“All tyrannies,” wrote Algernon Sidney, “had their beginnings from corruption.”
He drew most of his illustrations in Discourses Concerning Government from the Roman experience, which, in little over a hundred years, fell from the heights of ancient liberty and virtue into the basest tyranny. The reward for high public service in republican Rome were honors typically bestowed upon victorious generals by a grateful people.
Sidney related the Roman’s steadfast attention to the rule of law. Prior acts of selflessness for the public good did not cancel out subsequent crimes against the public good, “and none can be exempted from the penalties of them.” He who did not bend to the law “shakes off the equality of citizenship and usurps a power above the law.”
Like our Framers, Sidney didn’t believe imperfect men could design a perfect government. He wrote:
But, men have an inclination to run into all manner of crimes when the means invite and there is no power to deter.
As the ways of empire supplanted those of the republic, Sidney described a horrid society in decline in which the emperor enriched his partisans at the expense of confiscations through fraud and rapine of his adversaries. Per Sidney, “His creatures, having no knowledge of good nor a will of their own, or other dangerous qualities, resigned themselves to doing as commanded. Justice was perverted, military discipline neglected, public treasures exhausted, new tricks and projects invented to raise more money.”
To these ends, emperors sent out swarms of spies, informers and false witnesses to circumvent the most eminent men. The law became a snare, as parasitic judges ensured no man brought before them escaped. Should evidence be wanting, diligent prosecutors supplied the defects. Factions developed between honesty and knavery, sobriety and lewdness, virtue and vice. Every man’s conversations showed to which party he belonged.
Tyrants establish themselves with the help of the worst and the slaughter of the best. Since men cannot serve their lusts while they continue in their integrity, it was the emperor’s business to destroy those who shunned corruption. Wise men responded positively to the sort of corruption rewarded by the emperor. The men who didn’t paid with their lives.
Those who rule for their benefit and wealth aren’t limited to the ancient or medieval absolutist. In recent decades, some chief executives in America and other western nations viewed the public virtue of their people not as source of national strength, but as the root of their greatest danger. Rather than encourage the strong civil society, they sought to the render the people weak, base, corrupt, and unfaithful to each other. When he keeps the people busy clawing at each other’s throats, the tyrant needn’t fear for his own.
American public servants are no different from their ancient counterparts. If government encourages civic virtue and punishes high public criminals, the good public servant is our reward. But that of course, isn’t the situation today. Thanks to over a hundred years of popularly elected senators institutionally incapacitated to serve their constitutional and intended duties, public criminals find immense wealth through their offices. We, the constitutionalists, long-suspected what recently emerged as a corrupt Deep State, the shadowy and ill-defined collection of senior officials loyal to their own wealth, prestige, and power rather than the Constitution and public they swore to serve.
While the battle between good and evil isn’t over, evil has the momentum. We know the general boundaries of the Deep State crimes. Rather than defend 4th Amendment protections, Rosemary Collyer’s FISA court breezily subjected an innocent man, Carter Page, to every possible personal intrusion by the full force of the Department of Justice and the CIA. No drug pusher is subject to anything close, yet what the pusher endures is backed up by legitimate probable cause.
We know the individuals responsible for leading a coup, not as much against President Trump, but more against We the People. While General Flynn, Mike Manafort, Roger Stone face prison and financial ruin for the crime of associating with Donald Trump, the guilty evil-doers beginning with Barak Obama and ending with Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page walk free and enrich themselves.
If the open and notorious coup attempt, pay to play, kickbacks, and influence peddling are hereafter accepted as business as usual, history will mark this era of two-tiered justice corruption as the United States’ final mischief into a tyranny from which it did not recover.