Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cicero Speaks on OWS

"But many claims in his speech were those of the demagogue, and especially reprehensible was the statement that less than two thousand persons in the state owned property.  This was a pernicious speech, promoting as it did the equalization of property; what could be more baneful than that?  Why, the chief motivation behind the establishment of states and city structures was to ensure the maintenance of private property; for though nature guided men to form communities, it was in the hope of guarding their possessions that they sought protection in cities."
"So those who seek to pose as populares, and with this in mind raise the agrarian issue to have owners shifted from their properties, or think that money owed by debtors should be remitted, are undermining the foundations of the state, which depends first and foremost on the harmony between classes (and this cannot continue to exist when some citizens are robbed of their money and others have their debts remitted), and secondly on fair dealing, which is totally abrogated if the individual cannot keep what belongs to him.  For, as I remarked earlier, the distinguishing feature of the community and the city is that every individual should maintain free and undisturbed control of his possessions."

These quotes, which come from De Officiis by Marcus Tullius Cicero, are worth pondering.


  1. Proof that the purpose of the state (or city, or community) is the protection of private property rights is apparently left as an exercise to the reader.

  2. I didn't quote it, but he does talk about the proscriptions of Sulla and Marius (though obviously not the ones of the Second Triumvirate, since they hadn't happened yet) and its destructive nature upon the state and the individuals within it. Siphoning straight off of Plato, Cicero mentions the code of honor among thieves and pirates; without a system to say who owns what, anarchy develops all too quickly.

    Is the assertion proven with mathematical certainty? No. But then, in human dealings, especially those going back into antiquity, we don't have the luxary of such proofs. Cicero's explanation 2,000 years ago is as good as any other I've seen from that time period.