Skip to comments.Supporters of Liberty Are Always Attacked
Posted on 02/25/2011 1:52:50 PM PST by MichaelNewton
Members of the tea party have been called tea baggers, extremists, racists, and Nazis by opponents of the grass-roots pro-liberty movement. While this shows the lack of civility of the left, supporters of liberty are always attacked for their beliefs.
Socrates spent his life fighting for freedom of speech and freedom of religion and became a martyr for these causes. In 399 BC, Socrates was charged and put to death for disbelieving in the official Greek pantheon and for corrupting the youth of Athens. But Socrates had also angered most of Athens for praising Sparta while the two were at war with each other, insulting the intellectuals of Athens by claiming he was the wisest man alive, criticizing the leaders of Athens, and arguing against democracy. Admitting that he enjoyed stirring up trouble, Socrates said at his trial: For if you put me to death, you will not easily find another, who, to use a rather absurd figure, attaches himself to the city as a gadfly to a horse, which, though large and well bred, is sluggish on account of his size and needs to be aroused by stinging. I think the god fastened me upon the city in some such capacity, and I go about arousing. [Plato, Apology 30e.] Socrates criticism of ancient Athens political system and leadership got him killed.
Demosthenes fought bigger government, higher taxes, and political corruption in ancient Athens. But he is best remembered for his opposition to Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. For years, Demosthenes spoke constantly against Philip, but had little success gaining allies. Nevertheless, Demosthenes demanded action, arguing it is better to die a thousand times than pay court to Philip. [Demosthenes, Speeches 9.65.] When Philip finally marched against Greece, his army easily won the battle and occupied Thebes but spared Athens. When Philip was assassinated, Demosthenes again attempted to form alliances and encouraged the territories under Macedonian control to rebel. But Philips son Alexander marched on Thebes, which immediately submitted to him. Thebes and Athens rebelled yet again upon mistakenly hearing that Alexander was dead, at which Alexander destroyed Thebes and placed Athens under Macedonian control. When Alexander the Great died, Demosthenes again tried to rally the people for independence, but Antipater, Alexanders successor in Greece and Macedon, defeated the Athenians in battle, forced them to dissolve their government, and Demosthenes committed suicide before he could be arrested and executed.
Cicero was one of the most powerful men in ancient Rome and its Senate. Cicero fought for property rights, arguing I do not mean to find fault with the accumulation of property, provided it hurts nobody. [Cicero, De Officiis 1.25.] Cicero also fought against government-provided welfare, abolition of debts, and redistribution of land and wealth. But he is best remembered for his fight against imperial power. In his quest for power, Julius Caesar asked Cicero to join his Triumvirate with Pompey and Crassus, but Cicero declined, fearing it would hurt the Republic. When Julius Caesar was assassinated, Cicero as leader of the Senate and Mark Antony as consul and leader of those who supported Caesar became the two leaders of Rome. Cicero opposed Antony and made a series of speeches against him, known as Philippics for the similarity of his speeches to those of Demosthenes against Philip of Macedon. Mark Antony formed the Second Triumvirate with Octavian, Julius Caesars heir, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, a former consul and strong supporter of Julius Caesar. They immediately sought to exile or kill their political opponents, especially Cicero. Cicero was captured on his way to the coast, where he had hoped to escape to Macedonia. Ciceros capturers cut off his head, by Antonys command, and his hands the hands with which he wrote the Philippics. [Plutarch, Parallel Lives Cicero 48.6.]
Cato the Younger was a very stubborn man who vehemently opposed corruption, demagoguery, and immorality. In the Senate, Cato focused especially on taxes and wasteful government spending. When Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus created the First Triumvirate, Cato was an immediate opponent. Cato opposed Caesars first major proposal to distribute public lands to the people. No one spoke against the law except Cato, and him Caesar ordered to be dragged from the rostra to prison. [Plutarch, Parallel Lives Cato 33.1.] Though the Senate disagreed with Catos position, they forced Caesar to free him from his unjust imprisonment. Seeing the growing tyranny, Cato warned the people that they themselves by their own votes were establishing a tyrant in their citadel. [Plutarch, Parallel Lives Cato 33.3.] But the people refused to listen to Cato and continued to support Caesar. Ten years later, Caesar and his army crossed the Rubicon, thus declaring war on the Roman Senate. The Senate fled and Caesar chased after them. Seeing that Caesar had won and knowing Caesar would have him executed, Cato committed suicide.
When you are attacked for supporting liberty, know that you stand on the shoulders of giants. And let us thank God and country, for we live in a society in which we have freedom of speech and in which the supporters of government tyranny can do no more than insult their opponents.
Michael E. Newton is the author of The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society's Descent into Tyranny.
I always ask these leftist jackasses why they hate freedom so. I also ask them why they cannot abide other people just living our lives as we see fit. This usually stuns them silent with mouths agape and they either walk away or engage in a personal (verbal) attack.
A good history lesson. Thanks !
It is my belief that True Liberty scares the hell out of alot of folks...
“It is my belief that True Liberty scares the hell out of alot of folks...”
That’s why they have their own pseudo-liberty.
