Politicizing Liberty

Here is Jonathan Keiler:

When President Obama emphatically declared, in the wake of the recent Oregon shooting, that he intended to politicize his campaign to implement “common sense gun control” (which in his mind means Australian-like confiscation) my mind turned to a man most unlike Obama, the Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates died because his fellow citizens politicized everything, and did not recognize individual liberties. So when Obama calls on Americans to politicize “gun control” he is deliberately and mischievously using the language of democracy to promote tyranny, just as Athenian “democrats” tyrannized their nation two millennia ago.

In 399 B.C. the citizens of Athens convicted Socrates of corrupting the city-state’s youth and for impiety. For this he was sentenced to death, compelled to drink a potion of hemlock until he expired.  In reality, the public “gadfly” (in his student Plato’s words) had run afoul of the state’s elites by questioning their intelligence, probity, and competence. Athens was a democracy, but not one that guaranteed individual liberty. It was in fact, a tyrannical democracy that politicized (and by extension criminalized) any activity that the elites could convince a majority of the citizenry was improper or inconvenient.

For all their faults, the ancient Greeks misuse of democratic ideas pales in comparison to modern tyrants who have misappropriated the so-called “will of the majority” to oppress and dominate their nations.  Not for nothing did Lenin choose to call his party “Bolshevik” translated as “one of the majority,” thus claiming the political right to implement a regime of totalitarian cruelty.

Though Plato was Socrates’ most famous student, his true philosophical heirs were the cynics and then the stoics. When the Romans broke free of their Etruscan kings and cast about for a more democratic polity they settled on a republican form of government, based on stoic principles, that guaranteed rights and liberties (as least for the sharply defined classes of Roman citizenry) at the expense of pure democracy. When our founding fathers in turn sought a practical and fair form of government that would also guarantee individual liberties, they chose the Roman model, not the Greek one. Our republic is very directly the offspring of Socratic ideas. Not for nothing is Socrates called the father of Western philosophy.

If Obama has demonstrated anything in nearly seven years of a chaotic and incompetent presidency, it is that he despises Western principles and ideas, and would like nothing better than transform our carefully crafted and noble republican experiment into a third-world-like autocratic, socialist kleptocracy, not unlike like Indonesia, where he spent many of his formative years.

Read more: American Thinker

Image credit: The Parthenon in Athens under repair/photo by John Biver.