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PostSubject: Critique Of Democracy Wed Aug 24, 2011 6:32 pm

Why is the majority so special?

What is so special about being a majority anyways? Is it numbers? What is the significance of the larger number of bodies? Is it a number game?

Democracy is the tyranny of the majority with a bunch of pissed off deattached pissed off minorities.

Democracy is the illusion of "freedom" and majority public choice pulled with puppet strings by your ruling minority plutocracy.

Even ancient Greek democracy would make usage of national exiling.




Other interesting criticisms of democracy:

Quote :
Economists since Milton Friedman have strongly criticized the efficiency of democracy. They base this on the observed fact of the irrational voter. Their criticism towards democracy is that voters are highly uninformed about many political issues, especially relating to economics, and have a strong bias about the few issues on which they are fairly knowledgeable. For example, members of labor unions are most passionate and informed about labor policies. They will organize themselves and lobby the government to adopt policies beneficial to labor unions but not likely to the rest of the population. As a result, politicians are unaware of voters' actual desires.
Efficiency of the system

Chicago economist, Donald Wittman, has written numerous works attempting to counter these common views of his colleagues. He argues democracy is efficient based on the premise of rational voters, competitive elections, and relatively low political transactions costs. Economist Bryan Caplan argues, while Wittman makes strong arguments for the latter two points, he cannot overcome the insurmountable evidence in favor of voter irrationality. It still remains the Achilles heel of democratic government. The problem is not mere lack of information; it is that voters badly interpret and judge the information they do have.[1]
Wealth disparity

This could result in a wealth disparity in such a country, or even racial discrimination. Fierlbeck (1998) points out that such a result is not necessarily due to a failing in the democratic process, but rather, "because democracy is too responsive to the desires of a large middle class increasingly willing to disregard the muted voices of economically marginalized groups within its own borders."[2] The criticism remains that the will of the democratic majority may not always be in the best interest of all citizens within the country or beneficial to the future of the country itself.
Sociological criticisms
Lack of political education

Furthermore, some have argued that voters may not be educated enough to exercise their democratic right. A population with low intellect may not be capable of making beneficial decisions. They argue that the lack of rationality or even education is being taken advantage of by politicians, that compete more in the way of public relations and tactics, than in ideology. While arguments against democracy is often taken by advocates of democracy as an attempt to maintain or revive traditional hierarchy in order to justify autocratic rule, many extensions have been made to develop the argument further.[3]
Benefits of a specialised society

One such argument is that the benefits of a specialised society may be compromised by democracy. As ordinary citizens are encouraged to take part in the political life of the country, they have the power to directly influence the outcome of government policies through the democratic procedures of voting, campaigning and the use of press. The result is that government policies may be more influenced by non-specialist opinions and thereby the effectiveness compromised, especially if a policy is very technically sophisticated and/or the general public inadequately informed. For example, there is no guarantee that those who campaign about the government's economic policies are themselves professional economists or academically competent in this particular discipline, regardless of whether they were well-educated.
Political criticisms
Uncontested good

Additionally, some political scientists question the notion that democracy is an "uncontested good."[4] If we base our critique on the definition of democracy as governance based on the will of the majority, there can be some foreseeable and unfavorable consequences to this form of rule. For example, Fierlbeck (1998: 12) points out that the middle class majority in a country may decide to redistribute wealth and resources into the hands of those that they feel are most capable of investing or increasing them.
Cyclical theory of government

Machiavelli put forth the idea that democracies will tend to cater to the whims of the people, who then follow false ideas to entertain themselves, squander their reserves, and do not deal with potential threats to their rule until it is too late to oppose them. He put forth a cyclical theory of government where monarchies always decay into aristocracies, that then decay into democracies, which decay into anarchy, then tyranny, then monarchy.
Political instability

More recently, democracy is criticised for not offering enough political stability. As governments are frequently elected on and off there tend to be frequent changes in the policies of democratic countries both domestically and internationally. Even if a political party maintains power, vociferous, headline grabbing protests and harsh criticism from the mass media are often enough to force sudden, unexpected political change. Frequent policy changes with regard to business and immigration are likely to deter investment and so hinder economic growth. For this reason, many people have put forward the idea that democracy is undesirable for a developing country in which economic growth and the reduction of poverty are top priority.[5]
Oppression by the majority

The constitutions of many countries have parts of them that restrict the nature of the types of laws that legislatures can pass. A fundamental idea behind some of these restrictions, is that the majority of a population and its elected legislature can often be the source of minority persecutions, such as with racial discrimination. Some countries throughout the world have judiciaries where judges can serve for long periods of time, and often serve under appointed posts. This is often balanced, however, by the fact that some trials are decided by juries.

John T. Wenders writes:

“The unpopular answer, of course, is no. Freedom and democracy are different. In words attributed to Scottish historian Alexander Tytler: 'A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.' Democracy evolves into kleptocracy. A majority bullying a minority is just as bad as a dictator, communist or otherwise, doing so. Democracy is two coyotes and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” There is a difference between democracy and freedom. Freedom is not measured by the ability to vote. It is measured by the breadth of those things on which we do not vote.

