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Monday, October 15, 2018

Tyranny by Definition versus Democracy

Voting is our best weapon. The Greeks didn't trust voting. They used a jury system type government to run judiciary, executive and legislative. They picked citizens by lottery for for offices from those qualified to hold those offices. Voting was used for cleanup operations like ostracizing bad politicians. Nevertheless voting is a means the Romans used for selecting and regulating officers. In a local democracy voting is useful, but it is the participation of citizens that makes the place democratic. Voting is a tool of representative government. In truth   It is not our only weapon. Truth is a weapon. Right is a weapon. Reason is a weapon. Our enemies are tyranny, lies & cruelty, and non-participation. Tyranny by definition is as John Locke described it:


The reality is that US working people, if the elites had their way, would be doomed to be drones and slaves for life, and then discarded. If we are but property, we are useless when we no longer have a use. But long ago, first peasants, and then workers immigrating into cities and factory jobs, discovered they outnumbered the elites numerically and when they spoke up, the elites had to listen. The reason this happened is that the earlier elites, at least in Europe disparaged working and saw themselves as "nobility" who need not sully themselves with a hammer or a hoe.

Property by the Ability to Defend and Occupy

They did have to get covered with the blood, mud and beer of violent conflict from time to time, but that gave them a pass on actually working the land or producing anything. From Greek times, through Roman times, to the present, some people found they could make a living as bullies. All they needed to do was to form armies, convince others to fight on their behalf, and steal enough riches to support themselves and those they convinced to act as their retainers. Might literally makes right, both in the political sense and the fact that the powerful often write the laws. To keep power, they needed to retain sufficient arms and men at arms, to defend that power, and that was a drag on production and farming. Failure to understand that led to the collapse of the Roman Empire, other empires, and nearly a 1000 years of abject poverty and misery. Elites fail when they hire too many people to do their fighting for them because the people they hire steal their property. Elites fail when they do treat working people as mere property and forget that they care about their families, their old, their sick, their parents who can no longer work. In the periodic dark ages that followed the invention of nobility, elites learned they had to make trades.

“I'll acknowledge you to the degree you are useful to me.” Thus hierarchy was born.

Business can be heros or Heels

In those days, businessmen were heros. Without the nails, no shoes on the horses. Without production no steel blades on the arrows. But they only needed to free the overseers and Masters. They couldn't afford full time soldiers, so they depended on good solid farmers to carry those bows and feed the horses. They had to concede that such people were not mere "property" to be discarded. The farmers, overseers, businessmen and Masters demanded rights. They gave those rights to them and convinced them that those who didn't have their level of rights were inferior. If you are in the middle between abject poverty and great power held by bullies, it is nice to see oneself as middle class. Hierarchy works best for those at the top, less and less down the pyramid. A middle class exists when there is a middle between abject misery and royalty.

Standing Up for Basic Rights

As things changed even workers found they can demand rights. Farmers learned that if they banded together they could force the elites to pay attention to them. Later labor migrated to cities, where they found that they could organize general strikes and stop tyranny if they all acted together. Breaking up such organization became a specialty of government. General Strikes, mass boycotts and similar, were outlawed. Again and again. The idea was reborn again and again, because as soon as the elites forget they need labor and sufficient capital to arm labor and make it productive, they'd go back to looting everything that can be looted. They could only get away with shutting people up, if the people were well fed and happy. They keep forgetting that.

Politics and Economics Are About Resources

Power and resources go together. Both economics and politics are about the resources, their transformation into goods and services, and their distribution to the people who need them. There is something Marxian about any well functioning society; "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs", is a basic principle of a well functioning society. But there is a caveat. Those needs involve the capital (tools, saved wealth and raw materials) and the power and labor necessary to transform raw materials into wealth and services.

Economic Royalism is Self Destructive

Production, distribution and communication, organization and access to capital and raw materials are necessary for any economic system to survive. "To each according to their needs" includes a requirement that people have some ownership over the resources, labor and capital they use. Elites forget that. Their very existence sometimes creates bottlenecks on distribution and rational use of capital. Since Nobility usually despises labor and capital equally, they usually screw up the economy that keeps them in power. I'm not entirely over-generalizing.

Democracy was invented in those times when nobility had recently screwed up so badly that the people had banded together to get rid of the nobles. It happened in Greece and Rome, for varying reasons.


The Romans got rid of their kings (Rex) partly because they spoke a foreign tongue, Etruscan, but largely because they were violent, incompetent tyrants, and they were able. Their republic depended on representation for the various classes of Romans. With time they forgot the principles of equality under the law and civic involvement that underpinned their success. Leaders became increasingly tyrannical and familial. In the end Emperor became a kind of Kingship. Hierarchy never completely disappears. People crave it. But it can be controlled. People forget that controlling hierarchy is necessary so that feet can be shod, people can be fed, goods can be traded and arrive where needed. Rome became an empire and then fell apart.


Athens invented democracy. They invented the word. Democracy was only for citizens, but the Athenians did practice it for long periods. They even began to create an empire based on the power of it within their own city. Unfortunately, they weren't serious about Democracy outside their own walls. They forgot that other people have needs besides Athenians. Their empire fell apart before even getting very far. But they gave us some great ideas. And even after their empire fell apart, Athens remained a prosperous city for a long time because they practiced democracy within their own walls.

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