- There are universal laws that govern the conduct of human affairs. but he firmly believed that divine rules independent of time and place guarantee fundamental freedoms to everyone and constrain the way in which governments should behave.
- Beware the leader who sets aside constitutional rules claiming the need for expediency or security.
- Never neglect your supporters but even more important, always make sure you know what your enemies are doing. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those who oppose you. Pride and stubbornness are luxuries you cannot afford.
- Those who govern a country should be the best and the brightest of the land.
- Compromise is the key to getting things done. Cicero writes that in politics it is irresponsible to take an unwavering stand when circumstances are always evolving. There are times to stand one’s ground, but consistently refusing to yield is a sign of weakness, not strength.
- A primary purpose of a government is to assure that individuals keep what belongs to them, not to redistribute wealth. On the other hand, he condemns the concentration of such wealth into the hands of the few and asserts that it is the duty of a country to provide fundamental services and security to its citizens.
So this part is a bit self-contradictory. Cicero asserts that one government should not easily raise taxes, however, he also condemns the concentration of wealth. Nowadays, the preferable and practical way of decentralizing wealth is to redistribute them by collecting heavy taxes on citizens. The more you earn, the more tax you pay.
- Immigration makes a country stronger. New citizens bring new energy and ideas to a country.
However, if immigrants don’t respect the laws and culture of their new home, it’ll be disastrous for the local pre-eminent culture. I discovered this when I scouted Metrotown in Vancouver. A place of 50% Chinese and 50% other races. The solution is actually quite simple, implement a code of entrance. You can only enter by accepting the code and the norms. It is not necessarily assimilation, but a more harmonious way to make things work.
- Of course the Romans, just like modern nations, believed they could justify any war they wanted to wage, but Cicero at least holds up the ideal that wars begun from greed rather than defense or to protect a country’s honor are inexcusable.
- Corruption is not merely a moral evil, but a practical menace that leaves citizens at best disheartened, at worst seething with anger and ripe for revolution.
- True law is harmony of right reasoning and nature. It applies to everyone in all places and time, for it is unchanging and everlasting. Declaration of Independence from US founding fathers: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
- Recently, I have been really thinking about the possibility of natural laws. Initially, I thought they were just some impossible theories. However, recently, I find that it is somewhere, there, the natural laws towards humanity. Because if what we would like to call natural laws, that would be something that don’t constrain too much on humanity, meanwhile giving it enough freedom. Unconstrained humanity is a horrifying image–humans lay nightmares onto themselves by unleashing their inner evil. If humanity roams free, all sins of humanity will take control of men’s minds and bodies. However, if humanity is extremely constrained, with little to zero freedom, what we see, is an extremely twisted figure that loses all the human form, with no beauty and hope at all.
Most of problems that happen in human history, are brought by humanity itself. Seldomly, do we see anything major between human and mother nature. Humanity brings doom upon itself.
The natural laws may work. We call it natural, is because the laws are set against the nature of men, meanwhile also protecting the nature of men. Such certain laws are there to prevent actual exploitation, which is very common in humans. Also people’s free wills, that they can be treated as a fellow human being and possess themselves.
Balance of Power
- The ideal government was one that combined the best qualities of a monarchy, an aristocracy, and a democracy.
- When one type of government alone rules, it frequently decays into the corresponding degenerate form—the king becomes a tyrant, the aristocracy turns into a factional oligarchy, and democracy becomes mob rule and anarchy.
- Don’t give in to despair or become discouraged. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by a great flood of responsibilities. Rise up and face the difficulties that come your way or even go out to meet them. Fortune does not rule over your leadership in government. For the most part, your success depends on your own intelligence and hard work.
- I don’t think you need to worry about an ambush by enemies, fierce battles, being abandoned by our allies, running out of money or food for the troops, or that the army is going to mutiny against you. Such things do happen occasionally even to the wisest men, who are no more able to overcome misfortune than the best helmsmen can master a violent storm.
- These people who govern us should not be so carried away by their own political power that they turn away from peace, but neither should they embrace a peace that is dishonorable.
- The founding principles of our Republic, the essence of peace with honor, the values that our leaders should defend and guard with their very lives if necessary are these: respecting religion, discovering the will of the gods, supporting the power of the magistrates, honoring the authority of the senate, obeying the law, valuing tradition, upholding the courts and their verdicts, practicing integrity, defending the provinces and our allies, and standing up for our country, our military, and our treasury.
For religion, I believed it was so long ago Romans were still quite superstitious, but it was right to do so at the time. But, in terms of similar concept, China has sky, the mandate of heaven. Our government has already abolished this concept of superstition, communists are atheists.
- The ideal states one in which the best people desire praise and honor while avoiding humiliation and disgrace. Such citizens are not deterred from wrongdoing by a fear of punishment as laid out in the law as much as an inborn sense of shame given to us by nature itself that makes us dread the thought of justified criticism. A true leader also encourages this natural feeling among others by using public opinion and enhances it through institutions and education so that shame encourages good citizenship no less than fear of legal penalties…
Just as a helmsman desires a successful voyage or a doctor works for the health of a patient or a general plans for victory, so the leader of a country should strive for citizens to lead a happy life with financial security, abundant resources, good reputations, and honest virtue.
This image of great citizen life is no less than how us modern citizens live a content life. All the things here are quite critical to a person’s wellbeing. I think China is not doing well in all aspects since government is blinded by mere growth.
Friends and Enemies
- Cicero in this chapter talks directly to his opposer, I think it’s the general of Italy province. He expresses the misunderstanding between him and the general, that he was not targeting at him, but responding back to his brother’s attack. I think one thing is true here, you keep your enemies close and see what they are doing. For Cicero, it’s more commendable to make a rather open relationship based on the common interests of both persons. For example, here, Cicero wants to elicit the common duty he and the general share–protecting Rome. And I think, this is what an upright person should do.
And I think, for modern citizens, even if you don’t like the person, it is right to connect you and the person based on respect, not hatred. And that is what a mature person/adult should do.
- Cicero also condemns dishonesty. Someone praises him now but was harsh on him, the only reason why he praises is because Cicero has power over him. Cicero hates this type of snaky behaviors, as he states here:
The one you said started to praise me only when he no longer dared to criticize me–well, he acts like he’s my best friend now. He hugs me, declares his warm feelings toward me, and openly praises his warm feelings toward me, and openly praises me, but hides his jealousy just beneath his skin. He has no grace, no sincerity, no political savvy, no honesty, and no generosity.
- Cicero believes a good orator, or a good speaker, is one that masters the verbal techniques, also, understands what he says. However, in ancient Rome, there wasn’t any word prompters, or mic magnifiers, so for a good orator, he also needs to have great memory.
- He must also understand the full range of emotions that nature has given us, for the ability to rouse or calm a crowd is the greatest test of both the understanding and the practical ability of a speaker.
- An orator also needs a certain charm and wit, the cultured ways of a gentleman, and the ability to strike fiercely when attacking an opponent. In addition, he needs a subtle grace and sophistication. Finally an orator must have a keen mind capable of remembering a vast array of relevant precedents and examples from history, along with a thorough knowledge of the law and the civil statues.
- Delivery of a speech. An orator carries himself, how he uses gestures, the expressions on his face, the use of his voice and making sure he is not monotonous.
Yet again, in Chinese, 抑扬顿挫.
- I believe no on can become a truly great orator unless he has a solid foundation in the whole range of human knowledge. This knowledge will ground and enrich everything he has to say.
- An orator has the power to rescue supplicants, to lift the downtrodden, to bring deliverance to those in need, to free the oppressed from danger, and to stand up for the rights of citizens…
- The greatest feat an orator can achieve, according to Cicero, is the ability to bring honor to himself, and the salvation to his fellow citizens and indeed his whole country. I think this teaches us that the greatest orator is the kind of person that cares deeply into the wellbeing of his fellowmen. That only when he cares, he’s given the position to command them.
- For Cicero, politics was the art of the possible, not a battleground of absolutes.
- For Cicero, a stable country is when the common folks and the aristocracy have a tension, a conflict, they fear each other, in this case, no one dominates. And thus, accommodation must be reached between the two groups.
- In politics it is irresponsible to take an unwavering stand when circumstances are always evolving and good men change their minds. Clinging to the same opinion no matter the cost has never been considered a virtue among statements. When at sea, it is best to run before a storm if your ship can’t make it to harbor.
- Cicero during Caesar’s Civil War chose the side of Pompey. However, he did not openly oppose Caesar as well, as he knew that the power of Caesar was not to be trifled with. Cicero preferred Pompey’s policies. But later when he was on Pompey’s side, the war was apparently taking a turn that Pompey was losing. Regarding this, Cicero lost his faith to see a new Rome governed by his Preferable leader. He chose to stand out. When Italy was conquered, Cicero took his time returning his homeland, as he was cautious about his safety even though he had been smart on the picking-side-matter.
At last, Caesar pardoned Cicero.
Money and Power
- Since the second century BC, there had been proposals to reduce the tax burden and redistribute land and goods among veterans and the urban poor. Cicero did not object to easing the burden on the needy, but warns in his essay On Duties against the dangers of politicians taking such sentiments too far. He also roundly condemns the greedy nature of those who serve in government only to serve themselves.
- Cicero believes citizens have rights to keep what’s theirs.
- For property tax, Cicero believes that this tax should be forth front to its people that their safety and security are guaranteed.
- Essential that leaders of a country should make sure there is always an abundance of necessities for the citizens.
- Cicero believes that any person that sues public office for personal gain is immoral, criminal and wicked.
For those politicians who wish to gain the favor of the public, there is no better way than self-restraint and honesty.
So at the time, Cicero feared that the redistribution process would be polluted and manipulated by the power of wicked governors.
