Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

AS election fever hots up, what should we look for in our elected representatives? The Greek essayist Plutarch (c. AD 46-120) gives many useful hints in his `Rules for politicians'.

First, the decision to enter public life must not be based on `lack of anything else to do', otherwise the politician is like someone who sails in boats for the fun of it and finds himself swept out to sea, hanging over the side being seasick. Desire for fame is equally unproductive: you end up like actors, either the servant of those you hoped to control, or offending those you hoped to please. In fine, politics is like a well: if you fall in thoughtlessly, you will regret it, but if you descend carefully and under control, you will make reasonable use of the situation.

Rational conviction that the work is noble and right for you is the one reason for entering politics. At this point the budding politician must get to know the character of his fellow citizens. …

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