History 2

An Intellectual History of Political Corruption by Bruce Buchan, Lisa Hill (auth.)

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By Bruce Buchan, Lisa Hill (auth.)

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Rome’s success urged the nobles to exploit their power in the search for further power and wealth:123 ‘[a]ffairs at home and in the field were managed according to the will of a few men, in whose hands were the treasury, the provinces, public offices, glory and triumphs’. The rest of the people ‘were burdened with military service and poverty’ while ‘the generals divided the spoils of war with a few friends’. 125 As has been mentioned, Aristotle offered a number of structural explanations for the decline of constitutions, chief of which is lack of balance or ‘symmetry’ in the constitution, hence his famous advocacy of mixed government as well as the redistribution of power and wealth.

220 But the speaker’s art was also seen as a potential means of subverting independent judgement and could, therefore, be corrupting. 2. Political amateurism, low wages and slavery Another factor that undoubtedly encouraged public office corruption in both Athens and Rome was political amateurism. This is ironic, considering that political and civic amateurism were generally posited as safeguards against degenerative corruption. 221 Nor were politicians paid salaries; some, like members of the Boule, might have received a small state income (mithos) and their expenses were paid by the state when they travelled on embassies.

For Greek and Roman republicans, full liberty could not be enjoyed in any unit larger than the city-state because citizens could not represent themselves directly. 109 In addition, the larger the state, the more likely there were to be wealth inequalities. 110 Due to their dependence on maritime trade, such polities were ‘exposed to strange languages and customs, and import[ed] foreign ways as well as foreign merchandise’; they therefore found it difficult to maintain their ‘ancestral institutions’.

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