The Four Freedoms (from FDR)
1. Freedom of speech and expression
2. Freedom of worship
3. Freedom from want
4. Freedom from fear
As Hayek remarks, “The demand for the new freedom was thus only another name for the old demand for an equal distribution of wealth.”
Socrates spent his life fighting for freedom of speech and freedom of religion and became a martyr for these causes. In 399 BC, Socrates was charged and put to death for disbelieving in the official Greek pantheon and for corrupting the youth of Athens. But Socrates had also angered most of Athens for praising Sparta while the two were at war with each other, insulting the intellectuals of Athens by claiming he was the wisest man alive, criticizing the leaders of Athens, and arguing against democracy.Besides praising the enemy and arguing against democracy, he also liked the young boys, and nicknamed Aristocles "Plato" because he liked his shoulders. IOW, why bring up Socrates as an example?
This had nothing to do with a selfless seeking of truth and everything to do with a fellow who used his influence for what he believed was the good of his city, stuck with a choice between evils in a conquered populace. He wasn't some schoolboy martyr for abstract principles, but he was, in my estimation, a damn good man who maybe, at his age, was through with living. Sorry for the rant.
With respect, I think it was the other way around — Socrates continued his lifelong criticisms of everyone besides himself, then finally his fellow Athenians called his bluff.
This is not a defense of the Athenians — they had chance after chance to win the war outright, and failed to act in ways that would do that. They failed to accept the Spartans’ own pursuit of a peace after the Athenian victory at Pylos, and wound up with a truce, then brought about resumption of the combat after some years of failure to plan for its possible resumption. And more fundamentally, they were easily misled by demagogues, the greatest of whom was Pericles himself.
The Peloponnesian War led to the destruction of Sparta a generation after its victory over Athens, and led to the rise of Thebes as the major military power among the Greek city-states. During the P war Thebes had been continuously critical of the Athenians, and at least nominally was an ally of Sparta — then Sparta turned on Thebes, and for its pains got its ass handed to it at Leuctra.
I wonder sometimes, just wonder.
My mom told me once my dad told her, on the day JFK was assassinated, “It’s over”....
If said government control isn't Constitutional, it is still bad no matter who it appears to be benefiting.
There's a lot of question as to the extent of his involvement with the Thirty but he certainly was involved. And Athens, prostrate as she was, wasn't quite ready for what amounted to an oligarchy. Socrates' own carefully self-cultivated image was that of an innocent nobody who just asked questions, but he wasn't actually that at all. The truth was far more interesting, and I wish we knew more of it.
I lately have gained the impression that Athens did not lose power in Greece until the nearby silver deposits were exhausted.
[’Civ pulls on the ski mask and continues with the heist] I’ve never read the I.F. Stone book “The Trial of Socrates”, because a) haven’t got around to it, and b) Izzy was a left-winger. You? I sometimes think I’ve come ‘round toward Stone’s view, which would be a little weird.
Well, sure. True liberty requires that one fend for oneself. It requires that one think for oneself. It requires that one let others think for themselves. Liberty requires that we get by on our own strengths and character, rather than calling "Big Brother" to lend us a hand (and at high interest). It requires that we accept that others are going to do things differently. It means that others might simply be different. It means that it is perfectly acceptable to disagree. Liberty means that we must take responsibility for our own actions. There is no "safety net" or "comfort zone" under true liberty. There is no homogenization. The whole concept terrifies the Tories.
Obviously, the complete story of Socrates will be much longer than the single paragraph I wrote here. But the bigger problem is that nobody really knows what occurred. The victors write history, so most of the histories of Athens sought to make Socrates into a villain. On the other hand, Plato praised Socrates and criticized the Athenian democracy that killed his teacher.
Regarding the Thirty Tyrants (borrowing from Wikipedia): “In Plato’s Apology, Socrates recounts an incident in which the Thirty once ordered him (and four other men) to bring before them Leon of Salamis, a man known for his justice and upright character, for execution. While the other four men obeyed, Socrates refused, not wanting to partake in the guilt of the executioners. By disobeying, Socrates knew he was placing his own life in jeopardy, and claimed it was only the disbanding of the oligarchy soon afterward that saved his life (Apology 32c-d).”
Also, two of Socrates’ disciples were among the Thirty Tyrants, so he did have connections with them. It was not a stretch for his enemies to argue he supported the Thirty, whether it was true or not, which we cannot know.
My opinion: he criticized both sides. He certainly criticized Athens and its leaders and probably did the same to the Thirty Tyrants and Sparta when he found fault with them.
With no reliable history and writing nothing of his own, we have to rely on his students whose writings often conflict. We will not solve this Socratic Problem here (it’s been around for 2400 years), but it sure is fun to discuss.
Umm...(eyes lowered, shuffling feet)...so you’ll forgive Civ and me for hijacking your thread? Yeah, it is a great story. This was high, bloody-handed politics played for keeps with the future of Athens riding on it. That Socrates was even in a position to play it was proof enough that he was far more than a peripatetic party guest. He was reputedly the tutor of Alcibiades, whose own history is too incredible for fiction. They make an interesting and fantastically politically incorrect pair.
I agree with Bill, he’s sorry we hijacked the thread. ;’) ;’) :’D