Apr 11, 2008

Lessons from history

A quick check of history may be illuminating. After the successful resistance to the Persian invasion, and its final defeat, Athens was the darling of Greece, not the militaristic Spartans, and established the Delian League, to which the Greek city states contributed funds, to provide a war chest to guard against future invasions. That before the Persian war Athens was a city of wooden buildings, abandoned to the Persians, and after the war rebuilt in marble, the other Greek states probably regarded with a mixture of Mediterranean cynicism and a vague feeling that Athens deserved it. Athens over reached however. Faced with a rebellious island, Athens sent a war galley in to slaughter every male of every age on the island. Greeks then were certainly no more stupid than the Greeks of today, and instantly caught on they’d have fared better under the Persians. The result was a violent mood swing, and soon after that the occupation and rule of Athens by a conquering Spartan army. Athens deserved that, too. “The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.”

It seems entirely possible that we may also experience some of the fun and games of the later Roman emperors. The Praetorian Guard, for example, tired of complex negotiations, simply auctioned off the emperorship on occasions to the highest bidder, a function that Diebold is clearly ideally positioned to carry out, though as a business plan that has not yet, as far as we know, occurred to them. Commercial interests can never be ignored and the mutation of SPQR into “Small profits, quick returns” holds out hope for all of us.

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