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How Republics Sow the Seeds of Their Own Destruction

By Stan Szczesny

“The ruler must not reveal his desires; for if he reveals his desires his ministers will put on the mask that pleases him.” —Han Fei Tzu, chapter 5, translated by Burton Watson

The ruling masses must not reveal their desires; for if they reveal their desires, their representatives will put on masks to please them.

The representatives will not fear the masses, and they will manipulate them with great ease, for knowledge of a people’s desires gives cunning men the means to control them.

The masses will fear their representatives, for they will sense that they know only the masks.

They will vote in ignorance, for they will not vote for a man, but for a mask.

The difficulty which the ruling masses must overcome to gain power over their representatives is immense beyond comprehension.

A wise monarch who guides the state by his own will may wear a mask. He may keep his ministers, the elites, and his people in suspense, for they will not know his desires.

Not knowing which masks to wear, they will reveal their true talents, their true faults, and their true desires to him.

But the very principle by which republics function renders concealing desires almost impossible for the ruling masses.

They must announce their will. They must choose representatives, and they must tell those representatives what they want them to do.

Soon, the representatives exploit the desires of the masses.

They tell the masses what it is that they must do to obtain those desires. They become the source of satisfaction.

In this way, republics sow the seeds of the destruction of their own freedoms.


About Stan Szczesny

Several years ago, I walked by Encyclopedia Britannica’s “Great Books of the Western World” set and realized that I was about to graduate from college without having read any of the authors listed there. So I dropped out of school and set a goal to read all of those books. The goal took eight years.

Along the way, I found schools that supplemented my change in approach to education. I completed a B.A. at George Wythe University and an M.A. in Eastern Classics at St. John’s College.

Now, I’m moving forward. I drive a 1976 van. I have a wife and 4 children under the age of 7. We don’t have much, but we stay happy talking about Francis Bacon and Confucius.

You can connect with me by reading my Great Books blog.


  1. It’s not difficult to know the desires of the masses. Bastiat wrote of it in The Law: “There is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others.”

    The ruling masses can never hide this desire from their representatives. This is the basic desire from which the corruptions in our republican government have stemmed. It is inevitable that corruption of the law comes, for the majority of men will always want that tax rebate, or the “free” city park, or the “free” schools, or the “free” sewer systems, or the “free” medical coverage, and on and on.

    Only the very best of men and women are able to deny themselves this desire. As the Bible states, the path to life is narrow, and few there be who find it.

  2. Powerful ideas here. This is going to require some thought. Are you suggesting that a Republic is not the best form for a free government?

  3. After a few minutes thought, I concluded that this is the very reason why character in our elected officials matters much more than their political understanding.

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