My Socialist leaning blogging counterpart in the UK is trying to make parallels between our form of government and the Roman Republic. In many ways he is correct. But he is drawing the wrong conclusions from history. Rome was a strong republic for 500 years. It was socialist programs that demanded higher and higher taxes that forced it into civil war thus ending the Republic of Rome and began the Roman Empire with an over powerful central government,
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican phase of the ancient Roman civilization, characterized by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean .
Caesar began a civil war in 49 BC from which he became the master of the Roman world.
After assuming control of government, he began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He heavily centralised the bureaucracy of the Republic and was eventually proclaimed “dictator in perpetuity” . . . .
Caesar proposed a law for the redistribution of public lands to the poor, a proposal supported by Pompey, by force of arms if need be, and by Crassus, making the triumvirate public. Pompey filled the city with soldiers, and the triumvirate’s opponents were intimidated. Bibulus attempted to declare the omens unfavourable and thus void the new law, but was driven from the forum by Caesar’s armed supporters.
This BBC article shows how Rome went from republic to democracy to dictatorship.
In 133 BC, Rome was a democracy. Little more than a hundred years later it was governed by an emperor. This imperial system has become, for us, a by-word for autocracy and the arbitrary exercise of power.
At the end of the second century BC the Roman people was sovereign. True, rich aristocrats dominated politics. In order to become one of the annually elected ‘magistrates’ (who in Rome were concerned with all aspects of government, not merely the law) a man had to be very rich.
Even the system of voting was weighted to give more influence to the votes of the wealthy. Yet ultimate power lay with the Roman people. Mass assemblies elected the magistrates, made the laws and took major state decisions. Rome prided itself on being a ‘free republic’ and centuries later was the political model for the founding fathers of the United States.
That is the biggest problems with democracy. The people vote for convenience and temporary security sacrificing the freedoms and individual rights guaranteed by the constitution.
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
“A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.”