However it has also been observed that in countries where there is unified minority and un-united majority, the political parties for the certainty of votes pamper minorities at the cost of majority. e.g. In India Muslims are considered minority however it is often observed that political parties often compromise majority Hindu interests (the Hindu community is highly divided) for Muslim minority.
Philosophical criticisms
Mob rule

Plato's the Republic presents a critical view of democracy through the narration of Socrates: "Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike."[6] In his work, Plato lists 5 forms of government from best to worst. Assuming that the Republic was intended to be a serious critique of the political thought in Athens, Plato argues that only Kallipolis, an aristocracy led by the unwilling philosopher-kings (the wisest men) is a just form of government. Some people say, "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting for what's for dinner."
Violation of Property Rights

Some Libertarians criticize Democracy for reasons of impracticality and immorality. The criticism for impracticality is essentially that in order to be logically consistent people would need to vote on all action, and that this would lead to the extermination of the human species. Others criticize democracy for being immoral on the grounds that it coercively involves people, i.e. it is violates voluntarism and property rights.
Timocracy and oligarchy

The other forms of government place too much focus on lesser virtues, and degenerate into each other from best to worst, starting with Timocracy, which overvalues honour. Then comes Oligarchy, overvaluing wealth, which is followed by Democracy. In Democracy, the oligarchs, or merchant, are unable to wield their power effectively and the people take over, electing someone who plays on their wishes, by throwing lavish festivals etc. However, the government grants the people too much freedom, and the state degenerates into the fourth form, Tyranny/mob rule.
Role of republicanism

The Founding Fathers of the United States intended to address this criticism by combining democracy with republicanism. A constitution would limit the powers of what a simple majority can accomplish.[7]

Short-termism

Democracy is also criticised for frequent elections due to the instability of coalition governments. Coalitions are frequently formed after the elections in many countries (for example India) and the basis of alliance is predominantly to enable a viable majority, not an ideological concurrence.

This opportunist alliance not only has the handicap of having to cater to too many ideologically opposing factions, but it is usually short lived since any perceived or actual imbalance in the treatment of coalition partners, or changes to leadership in the coalition partners themselves, can very easily result in the coalition partner withdrawing its support from the government.

Democratic institutions work on consensus to decide an issue, which usually takes longer than a unilateral decision.
Corruption within democratic governments

This is a simple form of appealing to the short term interests of the voters. This tactic has been known to be heavily used in north and north-east region of Thailand.

Another form is commonly called Pork barrel where local areas or political sectors are given special benefits but whose costs are spread among all taxpayers.

Mere elections are just one aspect of the democratic process. Other tenets of democracy, like relative equality and freedom, are frequently absent in ostensibly democratic countries.

Moreover, in many countries, democratic participation is less than 50% at times, and it can be argued that election of individual(s) instead of ideas disrupts democracy.
Volatility/unsustainability

The new establishment of democratic institutions in countries where the associated practices have as yet been uncommon or deemed culturally unacceptable, can result in institutions, that are not sustainable in the long term. One circumstance supporting this outcome may be when it is part of the common perception among the populace that the institutions were established as a direct result of foreign pressure.

Sustained regular inspection from democratic countries, however effortfull and well-meaning, are normally not sufficient in preventing the erosion of democratic practices. In the cases of several African countries, corruption still is rife in spite of democratically elected governments, as one of the most severe examples, Zimbabwe is often perceived to have backfired into outright militarianism.





http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_democracy


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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:41 pm


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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Fri May 08, 2015 7:12 pm

Colin Jordan wrote:
"Democracy is the virtual parent of Communism in all essence in its ultimate implications and full consequences. We have now reached the stage of metamorphosis in the West where formal Communism can seemingly withdraw because of the extent of its absorption by advanced Democracy in the sythesis of Commu-Capitalism. With the covert Communism of Democracy, no less than with the overt form, the materialist environment of the masses is held to be the determinant of Man, not heredity. The oracles of Democracy, the system which creates a debased human herd, argue that eugenics lowers humans to the level of animals. Humans, they declare for the purpose 0£ the argument, are too high and mighty to breed "like animals". To this contorted contention the overpowering answer is that it is precisely because humans are on a higher level than animals that good breeding which is accepted and pursued in good animal management is that much more justified in good human management.

How illustrative it is of this perverse and ruinous outlook of Democracy that its citizens are obliged to take a driving test and to be licensed to drive a car in order to reduce the risk to others, including the precious class of overlords, whereas anyone, however deficient and degenerate and diseased, can freely, without let or hindrance, produce more of his kind, regardless of the cumulative harm to society over subsequent time. The contradiction is immediately resolved once it is taken into account that Democracy essentially depends on a low-grade human herd as the means and surety for the undisturbed domination of the overlords. Hence sex, the fountain-head of life, is reduced under it to a sensual pastime, massively commercialised and deprived of all racial purpose.

Thus this incubating agent for Communism is in its pose to the public inevitably and eternally committed to the criterion of equality, to the arbiter of the head count, in conflict with quality as an objective. Finding its sustenance in the hallucinogenic vapours of contemporary Christianity, it not only holds that all races are equal and mixture commendable, but that all bipeds pronounced human, whether a genius like Richard Wagner or Isaac Newton or Rembrandt or Michelangelo, are likewise to be equated in civic evaluation. Accordingly for its propaganda purposes in flattering and charming and retaining the support of the masses, Democracy makes out it upholds and champions any and every depraved dolt engaged not in contributing to a flowering of human achievement, or even the steady functioning of ordinary society, but to the brutish procreation of even more dolts.

Eugenical action is no new concept of modern times. The tiny Sparta of ancient times withstood and predominated over far more numerous neighbours through the promotion of quality which prompted its people to leave defective children out on the hillside to die. There we have a prospect certain to send the slobbering Christian democrat of today into a paroxysm of remorse.
Marriage outside the Spartan folk community was forbidden. There were penalties for celibacy and late marriage, and men who fathered several children were exempt from various obligations. All such racial right practice gave rise to a society ruled by devotion to duty and honour and commuunity service, the features so flagrantly rejected by Democracy and so vital for a resurgent Aryan society. Said the Greek philosopher Aristotle of the Spartan: "Such a man chooses to live nobly for a year rather than to pass many years in ordinary life, and he will rather do one great and noble deed than many small ones." What a world apart from the ethos of Democracy, centred on the feeding-trough and the constant thought of "What's in it for me?"

Ancient Rome, in the heyday of its pristine vigour, culled Nature's fail- ures as did Sparta. The earliest,written, Roman, legal code, the Law of the Twelve Tables, which was first set down in writing about the middle of the fifth century B.C. but was based on a much older, legal tradition, specifically called for the immediate destruction of any conspicuously de- fective infant. Five centuries later, the Roman statesman, Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. -65 A.D.) confirmed the continuation of this far-reaching, beneficial practice, writing "We drown the weakling and the monstrosity. It is not passion, but reason, to separate the useless from the fit."

