Coding in Paradise

About Brad Neuberg

What Early Rome Can Teach Us About Power & How We Lie to Ourselves

I was reading over Livy's The Early History of Rome (details) (this is one part of Livy's monumental 142 book series on the History of Rome! Talk about long form content....) recently and the following passage jumped out at me. It always amazes me how those in power rationalize their right to stay in power, independent of whether it's just.

To set the context, Rome has just deposed its king and monarchy and has formed a fledgling republic. The disgraced royal family travels the land trying to drum up an army to attack Rome and regain power. Talking to another king outside Rome they counsel:

...warning him of the dangerous consequences of letting republicanism go unavenged. The expulsion of kings, they urged, once it had begun, might well become common practice; liberty was an attractive idea, and unless reigning monarchs defended their thrones as vigorously as states now seemed to be trying to destroy them, all order and subordination would collapse; nothing would be left in any country but flat equality; greatness and eminence would be gone for ever. Monarchy, the noblest thing in heaven or on earth, was nearing its end.

Livy, The Early History of Rome

I always find it useful to read rationalizations from history of topics we now regard as settled and unjust (monarchy, slavery, right to a trial, etc.) in order to gain perspective on the incorrect rationalizations I might be applying to things today that the future will see as unjust.

What do you think are the things we simply accept and rationalize today as "greatness and eminence...the noblest thing in heaven or earth" that the future will see as clearly wrong?

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