- Rome at the time encouraged immigration. Even former slaves can become legal citizens of the state. So, for me, I think a great organization can not not be tolerant. One of the reasons why these organizations are great is that they are, in essence, sublime and tolerant.
- Without a doubt, what has done the most to increase the power and reputation of Rome people is the precedent laid down by Romulus, the founder of our city, when he made a treaty with the Sabines and showed us that we make ourselves stronger by welcoming even our enemies as citizens. Our ancestors never forgot his example in granting and bestowing citizenship to others.
- Cicero believes that the honor of a country is of utmost importance when it comes to war. The leaders of a country should defend the country’s honor, and citizens’ pride in being Roman.
- Some wars are justifiable whereas other are not.
- A good country does not begin a war except to defend its honor or to protect itself…
Wars are unjust if they are undertaken without cause. Only a war waged in retaliation or defense can be considered just…
No war is honorable unless it is announced and declared or it is for the recovery of property.
- Cicero hates corruption, in this chapter, he describes the hideous crimes an official has done. The luxuries the official is having, the women, everything that he gained by abusing his power. Corruption poisons a country.
- People submit themselves to the authority and power of another person for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they do it because of goodwill or gratitude for favor shown to them. Sometimes they do it because of the dignity of a person or because they hope to profit from the act. Some people subordinate themselves fearing that if they don’t, the other person will make them submit anyway. Sometimes people surrender their freedom because of gifts or promises. Finally, as has so often been the case in our own country, people submit to the power of another because of outright bribes.
- The best way for a man to gain authority over others and maintain it is through genuine affection. The worst way, however, is through fear. Wise Ennius once said: “People hate the man they fear—and whomever they hate, they want to see dead.”
However the most efficient way to maintain power is through brute force. Soft power is based on contracts, but hard power is based on brute force. In order to have a more efficient way to distribute resources and keep control, hard power is necessary to act as either a deterrent, or a means to absolute control.
- Those rulers who wish to keep their subjects under control by force will have to use brutal methods, just as a master must when dealing with rebellious slaves.
- For no matter how much a tyrant might try to overturn the law and crush the spirit of freedom, sooner or later it will rise up again either through public outrage or the ballot box. Freedom suppressed and risen again bites with sharper teeth than if it had never been lost.
What if the ruler understands his people and seals the access to freedom? What if there is never a ballot box? What if public outrage is suppressed at once? What if there is never a public outrage because the ruler drugs/brainwashes the population with fallacies?
- Therefore remember what is true always and everywhere and what is the strongest support of prosperity and power, namely that kindness is stronger than fear. That is the best rule for governing a country and for leading one’s own life.
- How can a state ruled by a tyrant be called a republic at all? For that is what republic means—res publica, “the property of people.”
- Suppose in such a state the people control everything and all power is in their hands. The masses inflict punishment on whomever they choose and seize, plunder, keep or distribute whatever they want. Isn’t that the very definition, Laelius, of a state in which the property belongs to the people? Wouldn’t you describe that as the perfect republic?
I certainly would not! There is no state less deserving of the name than one in which all property is subject to the whims of the multitude. We have already decided that no republic existed in Syracuse or Agrigentum or Athens when they were ruled by tyrants nor here in Rome when the Broad of Ten was in charge. I cannot see how despotism is lessened when a state is ruled by a mob. As you wisely said, Scipio, a true republic can exist only when the citizens consent to be bound together under the law.The monstrosity you describe surely deserves the name of tyranny just as much as if fit were a single person. Actually, it is even worse, for there is nothing more despicable than a government that falsely assumes the appearance and name of “the people”.
So for Cicero, democracy in his mind is a society where desires run free. And it’s a mob country. Very chaotic and very directionless. In his mind, democracy seems to be in its pure form, that in a literal sense—everyone can do whatever one wants.
Although I do concern for the actual power the general public can have since they don’t have mind at all if there isn’t a central direction. So there won’t really be a scenario where you can see people seize, plunder or distribute whatever they want. In Cicero’s democracy, it seems to be a general chaos where the government directs all the chaotic actions.
In my view, if “everyone does whatever they want”, that is simply anarchy. There won’t be a government, neither people following the “government of people” to do the plunder and sabotage. There is simply chaos. But is that really democracy?
- I only wish for two things: first, that my death might restore liberty to the Roman people—the gods could grant me no greater gift—and second, that each man will get his just reward depending on how he served his country.
The Fallen State
The Roman state is founded firm on ancient customs and its men. —Ennius, Annales
What now remains of the ancient ways of our country the poet declares we were founded upon? These traditions have so sunk into oblivion that we neither practice them nor even remember what they were. And what shall I say about the men? For the reason our customs have passed away is that the people who once upheld them no longer exist. We should be put on trial as if for a capital crime to explain why this disaster has happened. But there is no defense we can give. Our country survives only in words, not as anything of substance. We have lost it all. We have only ourselves to blame.