Skip to comments.Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (Here, kitties! Live chow, a grad student no less).
Posted on 01/31/2005 9:08:09 AM PST by dmitry_chernikov
I think that it has been well established that "conservatives" or whatever it is they call themselves these days (e.g., storm troopers) in matters concerning politics value little more than the state's power in which they imagine themselves to participate and the supposed glory that war and domestic national securitism brings to them. Now strictly speaking this is a delusion, because their only access to power lies in the accidental agreement of their opinions with those of the managers of the state. This access will evaporate as soon as the state does something that displeases our conservatives. It is always possible, of course, that I am giving these people too much credit and that due to the slavish devotion of conservatives to the Republican party as opposed to any kind of principles derived from economics, natural law, and suchlike, their opinions will simply change along with the policies advocated by the party so as to always be in accord with them.
Be that as it may, however, let us consider those peculiar human desires for power and glory. What are these things really? Does human happiness consist in them? And are they worth pursuing?
First, the definitions. (Active) power is the principle of acting upon something else. Glory means "renown; praise, honor, or distinction extended by common consent". Considering the matter from theistic perspective, it should be obvious that power as such is so attractive to people because it is precisely that which makes them most Godlike, for all things quite naturally desire to be like God, Who is their efficient and final cause. The trouble, however, is that "God's power is His goodness: hence He cannot use His power otherwise than well. But it is not so with men. Consequently it is not enough for man's happiness, that he become like God in power, unless he become like Him in goodness also."  So if the president, say, rules with an eye towards the common good, that is, the good shared by all citizens, then his power is undoubtedly a good and admirable thing. But if he does such things as unjustly invade foreign countries, damage the economy, curtail civil liberties, and intrude into the private affairs of individuals, businesses, and states, then his power is thereby being used in an evil manner. And it should be remembered that power is never an end in itself but rather a means to something else, namely, to doing good or goodness.
Further, we can divide power into creative, sustaining, and destructive. Ideally, the job of the federal government, assuming that we need it at all, is merely to preserve order, perhaps by arbitrating disputes between the states and other than that taking upon itself only ceremonial duties. It can never create wealth; it can only squander it or, worse, put the nation in debt. The vast majority of the advances to which we owe our standard of living have been brought into being and spread to the general public by private enterprise. As for destructive power, the feds have it in abundance, and they unleash it without too many qualms on both foreigners and (surely, soon) on the Americans themselves.
Another division of which we can think is power over man, to brainwash or beat him into submission, and power over nature. The question is, how can the state, which has exclusive power over man, be harsh to violent criminals only yet gentle to everyone else? Only a few short years ago conservatives were quoting phrases like "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance" (attributed to Thomas Jefferson), meaning eternal vigilance against the depredations of the government. Indeed, suppressing all liberties and crushing all opposition are occupational hazards of those in charge of the machinery of state. Today all that is forgotten, and the price of "liberty" is murder and mayhem and domestic interventionism in all aspects of life.
In Plato's Republic Socrates argues that in a good society men, being neither money- nor honor-loving, would shun public office and avoid taking power at all costs. For is it not better to receive benefits as a citizen than to dispense them as a ruler (in the form of justice and protection from violence)? The only reason why anyone would agree to run for office and take charge of a city or, by extension, a country, is fear of punishment; in particular, the fear of being ruled by an inferior or wicked man. What a contrast to the real world in which political power is greatly sought after for its own sake, and economic privileges richly flow to the friends of those running the state!
As for glory, it is rightfully given to those who overcome the trials given to them in life, not to those who exalt themselves at other people's expense.
Finally, consider the following before you choose to ally yourself with some center of political power thinking that this will make you secure and happy.
Now four general reasons may be given to prove that happiness consists in none of the foregoing external goods [wealth, fame, glory, and power]. First, because, since happiness is man's supreme good, it is incompatible with any evil. Now all the foregoing can be found both in good and in evil men. Secondly, because, since it is the nature of happiness to "satisfy of itself," as stated in Ethic. i, 7, having gained happiness, man cannot lack any needful good. But after acquiring any one of the foregoing, man may still lack many goods that are necessary to him; for instance, wisdom, bodily health, and such like. Thirdly, because, since happiness is the perfect good, no evil can accrue to anyone therefrom. This cannot be said of the foregoing: for it is written (Eccles. 5:12) that "riches" are sometimes "kept to the hurt of the owner"; and the same may be said of the other three. Fourthly, because man is ordained to happiness through principles that are in him; since he is ordained thereto naturally. Now the four goods mentioned above are due rather to external causes, and in most cases to fortune; for which reason they are called goods of fortune. Therefore it is evident that happiness nowise consists in the foregoing. 
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-I, Q. 2, Art. 4
Dmitry Chernikov is a graduate student in philosophy at Kent State University.
Welcome to FreeRepublic.
Vacuous, elitist, Ph.D. in a "would you like fries with that" field ZOT!
Sorry you couldn't get into a better school, Dmitry, although I can see why. While you're here, anywho, you might be helpful. Is there a Russian word for "ZOT"?
Bring along some catnip and borscht for Comrade Dmitry.
You know, one of the rules of writing a persuasive piece is to avoid insulting your readers in the FIRST SENTENCE !!!
Wonder how long youll be here??
Hey Dmitry, doesn't your name translate to zotted-troll in Russian?
Busy Monday already.
think that it has been well established that "conservatives" or whatever it is they call themselves these days (e.g., storm troopers) in matters concerning politics value little more than the state's power in which they imagine themselves to participate and the supposed glory that war and domestic national securitism brings to them.
Oh, is this why "conservatives" are always trying to pass laws abridging freedoms? Gun Control, Speech Codes, Enviro-regulations, Sin Taxes, and taxation of income in general?
Your first sentence is so faulty, you couldn't have a worse understanding of what you're talking about.
Just a start= Govt control ie: Communism, Socialism, Fascism, Marxism are all LIBERAL Ideologies.
Pull your head out of your arse and do some reading before you post.
Unleash the Hogs of Peace.
P.J. O'Rourke Parliament of Whores
A thousand words to say "I hate Republicans". Senator Kerry, is that you?
You seem to have it exactly backwards there, dim.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.