Monday, January 6, 2014

What I've Been Reading

How to Run a Country: An Ancient Guide for Modern Leaders by Marcus Tullius Cicero and Philip Freeman (translator). Cicero's master piece contains timeless wisdom; a must read for all ages. Here's what John Adams had to say about his works:

I seem to read the history of all ages and nations in every page— and especially the history of our country for forty years past. Change the names and every anecdote will be applicable to us.

Cicero’s political writings are an invaluable source for the study of ancient Rome, but his insights and wisdom are timeless. The use and abuse of power has changed little in two thousand years. For those who will listen, Cicero still has important lessons to teach. Among these are:

  1. There are universal laws that govern the conduct of human affairs.
  2. The best form of government embraces a balance of powers.
  3. Leaders should be of exceptional character and integrity.
  4. Keep your friends close— and your enemies closer.
  5. Intelligence is not a dirty word.
  6. Compromise is the key to getting things done.  (Washington D.C are you listening?)
  7. Don’t raise taxes— unless you absolutely have to.
  8. Immigration makes a country stronger.
  9. Never start an unjust war.
  10. Corruption destroys a nation.
If none of the above "connects" with you; they try his epilogue:

The Roman state is founded firm on ancient customs and its men. —Ennius, Annales 

The poet who wrote these words so brief and true seems to me to have heard them from a divine oracle. For neither men by themselves without a state based on strong customs nor traditions without men to defend them could have established and maintained a republic such as ours whose power stretches so far and wide. Before our time, the cherished customs of our forefathers produced exceptional and admirable men who preserved the ways and institutions of our ancestors. 

But now our republic looks like a beautiful painting faded with age. Our generation has not only failed to restore the colors of this masterpiece, but we have not even bothered to preserve its general form and outline. What now remains of the ancient ways of our country the poet declares we were founded upon? These traditions have so sunk into oblivion that we neither practice them nor even remember what they were. And what shall I say about the men? For the reason our customs have passed away is that the people who once upheld them no longer exist. We should be put on trial as if for a capital crime to explain why this disaster has happened. But there is no defense we can give. Our country survives only in words, not as anything of substance. We have lost it all. We have only ourselves to blame.

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