FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Autocracy in the US and 5th Century Rome

 

Why do people worry that Harriet Miers is too close to the President? Don’t they watch the miniseries on Rome on HBO? In the fifth century, Emperor Honorius appointed whoever purchased the office of Procurator (roughly equivalent to a Supreme Court Justice). The appointee was usually the son of a wealthy Senator (the highest nobility at the time) and had no experience at all. What was important was that he didn’t challenge the Emperor, God’s Vice-Regent on Earth, and that he, or his father, offered games to the public.

There was no reason to challenge the Emperor, of course. Emperor Honorius was so wrapped up in his prize roosters, one of whom he named Rome, that in 410 when a messenger dashed into his throne room in Ravenna shouting, “Rome has fallen!” he started to run for his chicken coop, alarmed, until the messenger explained he meant the city. “Oh, that Rome,” the Emperor is supposed to have said. And 1,595 years later Brownie did “a heckuva job” rescuing New Orleans.

Honorius (393-423) was the son of the previous Emperor, just as George is the son of George. Dynasty is important in keeping the state together. When Honorius’ nephew became Emperor after a long regency under his mother, he had an obsession, too, the other kind of chicken, the human kind; he couldn’t keep out of the bedrooms of his courtiers’ wives, Christian Emperor though he was.

What does this have to do with Harriet Miers? The Rome of late antiquity was an autocracy, ruled by the men (and eunuchs) surrounding the Emperor. Appointing close confidants was routine. After all, the Emperor, or the people who ruled in his name, had virtually absolute power. Now our Emperor, I mean President, wants to name one of his closest, most loyal advisors to the Supreme Court, to the seat that has held the balance in the court. If she is confirmed, then our Emperor, I mean President, will have assured for himself that neither of the competing institutions will block whatever he wants to do: torture, imprison “enemy aliens,” bankrupt Social Security, take money from the poor and give it to the rich, etc. After a brief insurrection among his party members in Congress, they will support the Imperial party leader. And the Supreme Court, up until now a thorn in his side, will be his play-thing. Roberts, after all, already demonstrated that in his view the executive can do virtually no wrong–as long as he’s a Republican conservative. And with Miers added to the court, the balance of votes for an Imperial presidency will be in the majority.

Oh, it’s possible that Harriet will “evolve” once George becomes Ex-President, but that’s a long time from now, and would she “evolve” if George’s brother is elected? In the meantime, anything George will do, or approve, Harriet is sure to approve of as well. Torture, martial law? Which brings us to the Autocracy in the title: the Supreme Court is supposed to be a counter-weight to the executive and the legislative branches, not its lapdog. There is a very real danger that all our civil liberties will be swept away in the face of the “never-ending war-on-terror,” if the Court becomes lapdog. We will then develop quickly into an autocratic system, because there will be nothing to stop it. The opposition (Democrats?) is as tired and clueless as the Pagan Senators who tried to bring back the altar to Victory to the Roman Senate in 392.

Will Jeb follow George? After all, dynasty creates stability–of a sort. When Valentinian III had dallied with the wrong Senator’s wife, after murdering his best general, he was murdered in turn. What little stability the Empire still had up until then (455) went flying out the palace window. There were Emperors after that (until 476), but the autocracy, and the complicit aristocracy (much like our selfish class) could not deal with the crises of the era–invasions, the breakdown of the Empire’s economy. When the Empire fell–with the Senate’s connivance–the wealthy assumed they could simply continue as lords of their manors, much the way corporate leaders expect they could always go elsewhere if things get bad here–after they have shook down our substance. Chaos followed the Empire’s fall, however, and even the very wealthy lost their–tunics.

DOUGLAS C. SMYTH has a Ph.D in Social Science, and have been both a freelance writer and a college teacher (Economics, Political Science, and History). He is currently working on a book: The Selfish Class. Smyth can be reached at: douglassmyth@optonline.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

More articles by:

December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail