The Gilded Blade

“At first the love of money, and then that of power, began to prevail, and these became, as it were, the sources of every evil. For avarice subverted honesty, integrity, and other honorable principles, and, in their stead, inculcated pride, inhumanity, contempt of religion, and general venality. Ambition prompted many to become deceitful; to keep one thing concealed in the breast, and another ready on the tongue; to estimate friendships and enmities, not by their worth, but according to interest; and to carry rather a specious countenance than an honest heart. These vices at first advanced but slowly, and were sometimes restrained by correction; but afterward, when their infection had spread like a pestilence, the state was entirely changed, and the government, from being the most equitable and praiseworthy, became rapacious and insupportable.”

—Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), 86 BC – 35 BC, a Roman historian


“Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”

—Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900


“There is none righteous, no, not one.”

—Romans 3:10


“The problem with people is that they’re only human.”

—Bill Watterson, Author of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes


From the classics to the comics, people through the centuries have noted that they and their fellow humans are irredeemably flawed, and therefore the governments they institute among themselves must naturally suffer the same imperfections; it is why the American Republic was erected upon a system of checks and balances, a combination our Founders hoped would ameliorate the more detrimental effects that human nature imposes on the affairs of men.  But just as ink on paper cannot ensure a state that is benign, the deceitful alchemy of political rhetoric cannot transform its essence.  Government, as George Washington warned, is force—a dangerous servant and a fearful master; and even a gilded blade can deliver a fatal cut.

Too many who purport to represent us have transformed that privilege into a lifetime sinecure.  They have shed the mask of the bandit for the lawmaker’s pen, secured in their perfidy by the approval of those with whom they have divided the spoils.  They insist that their crimes are virtues, measures necessary for equity and security.  But equity is never attainable and security at the cost of liberty never abiding.

They enact in sealed chambers laws they do not apprehend; they condone restrictions upon the livelihoods of free citizens by regulatory decrees issued by an unelect elite; they immunize themselves from the consequences with which their actions burden others.  And they prosper from our decline.

In the end it is we the people who have failed.  We have been careless. We have failed to recognize as the fictions of unscrupulous partisans the honeyed promises that have eroded our liberty and exhausted our wealth. The inculcation of envy begets not parity but disorder. In our conceit, we have valued incautious change over the conservation of immutable principle.  We have relaxed our vigilance and allowed the enemies of freedom to enter our gates and establish redoubts from whence they attack our customs and our culture.  We have permitted the servants of the people to become their masters and the antagonists of liberty to pose as its champions.

But our decline has been intentioned by the adherents of a particular philosophy, not preordained by an impartial fate.  It is reversible.  Prosperity can be regained, probity restored,  demagoguery and deviancy banished again from the public square.  All this can be done.

The choice is ours.

It always has been.

See also:

When Governments Go Rogue

About Bob Mack

Retired since 2003. Military Service: U.S. Army, 36th Artillery Group, Babenhausen, Germany 1966-67; 1st Signal Brigade, Republic of Vietnam, 1967-68 Attended University of Miami, 1969-73
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15 Responses to The Gilded Blade

  1. cosmoscon says:

    That is why it will take the Tea Party more than a couple of elections to change this huge machine and overcome the inertia of the past 100 years. The 1st quote you had in this post is the most appropriate and while it took several hundred years after the author wrote these words for the Roman Empire to fall, we don’t have that kind of time. The world was different back when the Roman Empire fell, that was when the world seemed larger and changes happened slower than they do today. We have maybe 10 years tops to reverse this and the elections in 2012 are a great start.

    Plus we have to overcome the dumbing down of our youth from Liberal intervention into our schools. Sometimes I fear we are graduating Youth who are incapable of understanding the arguments for the changes that need to be made.

    Good Bost Bob.

    • Bob Mack says:

      Like the old Chinese proverb says, COS, “the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” For the good of the country, let’s hope that’s one big step.

  2. Love how you bought up Sallust, who I only read for the first time this year. So glad other people can read the writing on the wall and bring it to a broader audience. Your writing skills are a true blessing. Best, Kyle

  3. Matt says:

    Fantastic post. I think you nailed it. It is us. For me, I just voted for the guy with an (R) after his name. I didn’t look at record or policy, or at least to any great degree. I contributed to the problem, but I hope I have learned my lesson. Freedom is to be closely guarded, and far too many of us have been lax in our duties.

    • Bob Mack says:

      My rule of thumb is, if they’re running for office, they probably don’t deserve to be there. But as long as we’re going to vote, we have to vote for somebody. Might as well make it somebody who just might possibly take the Constitution a little more seriously.

  4. Pingback: The period of mourning is over | VotingFemale

  5. AFVET says:

    The responsibility for the education of the youth of this country needs to be wrenched away from the progressive/liberal universities that have intentionally for years infected them with anti-conservatism rhetoric.
    Anti-American rhetoric.
    Patriotism is a dying idea among the young, very sad.
    In just one election cycle, this Country was saddled with a President and an administration that in three years have demonstrated their goal to take America to her knees.
    Europe is down the tubes, and if Obama gets another term, we will be ever closer to the preordained failure the socialistic concept has proven to be throughout the centuries.

    • Bob Mack says:

      Kids need to realize they can be rebels without being left-wing anarchists. Hell, Johnny Yuma was a rebel. Question authority but think critically—& if you can’t, you shouldn’t be in college in the first place.

  6. bunkerville says:

    Insight is a precious gift. You nailed it. It will be up to others to care enough to pay attention and to care enough about our great gain the insight that you have so eloquently spoken about..

  7. TexasFred says:

    ALL government officials, much like a baby diaper, need to be changed regularly, and for the same reason…

    Term limits, for ALL, Senate, Congress and the SCOTUS… When a person is allowed to make a career of GOVERNMENT and elected/appointed office, that person soon cares much more about the *office* than those that put them IN office..

  8. roblorinov says:

    Excellent post Bob!

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