Saturday, January 17, 2009

St. Augustine

This is copied from Scott Horton, but it follows up on what I've written earlier.

If it does not do justice, what is the government but a great criminal enterprise? For what are gangs of criminals but petty little governments? The pack is a group which follows the orders of its leader according to a social compact of sorts, sharing the spoils along the rules upon which they agree. Through a process of gradual accretion, the gang may acquire bodies and territory, establish itself in some place, and soon be possessed of all the attributes of statehood—then it may be known as a state, acquiring this title not by being any less avaricious but rather by having achieved impunity. Alexander the Great’s conversation with a pirate he had captured reflects this well. The king asked what possessed him to infest the sea as he did, and the pirate replied: “No differently from you when you pursue your crimes in the world. I act with a small ship, so I am called a pirate. You command a fleet and are called emperor.” (Bold enhancement mine)

Augustine of HippoDe civitate dei contra paganos lib iv, capp iii- iv (ca. 410)(S.H. transl.) in vol. 2 of the Loeb Classical Library edition, pp. 12, 16.


Michael Manning said...

Worthy of some serious reflection, P M, although there are instances I feel where we need to assert ourselves over threats to our country and injustices. My heart goes out to the students, for example who nightly sneak video tape footage of the genocide in North Korea to South Korean television. Where are world leaders when it is time to join us in calling for Democracy here? They sit on their seats and do nothing. Thanks for the post...written with conviction and a sincere caring for our country!

P M Prescott said...

It's always a hard call to intervene in a country where the leader is killing his own people. Look at our problems in Iraq. As hard as this may seem, and I'm by no means an expert on this, but the best course it to stop a dictator's aggression against other countries than to step in and stop what he's doing in his own.
Russia and China suffered greatly under Stalin and Mao, Cuba under Castro, Spain under Franco, but when they either die or died the countries went on. Launching World War III to liberate either Russia or China wouldn't have accomplished anything except to kill every living person on this planet.