Electioneering has to begin with self-imposed censorship, preventing the presentation of so much that is essential. It has to continue in the cast of compromise, constituting conversion to the desires of the lauded, common herd. It has to end, if this prostitution does bring enough votes, in the abandonment of principles, in the attainment of a powerless power in that conditioned by compromise, brought to power by compromise, that custom of compromise causes power to be spent in the avoidance of doing what is essential.
Thus the right route to racial betterment is not through the nullifying wilderness of electioneering, seeking popularity in the cause of illusory, ballot box success, but through methodical progression to the seizure of power by feasible methods..." [Colin Jordan, The Way Ahead]

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Fri May 08, 2015 7:13 pm

Savitri Devi wrote:
"All society, all “civilization” that proceeds from the same aspiration to human well-being above all, to well-being or human “happiness” at any price, is marked by the seal of the Powers of Decadence, enemies of the cosmic order of the play of forces without end. It is a civilization of the Dark Age. If you are obliged to suffer it, suffer it by unceasingly opposing it, denouncing it, combating it every minute of your life. Make it your glory to hasten its end—at least to cooperate with all your might with the natural action of the forces leading to its end. For it is accursed. It is organized ugliness and meanness. Rid yourself not only of the superstition of “happiness,” if it ever allured you, but also that of man. Protect yourself from the attitude, as vain as it is stupid, that consists in trying “to love all men” simply because they are men. And if this attitude was never yours, if, from childhood, you were impermeable to the propaganda of the devotees of “humanity,” give thanks to the immortal Gods to whom you owe this innate wisdom. Nothing prohibits to you, certainly, from giving a hand to a man who needs help, even the most worthless. The Strong are generous." [Savitri Devi, The Religion of the Strong]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Fri May 08, 2015 7:18 pm

Guy Debord wrote:
"Spectacular democracy approaches matters with great subtlety, very different from the straightforward brutality of the totalitarian diktat. It can keep the original name for something secretly changed (beer, beef or philosophers). And it can just as easily change the name when the thing itself has been secretly maintained. In England, for example, the nuclear waste reprocessing plant at Windscale was renamed Sellafield in order to allay the suspicions which were aroused by a disastrous fire in 1957, though this toponymic reprocessing did nothing to limit the rise in local mortality rates from cancer and leukemia. The British government, as the population democratically learned thirty years later, had decided to suppress a report on the catastrophe which it judged, reasonably enough, would probably shake public confidence in nuclear power.

The erasure of the personality is the fatal accompaniment to an existence which is concretely submissive to the spectacle’s rules, ever more removed from the possibility of authentic experience and thus from the discovery of individual preferences. Paradoxically, permanent self-denial is the price the individual pays for the tiniest bit of social status. Such an existence demands a fluid fidelity, a succession of continually disappointing commitments to false products. It is a matter of running hard to keep up with the inflation of devalued signs of life.

Drugs help one to come to terms with this state of affairs, while madness allows one to escape from it." [Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle]

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Fri May 08, 2015 7:29 pm

Bertrand Russell wrote:
"In these days under the influence of democracy, the virtue of co-operation has taken the place formerly held by obedience. The old-fashioned schoolmaster would say of a boy that he was disobedient; the modern schoolmistress says of an infant that he is non-co-operative. It means the same thing: the child, in either case, fails to do what the teacher wishes, but in the first case the teacher acts as the government and in the second as the representative of the People, i.e. of the other children.
The result of the new language, as of the old, is to encourage docility, suggestibility, herd-instinct and conventionality, thereby necessarily discouraging originality, initiative and unusual intelligence.
Adults who achieve anything of value have seldom been “co-operative” children. As a rule, they have liked solitude: they have tried to slink into a corner with a book and been happiest when they could escape the notice of their barbarian contemporaries. Almost all men who have been distinguished as artists, writers or men of science have in boyhood been objects of derision and contempt to their schoolfellows; and only too often the teachers have sided with the herd, because it annoyed them that the boy should be odd."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Fri May 08, 2015 7:30 pm

Nietzsche wrote:
"The demand for equal rights made by socialists of the subjected caste never flows from a sense of justice, but instead from greed. If someone holds bloody chunks of meat near an animal and then yanks them away until finally it roars: do you think that this roaring signifies justice?

"The inequality of rights is the precondition for the existence of any rights at all…There is nothing wrong with unequal rights; only in the claim to equal rights…What is evil?...Everything arising in weakness, envy, and revenge."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Sat May 09, 2015 4:29 pm

How can two very different systems fall under the name "democracy" that are considered equal?

In the swedish system the third most popular party is the third biggest represented. The second most popular is the second most represented. And so on.

In the british system, if I understand correctly, you can be the third biggest but barely have any seats at all. They use "personal elections" instead of "general elections".

How can these two systems who are so different be accepted by both sides as "equal" or even "democratic"? Should not the swedes consider the british to have a dysfunctional system , and vice versa?

Video by Sargon of Akkad, also a quite funny anti-feminist:

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Wed Sep 30, 2015 8:47 pm

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Fri Jan 08, 2016 1:30 pm

Nietzsche said Democracy was Xt. by any other means; Sloterdijk emphasizes it is Judaism by another means:

Sloterdijk wrote:
"Societies can be considered modern as soon as they create cohesion through secular media and functionally separated, interlocking subsystems without having to develop a true self or cult centre at a particular point – not even in the parliaments or sociology departments.

From a systems-evolutionary perspective, it is certainly understandable that, in the transition from traditional societies with a unified religioid semantics to modern societies with discrete ‘basic values’ – especially in the first half of the twentieth century – the problem of so-called substitute religions had to arise. The things termed nationalism, totalitarianism, fascism, communism, fundamentalism or integrism were and are, in essence, nothing other than varyingly desperate attempts to re-enact earlier forms of collective synthesis offered by omnicompetent religion with new, semi-arbitrary themes such as national culture, socialization of the means of production, Fuehrer cult, racial difference or literalism. In the systemic ‘reformation’, bourgeois art religion – despite some questionable exaggerations – took over a generally productive role, as it offered the possibility of using aesthetic cult objects for rehearsing the transition from a traditional cult practice based on forced membership to spontaneous, dogma-less forms of worship.

