HOW STATESMEN MANAGED TO HIDE THEIR MISTAKES

THE fatal flaw was the gap between the person who proposed a policy in the assembly and got it carried, and the General who had to execute it. At first this defect remained hidden, because the General came from the old ruling classes, and could usually both get his own policy accepted and execute it in person. Later on, however, irresponsible demagogues of a lower social class appeared, who deluded the people with reckless promises. If a policy failed, the General who had had to carry it out, even though he might have disapproved of it, became the victim of popular disappointment, while the proposer got off scot free. The contrast with modern governments is instructive. If our Cabinet decides on a policy, it accepts responsibility for it, and resigns if its policy is not accepted, or if it proves a failure. Between 460 and 429 B.C., Athenian affairs were controlled so completely by Pericles, a member of one of the noblest Athenian families, that the state was described as " nominally a democracy, actually the rule of the foremost citizen." Pericles at first advised a forward policy on land and sea, but, finding that the population of Athens was being exhausted by the endless wars involved, he devoted himself to making the city " a liberal education for Greece." His confession of faith was, " We are lovers of beauty without extravagance and lovers of wisdom without effeminacy." Athens was filled with beautiful statues and stately temples. These years were, indeed, the golden age of Athens, when drama and the arts nourished, and philosophy, the love of wisdom, found in Socrates its greatest apostle. The Greeks, unlike the Romans, never learned how to establish an empire. The city-state was an exclusive club, from which all outsiders were barred. The Athenians allowed strangers to settle and trade, but excluded them from citizenship. Their attitude to the subject cities of their empire was similar. No attempt was made to give the subject cities any voice in the government; the allies were to be milch cows for the benefit of the tyrant city.