Promoted. Here's another thoughtful piece from Hello Dolly Llama, originally crossposted on 2009-08-09 22:46:02 -0400 from the blog Hello Dolly Llama. -- GH
Almost 3000 years ago, one of the two great empires in human history established -- invented, really -- the republican form of government. The Romans established constitutional concepts which we still use today: the separation of powers, budgetary authority, vetoes, filibusters, quorums, term limits, impeachments, elections, all centered on the Roman Senate. They endeavored to replace government by force, with government by laws. In time the Senate also played a central role when the Romans overthrew their king and worked to ensure that Rome never returned to monarchical government.
That lasted 400 years.
In 133 BC Tiberius Gracchus, Tribune of Rome, began pushing for a program to limit the power of the special interests by passing a reform package. The special interests were outraged. Gracchus began appealing to the people, showing them how much better their lives would be if the package were passed. The special interests, which included a great many conservative Senators, sponsored the assembly of mobs which went to the Roman site where Gracchus was trying to sell his program -- a town hall meeting, if you will. The mobs hired by the special interests disrupted the proceedings, clubbed Gracchus to death, and then murdered hundreds of his supporters. It was the first true political assassination of its kind in 400 years.
This was a vivid lesson for the rich and the special interests in Rome: they realized that they could use their money and influence to create "popular" mobs to disrupt the political workings in the Senate when things weren't going their way (or as John Rockefeller said 2000 years later -- I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half). Such disruptions recurred over the course of the next several decades in Rome, culminating in a series of civil wars which destroyed the Republic and began a string of dictatorial emperors -- the very thing which the Republic had been set up to prevent. And after the republic fell, eventually Rome itself fell: the nation, no longer able to use republican mechanisms to protect itself from dictators, special interests or bad policy, saw the barbarians march through their gates and take over.
Funny how history repeats itself even in the tiniest details.