It is one of the ironies of religions in modernity that they even make the absolute an option. Even those struggling to achieve orthodoxy do not escape the heretical imperative, for true belief too depends on a choice (hairesis) in its favour.

In the light of all this, it is clear that the main work in the dissolution of traditions of total membership was done by the systemic reconstruction of modernizing society when the latter shifted from politically motivated confessional coercion to free choice of cult. At the socio-political level, this corresponded to the structural change of the ‘people’ into the ‘population’ and the descent of ethnic characteristics into folklore. The relevant classifications for human associations ‘after peoples’ are masses, mob, multitude and the silent majority. In relation to these factors, the question of God and gods is silenced.

Overall, the concept of the people becomes increasingly problematic – indeed, the ethnicities themselves increasingly seem anachronistic, at times no more than venerable bulky items in the material and informatics streams of global society. Observations with this tendency were anticipated by Karl Marx in his still offensive remarks on the Jewish question, in which he put the case for a dissolution of the separate people in a humanity emancipated by the release of productive powers.

The structural change of the religious in modernity could not fail to influence the forms of total membership that had developed after the ethnogenetic stroke of genius at Mount Sinai. Thus it affects the former, continuing Israelization of Israel under ritual law as much as its parallels in the programme peoples of the Christian churches and Islam, which, each in their own way, had devoted themselves to the constant Christianization of Christians and the Islamization of Muslims. Clearly an emancipation took place in Western Judaism, starting in the eighteenth century, that leads beyond the communal constraints of the past and the chronic suspicion of the breach of covenant. On the Jewish path to ethical liberalism, a serious approach to democracy can be considered a continuation of the covenant by other means." [In the Shadown of Mount Sinai]

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Fri Jan 08, 2016 1:39 pm

Good to see Sloterdijk writing openly about something we've been saying for years.

Timocracy remains the best system: an open ended cast system.
The ariston will rise to the top, and govern, and the rest will have to work on it, or learn to be content with the idea of being governed.

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PostSubject: Re: Critique Of Democracy Fri Jan 08, 2016 2:03 pm

Satyr wrote:
Good to see Sloterdijk writing openly about something we've been saying for years.

For those who have not read or are unfamiliar with him, it should be said, he writes from the perspective of a post-modern cosmopolitan. He is a co-immunist.

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: AREOPAGITICUS Wed Aug 31, 2016 6:57 pm

Isocrates wrote:
AREOPAGITICUS

1. I think many of you wonder whatever is the idea that has led me to come forward to speak concerning the public safety, as if the city were in peril, or its affairs in a dangerous condition, instead of being the owner of more than two hundred triremes, at peace in Attica and the neighbourhood, 2. mistress of the sea, and still in a position to command the support of many allies who will be ready to assist us in time of need, and of a still larger number who pay contributions1 and obey our orders;2 while we possess all these advantages, one would say that we might reasonably be of good courage as being out of reach of danger, and that it is rather our enemies who ought to be afraid and to take counsel for their own safety.

3. I know well that you, adopting this line of argument, despise my appearance here, and expect to maintain your authority over the whole of Greece with your present resources; whereas this is just the reason why I am afraid. For I see that those cities, which think they are most prosperous, adopt the worst counsels, and that those which feel the greatest confidence fall into the greatest dangers. 4. The reason of this is, that no good or evil falls to the lot of man by itself alone, but, while wealth and power are attended and followed by want of sense, accompanied by license, want and a humble position bring with them prudence and moderation, 5. so that it is hard to decide which of these two lots one would prefer to leave as a legacy to his children. For we should find that, starting from that which seems to be worse, things generally improve; while, as the result of that which is apparently better, they usually deteriorate. 6. I can bring forward the greatest number of instances of this, from the affairs of individuals--which are subject to such changes most frequently--not but what examples from what has happened to us and the Lacedaemonians are more striking and better known to my hearers. For, after our city had been destroyed by the barbarians,3 by reason of our cautious behaviour and attention to public affairs we became leaders of the Hellenes, but, as soon as we fancied that the power we possessed was invincible, we narrowly escaped being enslaved;4 7. and in like manner the Lacedaemonians, starting originally from humble and insignificant cities,5 owing to their temperate and soldierly manner of life, became masters of Peloponnesus, but, subsequently, becoming inordinately swollen with pride after they had gained the supremacy both by sea and land, became involved in the same perils as ourselves.6

8. If then anyone, knowing that such striking changes have taken place, and that such great powers have been so speedily destroyed, puts his trust in present circumstances, he is exceedingly foolish, especially as our city is in a far inferior position now than it was then, and the hatred which is felt towards us by the Hellenes7 and the enmity of the Great King has been renewed, which is just what on that occasion caused our downfall.

