Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Parallel Lives: Abraham Lincoln and Julius Caesar

What were the American Founding Fathers thinking of? To create a nation of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, they deliberately modeled their new nation upon the original Roman Republic, which had itself escaped from a foreign yoke via a conspiracy of Roman nobles, in 510 BC. The parallels begin immediately, with George Washington playing the valiant role of Lucius Junius Brutus, a leading Roman noble with Etruscan connections, and King George the Third playing the despised role of King Tarquinius Superbus, a hated Etruscan tyrant.

Even the iconic stories of independence sound remarkably similar. For the Romans we have the Rape of Lucretia, the indecisive battle of Silvia Arsia, and the swimming of the Tiber by Horatius Cocles; for the Americans we have the Massacre of Boston, the blundering battle of Bunker Hill, and the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

So what’s wrong with all this, you might ask? Surely it is in the nature of rebellion that terrible deeds will be done by tyrants and heroes will spontaneously arise to defend themselves from these deeds. As Julius Caesar himself said, all events of importance are usually the result of trivial causes, with the whole blue velvet of history being studded with sparkling white diamonds of individual heroism to turn the tide. But what puzzles me is why the American Founding Fathers used Rome as a model for the creation of their thirteen new States? As the Spanish-born American philosopher George Santanaya said much later, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Here we have the Founding Fathers staring right down the ballista barrel of the anti-freedom horror of the Roman Empire, with its dole, circuses, slaves, serfs, wars, mobs, inflation, and taxes. And with this in full view they still deliberately recreated the same republican conditions which led to Caligula, Nero, and Ridley Scott’s favorite emperor, Commodus, a dangerously divine one-man mixture of vanity, cruelty, sexual perversion, paranoia, anger, jealousy, and rampant megalomania.

A more ideal candidate for US President would surely be impossible to find, even in the Georgetown area of downtown Washington.

One almost wants to go back in time and drag the Founding Fathers back to present day Washington DC to show them the full consequence of their actions. We could show them imperial palaces and the Romanesque temples of power, such as Federal Reserve resplendent under its imperial Roman eagle. We could draw their eye to the super-obelisk on the horizon, the Washington Monument, and point out how the Emperor Augustus erected a similar obelisk in Rome in 10 BC, stolen from Egypt to celebrate the Roman conquest of the East. We could even show them the Iwo Jima memorial, the modern equivalent of the Emperor Trajan’s column, featuring victorious legionaries at war and built in 113 AD to celebrate military triumph over the despicable baby-eating Dacians.

But I would save the best till last.

This would of course be the mighty statue of Jupiter Optimus Maximus himself, supreme God of justice, resplendent in a venerable Doric sanctuary directly facing the Senate and his own temples of justice on the distant Capitoline hill. This God has been known by many names over the millennia; Thor, Zeus, and Jupiter are just three of these names. A fourth is Abraham Lincoln.

I recently had the good fortune to buy and read Thomas DiLorenzo’s masterpiece, The Real Lincoln. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure you put it on your next birthday list. As someone without an American passport and being more interested in Queen Elizabeth the First than contemporary American history, I had a great big hole in my head where Lincoln was concerned. Having never thought too deeply about him beforehand, the naïve image of a man who had saved all the slaves was the only one which filled my mind. Professor DiLorenzo has since fixed all of this nonsense.

I will leave DiLorenzo to describe the full myth-busting horror of Lincoln to you, but what struck me most while reading the book, once DiLorenzo had dissipated the smokescreen of slavery, was the amazing parallelism between Abraham Lincoln and Julius Caesar. Both demagogues set out ostensibly to save their republics, but ended up destroying them; both murdered more of their own fellow citizens in bloody civil wars, than anyone had ever done before them; both were assassinated shortly after their final victories, to a mixture of joy and horror, and both were made divine immediately after their deaths, a status which Caesar kept for 1,500 years until the fall of Byzantium, and which the angel-winged Lincoln still possesses to this day amongst most American statists.

So how did the early Roman Republic reach its own state of imperial despotism?

The problem was its reliance upon democracy. This led to the bribing of voters with other people’s property, by aspiring politicians. This led to multiple wars instigated by these same politicians to get hold of other people’s property to pay the bribes, such as the looting of Gaul by Caesar to pay for his own shot at the prize. After the institution of the empire the democratic bodies withered away to rubber stamps, with everyone knowing where the real power lay; in the hands of a single power-addicted prince who spent every night living in a paranoid fear of being garroted in his own bed, poisoned by his own chef, or drowned in his own bath.

If you want to check out the modern meaning of the word paranoia, try going anywhere near the security screen around the White House or the security gate blocking off Downing Street here in Britain.

If George Washington created the republic and Abraham Lincoln created the empire, then where are we now? I don’t think we’re quite into the full religious turmoil of Constantine, in the fourth century AD. I would say we’re more into the military turmoil of the third century, with George W. Bush being the Emperor Aurelian, who in 271 built a high wall around Rome to keep out the barbarians. But how long till these barbarians start smashing down the gates? Will it be when the social security checks start bouncing for the baby boomers? Will it be when the Muslim religion becomes dominant in the western world due to forced government integration? Will it be when the dollar and euro implode under the gravitational weight of all that worthless paper?

If a critical collapse does come, as history teaches us it could, then we should be prepared for the moves our tyrants will use to oppress us even more, to ensure their personal survival. The following are taken from the policies adopted by Diocletian and Constantine near the end of the Western Roman Empire. Taxes will increase further, to build even bigger walls. We will see more armed bureaucrats on the streets to ensure the collection of these taxes. More politicians will come directly from the ranks of the military, to keep the walls thoroughly manned. More summary justice and martial law will be meted out by these men on the wall. Paper currencies may be inflated to a point where governments give discounts to taxes paid in goods, land, and services rather than their own paper scrap. Confiscatory government fines will mount, will be easier to rack up, and will be charged in goods, land, and services. Compulsory government service will be instituted, with a rising proportion of taxes paid as various government work duties.

We will know we’re in real trouble if governments start ear-marking particular tax generating occupations for particular types of productive people. This will be start of full-blown serfdom. I’m guessing this will be based upon an extension of the racial and disabled quota systems. Instead of limiting you in career choice, which is obvious serfdom, this may be tried instead by limiting the locations in which you can pursue a career, with even tighter border and zoning controls. In the end game situation, armed violence may break out between political parties. But at this point we should be close to the end. The mark of the real end will be the growing disappearance of tax generators. In the Roman Empire they often migrated north to avoid serfdom and taxation. The modern equivalent at the moment appears to be New Zealand.

But as long as we are ready with a growing Misesian intellectual vanguard in place and a range of Austrian policies, such as a 100 percent gold reserve standard, I maintain a strong hope that we will not only survive, but go on to create the greatest civilization the world has yet seen, based upon freedom, tolerance, and a complete lack of the state. Roll over Abe. The Austrians are coming.

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