Monday, 26 March 2007

Lessons from 300 and Sparta

I have long awaited the film 300 and plan to see it soon.

There are many many lessons to be learnt from the entire conflict between the Greek City States and the Persian Empire. Heroism, sacrifice, freedom vs. enslavement. However, I am going to touch on one aspect that is hidden within the structure of the Spartans : Wealth and voting.

In the City State of Sparta, the ruling class, the Spartans, were not permitted (in theory) silver and gold or significant possessions and to engage in commerce. They were meant to live a bare, unadorned existence - hence the term. These things were left to the merchant classes. However, the merchants were not permitted to vote.

One suspects that a ruling elite not permitted to collect gold or luxuries may take a very different attitude to politics and war. You would suspect that it would focus on securing basic resources and defence of same. Those who can collect gold could not vote but would also find it very difficult to bribe those who could. One can see how easily honour and conduct could become the Spartan's 'gold' in such a society.

Now we have a Government mired as deep as any other. Not only the "cash for honours", but the PFI, PPP and ever expanding "fifth sector", the parasitical organisations that earn their living from servicing State bodies and their whims. A prime example being a Government monopoly outsourced to a single monopolistic private entity and run at a profit. Shades of the ancient Kings dishing out concessions to wealthy merchants in return for unrepayable loans to fund wars.

The current setup is very very dangerous to freedom. The monies involved are enormous - beyond comprehension for the individual and so quite capable of turning them. A Government that can grant a concession or large project is open to corruption. Too much money stands to be had (I was to say "won" but that would imply a competition based upon suitability). Not only that, what better way to keep potential influencers "tame" than to offer them the prospect of a steady stream of juicy tax-funded projects as long as they behave?

Labour have managed to tame the wolf by feeding it OUR food!

Sparta appeared to recognise the need to separate State and lust for wealth. This is not just a problem at the Oligarchical level. We currently have people who are paid out of the State purse. Millions of them, in fact. They have a vote. It would be odd if they did not vote for whomsoever maintained or augmented their income, their access to the State teat. This is tantamount to corruption, for what else is vote-buying? For what else is it when Governments dare not cut services in case the recipients vote against them? It is a natural result of a dysfunctional system. Natural, but wrong.

Every "right" to be provided for imposes an obligation to provide. The government gives the rights, yet the taxpayer has to shoulder the obligation on pain of imprisonment. Wrong.

At the top we have the trough-feeders, the politicians themselves and an army of businesses being invited to elbow themselves alongside. At another end of the trough we have the dependent who threaten to barge out any elite should they find the flow of swill slowing.

Filling the trough yet kept away from it are the hard working taxpayers - those with the obligation yet not the right.

Two things need resolving, yet the secret to dealing with one lies in the other.

First we need to reverse the law introduced at the beginning of the C20th that allowed those who gained their income from the State to vote - this had been illegal until then to buying. This wisdom was overturned in the desire to establish the proto Welfare State. That should have been a warning to them, but it was ignored. That law was there for a very good reason. The bricks were removed and replaced by straw.

Once such a reversal in the law is in place and the wisdom of the past restored, the second step - the reduction in the size of the State and reformation of its operations can take place without those who benefit directly consciously or subconsciously preventing it.

A State that does not hold sway over vast expenditures, arbitrary licenses, permits etc is not a State worth bribing. Without a need to bribe, corruption has less of a purchase (literally).

This is one reason why Government is bad and why less Government is less so.

As with so many things to do with Government, I believe it is a matter of the least worst option out of a series of bad alternatives.

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