a general rule states are better governed by the man on the street than by intellectuals. These are the sort of people who want to appear wiser than the laws, who want to get their own way in every general discussion, because they feel they cannot show off their intelligence in matters of greater importance, and who, as a result, very often bring ruin on their own country. But the other kind - the people who are not so confident of their own intelligence - are prepared to admit that the laws are wiser than they are...

Anti-intellectualism didn't originate with Sarah Palin, either.

People are fond of claiming that "You can't change human nature." I'm a Behaviorist, I think people can be socialized into doing anything. But in the absence of contrary socialization, memes, mores and values persist indefinitely.

Incidentally, Diodotus' response to Cleon demonstrates the same phenomenon. His refutation of the deterrence value of execution holds up perfectly well 2500 years later.



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