Book Sale

Friday 16 December 2022

No Place

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It is remarkable to read through Discources on Livy and reflect on Machiavelli's advice about how to structure a Republic and preserve liberty. There is no sense of utopian dream, just practical wisdom about what happens when you do or don't do certain things. 

His meditation on the agrarian laws of Rome are particularly insightful. I am partial to reintroducing the Old Testament concept of family owned land, which prevents anyone from gobbling up all the land. The Roman agrarian laws had a similar intention, forbidding anyone from owning too much and preventing any citizen from owning nothing. A wise and even godly law, though Rome was a pagan nation. 

But these laws were ignored for a considerable amount of time, until all the land was in the hands of a very few. But it was not this that destroyed the Republic. It was the Gracchi's reapplication of the laws retroactively that eventually brought the Republic down. This retroactive attempt at the confiscation of property caused a backlash from the nobility that led to greater conflict with the citizenry, which caused a chain of events that eventually produced the tyrant Caesar. 

A utopian approach to law to reinvigorate liberty ended up destroying all liberty in Rome. 

"It is useful to remember that the word utopia means “no place.” By definition, utopias cannot exist in the real world. Attempts to create them lead to disaster, as both the French and Russian Revolutions attest."

Willian S. Lind

Attempts to create utopias always lead to destruction for a people. They often lead to hell on earth. 

I think this is true for nations, but even social and communal endeavours. It's good to long for the Promise Land, but it's not fully achievable on earth. Pursuing it too dogmatically will bring the good you can have or achieve to ruin. 

Something to ponder. 

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