Thursday, June 29, 2017

First Citizens

It’s a handy trick to see how modern would-be autocrats measure up against arguably the greatest of them all - Rome’s first emperor (or should we say first citizen), Augustus. 

The latter was a great autocrat because nobody then and perhaps even now is quite sure how he did it, as his highly innovative tyranny, which brought lasting change to the way the Romans were ruled, was successfully cloaked in a cloud of apparent continuity with and respect for the traditions of republican government.

Trump and Erdoğan for example, do little to disguise the innovation they claim to bring to the table, both suggesting that the existing system is flawed in significant ways and needs a strongman in charge to overcome some of these inherent weaknesses. 

In Trump’s case this message is malformed and likely to be little more than a glitch in the system, because constitutional government in the USA should ultimately prove stronger than a President lacking the intelligence to effect genuine undercover change.

Putin is a very different beast as he comes from a political tradition that is autocratic to the core. Where he does perhaps bear comparison with Augustus is in his ability to sound like the most reasonable man on earth even as his actions are demonstrably un-reasonable.

PS: Augustus was afraid of thunder storms. 

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