One of many warnings about unitary power

“Now, everyone can see that Plato had the right idea 2,100 years before the Constitution was framed. The most efficient way to run a country, of course, is Plato’s suggestion that we breed philosopher kings. These people were going to be bred to be so smart and fair and honest and brilliant that you could put them in charge of a country and they would simply make the best possible decisions about what to do. Being very wise and very honest, philosopher kings could easily settle the amount of taxes, what brand of beer everyone should drink and who was innocent and who was guilty of a crime. They could pass laws quickly and enforce them instantly.

Now, I don’t think the framers of the Constitution of the U.S. were so dull-witted that they couldn’t see that this was the most efficient form of government. But they had noticed a very interesting thing. In 2,100 years, no one had ever found a satisfactory philosopher king and put him on a throne. They had found only Alexander and Caesar and Frederick the Great and George III.  They came to the conclusion that efforts to find philosopher kings for 2,100 years had proved that you would get nothing but tyranny for your trouble. So they set up the government of the U.S. with a mind to preventing tyranny. They created the giant debating society of Congress, the Supreme Court and the President of the U.S. so every point of view could be aired before a decision was formalized into law…

Freedom is an expensive thing. It is also extremely fragile. For all tyranny does not come with tanks and jack boots. Tyranny also creeps in, like the fog, “on little cat feet.” Softly, soothingly. Tyranny carries a nicely lettered sign on which it says ‘this is being done for the public good…‘”

– Tom Dillon, “Freedom Must Advertise, or It Surely Will Lose Itself,” 1963


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