By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Power: Give It To Those Who Do Not Want It

In classicist Edith Hamilton's The Greek Way, we read:

Plato's rulers  . . .  were to be given absolute power only upon the condition that they did not want it, a curious parallel to the attitude prescribed by the early Church. A man appointed to the episcopacy was required to say--perhaps still must say, forms live so long after the spirit of them is dead--"I do not want to be a bishop. Nolo episcopari." To the Fathers of the Church as to Plato, no one who desired power was fit to wield it.

Hamilton, Ch. V, p. 68 (Norton, 1993).

Later, in the same book, she quotes from a play (Plutus) by Aristophanes, where a slave named Carion quizzes a politician:

Carion: How do you make a living?
Politician: Well, there's several answers to that. I'm Supervisor General of all things here, public and private too.
Carion: A great profession that. What did you do to qualify for it?
Politician: I WANTED it.

Quoted in Hamilton, p. 115.

The Old Testament gives the same warning: those who want power are unfit for it (see this previous post on Judges 9:8-15).