9. I am at a loss whether I am to suppose that you take no thought of public affairs, or that, while you do consider them, you have become so dull that you do not perceive in what inconsistency the city is involved. For you--myself included--resemble men in one or other of the above states of mind, seeing that, while we have lost all the cities on the coast of Thrace,8 spent more than a thousand talents to no purpose upon mercenaries, 10. incurred the ill-will of the Hellenes, and the hostility of the barbarian, and have further been compelled to save the friends of the Thebans, while we have lost our own allies,9 we have already in honour of such brilliant achievements twice10 offered sacrifice, and now meet to deliberate concerning them with less energy than men who are successful in all they undertake. 11. And herein we both act and suffer as might naturally be expected; for it is impossible for any special department to turn out satisfactorily for those who do not counsel aright concerning the general management of affairs, but, if they do succeed in certain cases, either through chance or the valour of an individual,11 after a brief interval they find themselves again in the same difficulties. This anyone may learn from what has happened in regard to ourselves. 12. For, when the whole of Hellas fell under the sway of our city after the naval engagement fought by Conon and the expedition of Timotheus,12 we were unable to maintain our good fortune for any length of time, but speedily undermined and destroyed it. For we neither have nor endeavour to find a policy which will conduct affairs aright. 13. And yet we are all aware that good fortune comes to and abides with those who manage their city in the best and most prudent manner, not with those who have surrounded themselves with the most splendid and most extensive walls, nor even with those who have gathered together in the same place in the greatest numbers. 14. For a city's soul is nothing else but its political principle, which has as great influence as understanding in a man's body. For this it is that counsels concerning everything, and, while preserving prosperity, avoids misfortune. It is this that laws, orators, and individuals must naturally resemble, and fare according to the principles they hold. 15. We however pay no heed to its destruction, and give no thought how we shall recover it; but, sitting in our shops, we abuse the present constitution, and assert that we were never worse governed under a democracy, while in our acts and thoughts we show ourselves more attached to it than to that bequeathed to us by our ancestors. It is on behalf of the latter that I propose to speak, and have given notice in writing of my intention to do so.13 16. For I see that this will be the only means of averting future dangers and getting rid of our present evils, if, namely, we be willing to restore that democracy which Solon,14 the devoted friend of the people, introduced, and which Cleisthenes, who drove out the despots15 and restored the rights of the people, reestablished in its original form. 17. We should not find a constitution more favourable to the people or more beneficial to the state than that. The strongest proof whereof is, that those who lived under it, having wrought many noble deeds and gained universal renown, received the headship from the Hellenes of their own free will, while those who are enamoured of the present constitution, hated by all, after having undergone dreadful sufferings, have only just escaped being involved in the direst calamities. 18. Surely it cannot be right to acquiesce in or be content with this constitution, which has been the cause of so many evils in former times, and is now every year; growing worse. Ought we not rather to fear that, if our misfortunes increase to such an extent, we may at last run aground upon more grievous troubles than those that then befell us?16

19. In order that you may make your choice and decide between the two constitutions, not merely after having heard a general statement, but from accurate knowledge, it is your duty to give your earnest attention to what I say, while I endeavour, as briefly as possible, to give you an account of both.

20. Those who conducted17 the affairs of the city at that time established a constitution that was not merely in name most mild and impartial, while in reality it did not show itself such to those who lived under it,--a constitution that did not train its citizens in such a manner that they considered license democracy, lawlessness liberty, insolence of speech equality,18 and the power of acting in this manner happiness, but which, by hating and punishing men of such character, made all the citizens better and more modest. 21. And what chiefly assisted them in managing the state aright was this: of the two recognised principles of equality, the one assigning the same to all, the other their due to individuals, they were not ignorant which was the more useful, but rejected as unjust that which considered that good and bad had equal claims, 22. and preferred that which honoured and punished each man according to his deserts; and governed the state on these principles not appointing magistrates from the general body of citizens by lot,19 but selecting the best and most capable to fill each office. For they hoped that the rest of the citizens would behave themselves like those at the head of affairs. 23. In the next place, they thought that this method of appointing to office was more to the advantage of the people than appointment by lot; since, in appointing by lot, chance would have the decision, and supporters of oligarchy would often obtain offices, while, in selecting the most respectable citizens, the people would be able to choose those who were most favourably disposed towards the established constitution. 24. And the reason why the majority were contented with this arrangement and why public offices were not objects of contention was, that they had learnt to work and economize, and not to neglect their own property while entertaining designs on that of others, nor again to supply their own needs at the expense of the public funds, but rather to assist the treasury, if necessary, out of their own means, and not to have a more accurate knowledge of the income arising from public offices,20 than of that produced by their own property. 25. So severely did they keep their hands off the state revenues, that during those times it was harder to find men willing to undertake office than it is now to find men who have no desire for office at all; for they regarded the care of public affairs not as a lucrative business but as a public charge, and they did not from the very day they took office consider whether the former holders of office had left anything to be gained, but rather whether they had neglected anything that pressed for a settlement. 26. In short, they had made up their minds that the people, like an absolute master, ought to control the public offices, punish offenders and settle disputed points, and that those who were able to enjoy ease and possessed sufficient means should attend to public affairs like servants, 27. and, if they acted justly, should be praised and rest contented with this recognition of their services, while, if they managed affairs badly, they should meet with no mercy, but should be visited with the severest penalties. And how would it be possible to find a democracy more just or more secure than one which set the most influential citizens at the head of public affairs, and at the same time invested the people with sovereign control over these same officials?

28. Such was the arrangement of the constitution adopted by them; and it is easy to understand from this that in their everyday life they always acted with uprightness and in accordance with the laws. For, when men have adopted right principles in regard to affairs in general, single departments of the same must of necessity resemble the whole.

29. And first, in regard to the gods--for it is right to begin with them--they neither worshipped them nor celebrated their festivals without due order and regularity; not following in sacrificial procession three hundred oxen whenever they thought fit, and neglecting the sacrifices instituted by their ancestors whenever the caprice seized them; nor did they, while celebrating with the greatest magnificence festivals introduced from foreign countries, whenever accompanied by a public entertainment, hand over the conduct of the most holy sacrifices by contract to those who made the lowest tender;21

30. but their only care was to avoid abolishing any of the institutions of their forefathers, or making any addition to the ancient regulations; for they did not think that piety consisted in extravagance, but in disturbing none of the institutions handed down to them by their ancestors. For the blessings of the gods did not accrue to them in a disorderly or irregular manner, but in due season, both as regarded the cultivation of the soil and the gathering in of the crops.

