Aesop on politicians and rationalization

The Wolf and the Lamb

A wolf came upon a lamb that had strayed from the flock, and he felt some compunction about taking the life of so helpless a creature without some excuse. So he cast about for a grievance and said at last, “Last year, you grossly insulted me.” “That is impossible, sir,” bleated the lamb, “for I wasn’t born yet.” “Well,” retorted the wolf, “you feed in my pastures.” “That cannot be,” replied the lamb, “for I have never yet tasted grass.” “You’ve drunk from my spring, then,” continued the wolf. “Indeed, sir,” said the poor lamb, “I have never yet drunk anything but my mother’s milk.” “Well, anyhow,” said the wolf, “I’m not going without my dinner.” And he sprang upon the lamb and devoured it without more ado.

Tyrants will always find a reason for their tyranny.


2 thoughts on “Aesop on politicians and rationalization

  • May 2, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    Good one. Makes me think of Albert Camus’ observation: “The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.”

    Love another fable by Aesop, of the scorpion and the frog. At a riverbank a scorpion asked a frog to carry him on his back to the other side of the river. “But” said the frog, “you will sting me and I will die.” “Why would I do that?” asked the scorpion. “If I sting you both of us will die.” This made sense to the frog so he let the scorpion hop on his back and started to swim. But halfway across the river the scorpion stung him. “Why did you do that?!” cried the frog, “Now we will both die!” “I know” replied the scorpion, “but I couldn’t help it – it’s my nature.”

  • May 4, 2014 at 12:37 am

    There’s also a wonderful quote about unlimited democracy – as opposed to democracy limited by principle and law – falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding on what to have for lunch; liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

    Of course liberty, rights and justice are not a numbers game. That twenty white men outvote one black man does not a moral case for a lynching make. Jefferson, Madison and other American founding fathers well understood that democracy unchecked by principle and law was another form of tyranny, what Jefferson called “a multiplication of despots.” Madison specifically referenced the turbulent Athenian experience as a caution. Their view of democracy was of a secular republic responsive to the will of the people but delimited by strong charters and institutions, an independent judiciary, separation of powers and an elaborate system of checks and balances designed to to protect the few from the many and the many from the few i.e. to safeguard minority and individual rights from destructive public passions and the people from autocratic individuals and privileged elites i.e. democracy subject to a robust rule of law – which is what separates it from mere mob rule. And even their efforts were not always sufficient to prevent American society from devolving to the latter.

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