Thursday, April 29, 2010

Characteristics of Despotism 

Awhile back I received as a gift a book titled “The Making of America” by W. Cleon Skousen, originally published in 1985. It is very much written from a conservative, or perhaps more accurately traditionalist, viewpoint, but it is loaded with quotes and footnotes and appears to have been exhaustively researched.

Chapter two of the book describes how the Founding Fathers—those who designed and drafted the US Constitution—perceived that there is a spectrum of governmental designs, with one end being a condition of no law, i.e., anarchy, and the other being a condition of all legal authority being vested in a single all-powerful leader, which the author calls “Ruler's Law” (think the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the emperors of China or more modern despots like Hitler and Saddam). The writers of the Constitution wanted to design a government that was somewhere in the middle, wherein the ruler has only as much power as the people choose to bestow.

The book lays out twelve characteristics of Ruler's Law that strike me as pretty much on the money. I hope my listing them here falls within the fair use doctrine, because I don't want to get in trouble for violating anyone's copyright. Anyway, here they are:

1. Government power is exercised by compulsion, force, conquest or legislative usurpation.
2. Therefore, all power is concentrated in the ruler.
3. The people are treated as “subjects” of the ruler.
4. The land is treated as the “realm” of the ruler.
5. The people have no unalienable rights.
6. Government is by the rule of men rather than the rule of law.
7. The people are structured into social and economic classes.
8. The thrust of government is always from the ruler down, not from the people upward.
9. Problems are always solved by issuing new edicts, creating more bureaus, appointing more administrators, and charging the people more taxes to pay for these “services.” Under this system, taxes and government regulations are always oppressive.
10. Freedom is not considered a solution to anything.
11. The transfer of power from one ruler to another is often by violence—the dagger, the poison cup, or fratricidal civil war.
12. The long history of Ruler's Law is one of blood and terror, both anciently and in modern times. Those in power revel in luxury while the lot of the common people is one of perpetual poverty, excessive taxation, stringent regulations, and a continuous existence of misery.

I leave it to you, dear reader, to make of this what you will.

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