31. In a similar manner they behaved in their relations towards one another. For they were not only in accord upon public matters, but, in regard to their private life, they showed such consideration for one another as befits men of sense and members of one and the same fatherland. Far from the poorer citizens envying the richer, 32. they were as anxious about the wealthy families as about their own, considering their prosperity to be a source of advantage to themselves; while those who were possessed of means not only did not look down upon those who were in a humbler position, but, considering it disgraceful to themselves that the citizens should be in want, relieved their needs, handing over plots of land to some at a moderate rental, sending others out on business, and advancing capital to others for other occupations. 33. For they were not afraid either of losing all, or with great difficulty recovering only a part of what had been lent, but felt as safe about the money put out as if it had been stored away at home. For they saw that those who decided claims for debt did not err on the side of leniency, 34. but obeyed the laws, not making use of the suits of others in order to make it easy for them to act dishonestly themselves,22 but feeling more anger against those who cheated even than those who were themselves wronged, thinking that the poor sustained more injury than the rich by the act of those who did not faithfully observe their agreements, if they were to give up lending money money, would only lose a small portion of their income, while the former, if they should be without any to assist them, would be reduced to the greatest distress. 35. Since all shared this opinion, no one either concealed the amount of his property or shrank from lending money, but all were more pleased to see borrowers than payers. For two things happened to them, which sensible men would desire: they both benefited their fellow-citizens and laid out their money to advantage. In short, as the result of their honourable social intercourse, their property was secured to those to whom it by right belonged, and the enjoyment of it was open to all the citizens who stood in need of it.

36. Perhaps someone may object to my statements that, while I praise the condition of affairs at that time, I give no explanation of the causes which made their relations amongst themselves so satisfactory and their administration of the city so successful; wherefore, although I think that I have already said something on this point, I will endeavour to give a fuller and clearer account of them. 37. While in their early training they had many23 instructors, they were not allowed, when they reached manhood, to do as they pleased, but it was just in the prime of life that they were more carefully looked after than during their boyhood. For our ancestors paid such attention to virtue that they charged the council of Areopagus with the maintenance of decorum, to the membership of which body only those were admitted who were of noble birth,24 and who had shown distinguished virtue and sobriety in their life, so that naturally it stood before all the other assemblies of Hellas.

38. From what takes place at the present day we may draw inferences concerning the institutions of that period; for even now, when everything connected with the election and scrutiny25 of magistrates is neglected, we should find that men, whose conduct in other respects is insufferable, when once they have become members of the Areopagus,26 shrink from following their natural bent, and conform to the regulations of the council rather than indulge their own vicious propensities--so great was the dread with which it inspired the vicious, and such the memorial of virtue and sobriety that it left behind in that place.

39. Such was the authority to which, as I have said, they intrusted the maintenance of good order, which considered that those were in error who imagined that a community, in which the laws were framed with the greatest exactness, produced the best men; for, if this were so, there would be nothing to prevent all the Hellenes being on the same level, so far as the facility of adopting one another's written laws is concerned. 40. They, on the contrary, knew that virtue is not promoted by the laws, but by the habits of daily life, and that most people turn out men of like character to those in whose midst they have severally been brought up. For, where there are a number of laws drawn up with great exactitude, it is a proof that the city is badly administered; for the inhabitants are compelled to frame laws in great numbers as a barrier against offences. 41. Those, however, who are rightly governed should not cover the walls of the porticoes 27 with copies of the laws, but preserve justice in their hearts; for it is not by decrees but by manners that cities are well governed, and, while those who have been badly brought up will venture to transgress laws drawn up even with the greatest exactitude, those who have been well educated will be ready to abide by laws framed in the simplest terms. 42. With these ideas, they did not first consider how they should punish the disorderly, but by what means they should induce them to refrain from committing any offence deserving of punishment; for they considered that this was their mission, but that eagerness to inflict punishment was a matter of personal enmity.

43. They were careful of the welfare of all the citizens, but especially the younger. For they saw that, at their time of life, they were most disposed to turbulence and full of desires, and that their minds needed to be specially trained and exercised in honourable pursuits and work accompanied by enjoyment, since those who have been brought up in a liberal spirit, and are accustomed to entertain high thoughts, would abide by these alone. 44. It was impossible to direct all towards the same pursuits, as their positions in life were not the same; but they ordered them to follow occupations in conformity with their means. Those who were less well off than others they employed in agriculture and mercantile pursuits, knowing that want of means arises from idleness, and vicious habits from want of means: 45. thus, by removing the source of these evils, they thought to keep them from the other offences that follow in its train. Those, on the other hand, who were possessed of sufficient means, they compelled to devote their time to horse-racing, athletic exercises,28 hunting and philosophy, seeing that as the result of such pursuits some gain distinction, while others are kept from most vices. 46. And, while they made these regulations, they did not neglect the future, but, dividing the city into wards and the country into townships, they kept watch upon the life of each individual citizen, haling the disorderly before the Council, which admonished some, threatened others, and inflicted due punishment where it was necessary. For they knew that there were two different methods, one of which encouraged men to wrongdoing, while the other stopped them from evil courses; 47. for, amongst people where no watch is kept on such matters, and judgment is not strictly meted out, even better natures are corrupted; but, where it is difficult for wrongdoers to escape observation, or, if detected, to obtain pardon, evil habits gradually disappear. 48. Aware of this, they checked the citizens both by punishment and careful supervision; and, far from those who had committed any crime escaping detection by them, they knew beforehand those who were likely to commit one. In consequence of this system, the young men did not pass their time in gambling-houses, the company of female flute-players, or in society such as that in which they now spend their days, but kept to the manners in which they had been trained, respecting and striving to emulate those who were distinguished for their adherence to them. Accordingly, they avoided the market-place29 and, if at any time they were compelled to cross it, they were seen to do so with decency and self-respect. 49. They considered it a greater sin at that time to contradict or abuse their elders than they do now to insult their parents. No one--not even a respectable slave--would have ventured to eat or drink in a tavern.30 They were careful to behave with gravity and not to play the buffoon, considering those who were versatile and apt in sarcasm--who are now called witty--to be miserable fools.

