March 25, 2010

IT IS CICERO WHO SURVIVES:

Cicero in Rome and in Early America: A review of Bradley J. Birzer’s American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (Virgil P. Nemoianu, 03/25/10, First Principles)

[I]t is Cicero who survives in the minds of many thinking people, not only because he was a splendid philosopher and essayist, and an eloquent attorney, and because he died a horribly, martyr-like death, but also because of the tenacious courage with which he defended the liberal conservatism of the traditional senatorial republic and the theoretical sagacity that he opposed to the leveling authoritarianism that inexorably overwhelmed the res publica.

Cicero was philosophically a Platonist, but his political, economic, and legal views were largely his own, at most variants of the traditions of senatorial Rome. Cicero regarded liberty and order as twins indispensable to each other. For him the role of state and government was primarily the defense and justification of private property and self-reliance, while at the same time ensuring the well-being of the community. He suggested that slaves be regarded as permanent hired employees, approved of war only as a redress for injuries suffered, placed (in politics!) reason above power and will, and ultimately thought that the purpose of institutionalized society was to assure the growth and preservation of human personality. He was rather specific on taxation and allegedly believed that a level of above 40 percent of income appropriated by taxation would lead to the decline and ruin of the whole commonwealth.

All these are rather modern issues and they tend to turn Cicero into a mighty “Founding Father” of any liberal conservatism all the way to our own times.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 25, 2010 5:51 AM
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