The more things change, the more they stay the same

Aristotle

I enjoy gaining knowledge from the study of history. Unfortunately, too many of us ? youth, but also mature adults who haven’t got that excuse ? display little understanding of ancient history or even of events that transpired in the twentieth century.

Aristotle died approximately 322 BC, but even today his influence on Western philosophy is profound. Reading any of his books is enlightening for people interested in philosophy, government, business and ethical studies.

A pr?cis of Aristotle?s politics ? with parallels to today’s New Zealand ?follows.

?The most serious cause of revolution in democratic states is the unprincipled activities of ?popular? politicians. They will make spurious legal claims on the property of the wealthy citizens, who naturally unite in opposition, because shared fear encourages sworn enemies to close ranks.?

Observe what happened with the CGT! Labour and the Greens were intent on pushing this horrible tax through but, despite anything Winston Peters might say after the fact, the people voiced their opposition to the capital gains tax adamantly and overwhelmingly.

We have already been told by Whaleoil that Simon Bridges is unhappy about the decision to scrap the capital gains tax well before the next election because that gives him less ammunition with which to attack the opposition. That puts his leadership at risk. If that is so, then it means that he would have preferred to leave the spectre of a possible CGT weighing heavily on voters’ and businesses’ shoulders, thereby further damaging our economy, just to facilitate the continuance of his position as a parliamentary opposition party leader!

?On other occasions such politicians instigate popular unrest and examples of this activity are plentiful. At Kos, the democratic institutions were overthrown when the wealthy citizens were pushed too far by mischievous popular politicians.

‘At Rhodes, corrupt politicians tried to withhold money owed by the state to its naval commanders. The latter were incensed after being called before the courts one time too many, they formed a coalition to bring down the democratic government. Similarly, the democracy at Heracles lasted only a short period after establishment due to the envy driven measures taken by popular politicians forcing the wealthy citizens to leave town. These forceful men then formed an army returning to close the democratic regime. Similar happened at Megara, where popular politicians banished wealthy citizens in order to steal their assets! After time those expelled became so numerous it was easy for them to raise an army, then overpower the local military, and establish an oligarchy.

‘Populist politicians seeking to get the mob on their side, engage in aggressive activities against the wealthy citizens, encouraging them to close ranks.

?The populists either make the wealthy divide their property as a means of financing public affairs, or they start making defamatory statements about the upper class to justify the confiscation of their wealth.?

Except, today in New Zealand, the ‘wealthy’ include the middle class and business owners, who emphatically said NO to a Capital Gains Tax!

?In former times, a transition from democracy to tyranny occurred whenever a single person was both a popular politician and a military leader. In fact, of the early tyrants, most began as popular politicians. This no longer happens for the simple reason that, whereas in earlier times the absence of eloquent speakers meant leaders were drawn from the army, today the spread of the skill of oratory enables men ignorant of military arts to rise to power with just the support of the common people. Today?s politicians are simply not equipped to lead military coups.?

Whatever happened to our great parliamentary orators?

?However, tyrannies were also more common in past ages, because of the wide powers given to many public officials. For example, tyranny grew out of the office of the presidency at Miletus for the simple reason that too much power was vested in that position. Of course, the fact that cities were so much smaller in early times is also a significant factor. While people were mostly dispersed across the rural areas, largely isolated and focused on their farms, ambitious men with military experience were tempted to pursue the option of tyranny.?

Fortunately, the tyranny of this unicameral coalition government is thus far mediocre, even without any ?checks and balances.? Hopefully, joy will be felt by the New Zealand people at the next election when they vote them out!

However that joy might be short-lived because, under MMP, even if Winston Peters pledges NZ First as a National coalition partner, unless National has alternative options to ensure a working majority, there is nothing to stop Peters forming a renewed coalition with Labour and the Greens after the 2020 election. History can repeat itself.

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