Monday, April 2, 2012
Examples from the ancients....
"By the time of Plato's death (347 B.C.) his hostile analysis of Athenian democracy was approaching apparent confirmation by history. Athens recovered wealth, but this was now commercial rather than landed wealth; industrialists, merchants, and bankers were at the top of the reshuffled heap. The change produced a feverish struggle for money, a pleonexia, as the Greeks called it - an appetite for more and more. The nouveaux riches (neoplutoi) built gaudy mansions, bedecked their women with costly robes and jewelry, spoiled them with dozens of servants, rivaled one another in the feasts with which they regaled their guests. The gap between the rich and poor widened; Athens was divided, as Plato put it, into "two cities:....one the city of the poor, the other of the rich, the one at war with the other.' The poor schemed to despoil the rich by legislation, taxation, and revolution; the rich organized themselves for protection against the poor......The poorer citizens captured control of the Assembly, and began to vote the money of the rich into the coffers of the state, for redistribution among the people through governmental enterprises and subsidies. The politicians strained their ingenuity to discover new sources of public revenue........The middle classes, as well as the rich, began to distrust democracy as empowered envy, and the poor distrusted it as a sham equality of votes nullified by a gaping inequality of wealth. The rising bitterness of the class war left Greece internally as well as internationally divided when Philip of Macedon pounced down upon it in 338 B. C., and may rich Greeks welcomed his coming as preferable to revolution, Athenian democracy disappeared under Macedonian dictatorship."
-Will and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History