Aristotle's Teaching are STILL Relevant Today
I remember taking some philosophy courses in college and they all started 2,400 years ago with the study of Aristotle, who wrote one of the defining works of political philosophy in a book entitled Politics. It is still amazing how his words are still incredibly relevant today, particularly what he writes about tyranny.
The ancient Greeks used the word 'turannos', which referred to an illegitimate ruler who governs without regard for the law or interests of the people, often through violent and coercive means. Aristotle attacked tyrants mercilessly in his book, and clearly spells out the criteria which make a leader tyrannical. You may recognize a few of them:
1) Artistotle suggests that a tyrant rises to power by first demonstrating that he is a man of the people:
"He ought to show himself to his subjects in the light, not of a tyrant, but of a steward and a king." and "He should be moderate, not extravagant in his way of life; he should win the notables by companionship, and the multitude by flattery. "
2) Then, once in power, a tyrant uses all available means to hold on to power, including spying on his people:
"A tyrant should also endeavor to know what each of his subjects says or does, and should employ spies . . . and . . . eavesdroppers . . . [T]he fear of informers prevents people from speaking their minds, and if they do, they are more easily found out." (Hmmm...NSA data collection, prosecuting whistleblowers, etc.)
3) Furthermore, Aristotle tells us that a tyrant thrives by creating division and conflict-- "to sow quarrels among the citizens; friends should be embroiled with friends, the people with the notables [the rich]. . ." (Hmmm...Blacks against Whites, Republicans against Latinos, Rich not paying their fair share, etc.)
4) Controlling the economy and stealing the citizens' wealth is also another mark of a tyrant:
"Another practice of tyrants is to multiply taxes. . . [and] impoverish his subjects; he thus provides against the maintenance of a guard by the citizen and the people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring." (Hmmm...USA has highest corporate tax rates in the world, etc.)
5) And as Aristotle points out, a tyrant also attempts to disarm the people such that "his subjects shall be incapable of action" because "they will not attempt to overthrow a tyranny, if they are powerless." (Hmmm...Gun Control efforts, turn in your guns, ext.)
6) Naturally, a tyrant "is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader." (Hmmm...Iraq, Afganistan, Tunisia, Syria, etc.)
7) Aristotle also tells us that tyrants hunt down those who oppose their power:
"It is characteristic of a tyrant to dislike everyone who has dignity or independence; he wants to be alone in his glory, but anyone who claims a like dignity or asserts his independence encroaches upon his perogative, and is hated by him as an enemy to his power." (Hmmm...IRS goes after Tea Party groups, ext.)
8) Ultimately, though, Aristotle concludes that "No freeman, if he can escape from [tyranny], will endure such a government." (Hmmm....Number renouncing the US citizenship jumps to all time level)
He's right. And in the past, people had to rise up in the streets to defeat tyranny. Today, with a global economy, freedom-oriented people are just moving to a country where people still remember how hard fought freedom is, instead of getting involved in a violent revolution. For rational, thinking people who find themselves living in a state that is rapidly sliding into tyranny are reducing exposure to that government, whether it be Greece, Italy or the USA. In many cases, they move precious metals overseas, set up a foreign bank account, or create an offshore, encrypted email account with a few mouse clicks.
I'm not saying we are now living under tyrants, but as a student of history I can't help take a look back at Aristotle's points. It is amazing how many of them are becoming true around today's world.