50. Let no one, however, think that I am disposed to be hard upon those who pass their youth like this. For I do not consider they are to blame for what happens, and at the same time I know well that most of them feel very little pleasure in a state of things which allows them to pass their time in the enjoyment of such license; wherefore I should not with good reason reproach them, but with far greater propriety those who managed the city a little before our time;31

51. for it was they who encouraged them in their frivolous behaviour and put down the power of the Council. As long as the latter exercised supervision over public manners, the city was not full of lawsuits, indictments, taxes, poverty, or wars, but the citizens lived quietly with one another and were at peace with the rest of the world. For they showed themselves worthy of the confidence of the Hellenes, and a terror to the barbarians; 52. they had saved the former, and exacted such penalties from the latter, that they thought themselves lucky if they escaped further punishment. Accordingly, by this behaviour they passed their days in such complete security that the dwellings and establishments in the country were finer and more magnificent than those within the city, and many of the citizens did not even go down to the city to the public festivals, but preferred to remain in the enjoyment of their own, rather than to derive pleasure from what was provided by the state. 53. Even in the matter of public spectacles, by which some might be attracted, they did not behave with insolence or pride, but in a sensible manner. For they did not judge happiness by processions or rivalries in the equipment of choruses, or suchlike vanities, but by prudent management of the city, by the affairs of daily life and by the absence of destitution amongst the citizens. It is by such tests that we ought to distinguish those who are truly prosperous from those who pursue a low and beggarly policy; 54. for what sensible man would not feel hurt at the present state of things, if he saw numbers of the citizens themselves drawing32 lots outside the law-courts on the chance of getting the necessaries of life, and yet not ashamed to support any of the Hellenes who are willing to row33 their ships, dancing on the stage in garments spangled with gold and wearing during the winter clothes such as I do not care to mention34 --and similar economical contradictions, which bring deep disgrace upon the city? 55. Nothing like this occurred when the Council possessed authority; for it relieved the poor from their distress by giving them employment and by the assistance rendered by the rich, and checked the spirit of license amongst the younger by its wise regulations and careful surveillance, while it prevented those who took part in public affairs from becoming avaricious by penalties and the impossibility of wrongdoers escaping detection, and the older men from becoming disheartened, by political honours and the respect shown to them by the younger. And how could there be a constitution more worthy of respect than one like this, which paid such careful attention to everything?

56. I have now given an account of most of the institutions of that time; those which I have omitted may be readily understood from those which I have mentioned, because they resembled them. Even before this, some who heard me recounting them were loud in their praises of myself, and congratulated our ancestors on managing the state after this fashion; 57. they did not, however, think that you would be persuaded to adopt it, but that, influenced by habit, you would prefer to remain in your evil plight under present conditions, rather than to amend your political institutions and enjoy a happier life. They further declared that, although my advice was excellent, I ran the risk of being thought an enemy of the people and desirous of plunging the city into oligarchy. 58. And, indeed, if I were speaking of institutions that were unknown and not universally recognised, and were recommending you to appoint committees or boards35 to discuss them, such as those by whose agency the democracy was formerly abolished, I should deservedly be open to this reproach; but, as it is, I have said nothing of the kind, but have discussed a political organization that is no secret, 59. but well known, which you are all aware is our forefathers' and has been the cause of the greatest blessings both to the city and the rest of the Hellenes,--one which, besides, was established and founded by men whom all would allow have shown themselves the truest friends of the citizens. It would therefore be a most monstrous injustice, if, while seeking to induce you to adopt such a constitution, I should be thought desirous of introducing revolutionary measures.

60. In the next place, it will be easy to understand what I mean from the following remarks. From most of my speeches it will be seen that I strongly object to oligarchies and privileges, and approve of equality of rights and democracies,--not, however, of all, but of such as are well constituted,--nor again, at random, but on principles of justice and reason. 61. For I know that our ancestors, under such a form of government, were far superior to the rest of the Hellenes, and that the Lacedaemonians are most flourishing, because they enjoy the most perfect democracy.36 For, in their election of magistrates, in their daily life, and other pursuits, we shall find that equality of rights and position prevail more amongst them than amongst the rest of the Hellenes; now these are just the things that meet with the hostility of oligarchies, while they are always adopted by those who live under a well-conducted democracy.

62. Further, in the case of the greatest and most famous of all the other cities, if we choose to inquire, we shall find that democracy is more advantageous than oligarchy; to take our own constitution, which all attack, if we compare it, not with that which I have just mentioned, but with that set up by the Thirty, everyone would be of opinion that it was a divine creation.

63. Although some will perhaps say that I am going beyond the range of my subject, I wish to show and explain how great is the difference between our past and present constitution, that none may think that, while I inquire into the errors of democracy with the most scrupulous accuracy, I say nothing about any noble or grand action with which it ought to be credited. What I have to say will be brief and not unprofitable to my hearers.

