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In a sidebar column in the May 2022 issue of The Spectator World, I found this description of what Aristotle thought were the characteristics of a Tyrant. The column is written by Peter Jones.
Seeing the turannos as a deviant type of king, Aristotle tested the distinction under four headings. Was he subject to the law? Did he rule for a set term, or for ever? Was he elected? And did he rule over willing subjects? We may judge Aristotle’s answer from the image he drew of the tyrant as a master of slaves who, knowing that his subjects hated him, did everything in his power to ensure that they were incapable of moving against him.
First, therefore, the tyrant stamped on anyone exhibiting the slightest independence of mind, since “the man who rivals the tyrant’s pride and spirit of freedom robs the tyrant of his position of mastery, undermining his authority.”
Second, because tyrannies were ended “when people come to trust each other, command confidence among themselves and others, and do not inform against one another,” he must “make war on decent, upright citizens” and “set them against each other,” creating a culture of fear, suspicion, and mistrust.
Third, he must ensure the destruction of any power bases that might challenge his authority: so “clubs and societies must be closed down together with all places where men pursue learning together,” for they are the “breeding-grounds of independence and courage.” As for the people, “their attention must be diverted from plotting“, so they must be kept “poor and fully occupied in making a living or else fighting in wars, to be successful in which requires them to look to their leader.”
Finally, the tyrant had “no public interest except what is conducive to his private ends” and that was acquiring the riches that would enable him to stay in power. As a result, the tyrant was wary of honest, candid friends “on the grounds that they more than anyone have the power to do what his enemies merely wish.” So only “toadies and flatterers” had access to him.
The subject of Mr. Jones’s column was Vladimir Putin. However, doesn’t that extended description of a tyrant’s behavior bring to mind someone a little closer to us all? Why does that sound like a description of Biden’s America?Published in