Monday, October 13, 2008

Whom Can You Trust?

The following is a summary and excerpt from a recent newspaper column by David Hasey:

James Madison, in the “Federalist Paper #51” expressed this sequence of ideas: If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. He concludes that since neither is the case we must have governments and that they must have a system of checks and balances in order to function well. In effect, he is saying that since we are not divine, and therefore can’t be counted upon to always do what is right, we need a government. At the same time, since those who govern are also not divine, we must have a system of checks and balances to keep them from abusing their power. Alternative political parties, other branches of government and regulatory agencies fill this role in society. Madison goes on to say that “experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” There are too many people throughout history who have abused their position in government for Madison to be optimistic about the future.

But if ethical responsibility and public morality have gone by the wayside, a carefully designed system of limited government with checks and balances in jeopardized. As John Mark Reynolds noted in a recent article “Without morality on the individual level, no laws, contracts, or rules will help our society. Bad men will always find a way to cheat.” Without a moral sense, there is nothing within a person to which he can hold himself accountable. The only deterrent becomes the fear of getting caught. As one’s power and prestige increase even the fear of exposure diminishes. This leads to the corrupting atmosphere, whether in ancient Greece or modern America. As a society continues to lose its moral stance, there will be less and less to keep people from acting badly.

The technical sophistication of a legal safeguards against the abuse of power by those in government relies on ethical convictions for their power.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Which Darius?

Over the course of Persian history, there have been several kings named Darius. The most significant are:

Darius the Great, who lived until 486 B.C., and is also known as Darius I. He is mainly known for his ill-fated attempt to militarily punish the Greek city-states, especially Athens, because a couple of them had helped Aristagoras, who was a leader in the Ionian colony city of Miletus, when he rebelled against the Persians who had annexed most of Asia Minor and were demanding tribute payments from these Greek colony cities. This attempt by Darius to punish Athens was defeated at the famous Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.

Darius III fought against Alexander the Great, and was assassinated by one of his own officials in 330 B.C.

Darius the Mede is recorded by Hebrew historians as conquering Babylon. Due to obscurities in translation and transliteration, this reference is somewhat unclear; it could refer to Darius the Great, or it could be a way of referring to Cyrus; it could allude to one of several kings of the Medes; it could also indicate Ugbaru-Gubaru, who was a military leader of the Medes. Yes, that is a real name.

There are a number of other kings and leaders named Darius in Persian history, but these are the most important.