64. When we lost our fleet in37 the Hellespont, and the city was overtaken by those terrible calamities, who of the older amongst us does not know that those who were called the popular party were ready to suffer anything rather than submit to dictation,38 and thought it monstrous that anyone should see the city that had ruled the Hellenes subject to the rule of others, while those who supported the oligarchy were ready even to demolish the city walls and to submit to slavery? 65. Who is ignorant that, at that time, when the people had control of affairs, we placed garrisons in the citadels of others,39 but when the Thirty40 took over the government, the enemy were in possession of ours: and that, during that time, the Lacedaemonians were our masters, but when the exiles,41 after their return, had the courage to fight for freedom, and Conon was successful in a naval engagement,42 ambassadors came from them offering the city the command of the sea? 66. And further--who is there of my contemporaries who does not remember that, while the democracy so beautified the city with temples and state edifices that even now strangers who come to visit us consider it worthy to rule not only the Hellenes, but the whole world, the Thirty plundered some of those buildings and neglected others, and sold for demolition for the sum of three talents the dockyards, upon which the city had spent no less than a thousand talents? 67. Nor, again, could one with justice praise their mildness more than that of the democracy. For, when they had taken over the government of the city, they put to death by decree fifteen hundred of the citizens without a trial, and compelled more than five thousand to flee to the Piraeus; whereas the others, after they were victorious and returned in arms, only put to death those who were chiefly responsible for the miseries of the city, but behaved towards the rest with such conspicuous fairness and regard for justice, that those who had banished them were no worse off than those who had returned from exile. 68. But the best and most undeniable proof of the moderation of the people is the following: those who remained in the city having borrowed a hundred talents from the Lacedaemonians to prosecute the siege of those who had occupied the Piraeus, a meeting of the assembly was held to discuss the repayment of the money; and, when many declared that it was not those who had been besieged, but the borrowers who ought to settle the claims of the Lacedaemonians, the people resolved to make the payment a public one. 69. By this decision they created such harmony amongst us, and so promoted the advancement of the city, that the Lacedaemonians, who in the time of the oligarchy almost every day dictated their orders to us, in the time of the democracy came to beg and beseech us not to allow them to be utterly destroyed.43 The following, in a word, were the feelings by which each of the two parties44 at Athens was actuated: the one claimed to rule its citizens and to serve its enemies; the other, to rule strangers and to live on terms of equality with its citizens. 70. I have mentioned this for two reasons: I wish to show, in the first place, that I am not in favour of oligarchies or privileges, but of a just and well-regulated constitution; and, in the second place, that even badly-constituted democracies are productive of fewer misfortunes than oligarchies, while those that are well conducted are superior to them owing to their being juster, more careful of the common interests, and more pleasant to those who live under them.

71. Someone may perhaps wonder what my intention is in trying to persuade you to adopt a different form of government from the one which has successfully accomplished so much, and why I have now so highly praised the democracy, and, when the caprice seizes me, change my tone and speak in terms of censure and reproach of the established order of things.

72. Now, in the case of individuals, I blame those who act rightly in a few cases but wrongly in many, and consider that they fall short of what is required of them; and, in addition, sternly rebuke those who, being descended from good and honourable men, show themselves only a little less dishonourable than those who surpass them in vice and far worse than their fathers, and I should recommend them to abandon their mode of life. 73. In regard to public affairs, also, I hold the same opinion; for I think we ought not to feel proud or congratulate ourselves if we have acted more in accordance with the laws than men who are infatuated and under the influence of some evil genius, but much rather to feel indignant and dissatisfied if we should show ourselves inferior to our ancestors; for it is their excellence, and not the evil conduct of the Thirty, that we must strive to emulate, especially since it belongs to us to be the best of all mankind. 74. I have expressed this thought not now for the first time; I have frequently done so before in the presence of many. For I know that, just as in other countries there are found special products of fruits, trees, and animals in each, far superior to all others, so in like manner our country is able to produce and rear men not only most gifted in arts, acts, and words, but highly superior on the score of valour and virtue. 75. This we may justly conclude from the struggles which our ancestors sustained against the Amazons,45 Thracians,46 and all the Peloponnesians,47 and from the dangers they underwent in the Persian Wars, during which, both unaided and together with the Peloponnesians, both on land and sea, they overcame the barbarians and obtained the meed of valour; in none of which efforts could they have succeeded, had they not been far superior in natural character.

76. Let no one, however, think that we of the present day deserve this eulogy; quite the contrary. For, in such expressions of opinion, praise is due to those who show themselves worthy of the virtue of their ancestors, blame to those who disgrace their noble birth by their own laziness and vice, which is just what we are doing; for the truth shall be told. For, although we had so noble a nature to start with, we did not preserve it, but have fallen into folly, confusion, and hankering after evil ways. 77. However, if I go on to rebuke what admits of rebuke, and to censure the present state of things, I am afraid I may stray too far from my subject. Concerning these things I have spoken before,48 and will do so again, if I do not succeed in persuading you to desist from your mistaken conduct. However, I will say a few words about the subject upon which I originally proposed to myself to speak, and then make way for those who may be desirous of giving you further advice concerning it.

78. If, then, we manage the state as we are doing now, we shall unavoidably take counsel, make war, live, do and suffer almost exactly the same as we did in the past and are doing now; but if we reform our constitution, it is obvious that, according to the same argument, the condition of affairs will be the same in our case as in our ancestors'; for from the same political conduct like and similar effects always result as a matter of necessity. 79. Wherefore, comparing the most important of them, we ought to take counsel which of them we must choose. Let us first consider the case of the Hellenes and barbarians, how they stood in regard to that government, and their relations towards us at the present time. For these races contribute in no small degree to our happiness, when they are as we would have them.

80. The Hellenes, then, had such confidence in those who directed the government at that time, that most of them voluntarily put themselves into the hands of the city;49 while the barbarians, far from meddling in the affairs of Hellas, neither ventured by sea with their ships of war this side of Phaselis,50 nor came down with their armies this side of the river Halys, but remained perfectly quiet. 81. Now, however, relations have so changed that the former detest the city, while the latter despise us. As to the hatred of the Hellenes, you have heard the generals'51 own words; how the Great King is disposed towards us, is clear from the letters52 which he himself sent.

82. Further, under the influence of that excellently ordered administration, the citizens were so trained to virtue that they did not injure one another, but fought and overcame all those who invaded their territory. With us it is quite the contrary; for we let no day pass without doing harm to one another, and have so neglected military matters that we cannot even bring ourselves to attend drill unless we receive pay. 83. And--what is most important of all--at that time none of the citizens was in want of the necessaries of life, nor, by asking alms from passers-by, brought disgrace upon the city, whereas now the needy outnumber the well-to-do; so that we ought freely to excuse them, if they take no thought for the interests of the state, but only consider whence they are to procure their daily bread.

84. It is because I think that, if we follow the example of our forefathers, we shall both be rid of these evils and become the saviours, not only of the city, but of all the Hellenes, that I have come forward to speak and have said what I have; do you then, weighing all this carefully, vote for whatever seems to you likely to prove most conducive to the welfare of the state.

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