Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tacitus regarding the popular opinions of the emperor Galba, from Histories I.6:

"In this conjuncture it happened that tidings of the deaths of Fonteius Capito and Clodius Macer reached the capital. Macer was executed in Africa, where he was undoubtedly fomenting sedition ... Capito fell in Germany, while he was making similar attempts ...

Both executions, however, were unfavorably regarded; indeed, when a ruler once becomes unpopular, all his acts, be they good or bad, tell against him."

This observation, that an unpopular ruler is criticized even when he does good, struck me as a timeless principal. Thus, among most Americans today it would be a rare critic of President Bush who could also name something good that President Bush had done. On the other hand, being a critic of the Clintons, it is sometimes difficult to talk about NAFTA being good, and when I do, I will usually point out things where NAFTA undid some free trade items. Of course most leaders do have both good and bad qualities and few are completely devoid of anything positive.

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