“Th’ abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” – Shakespeare

In 44 BCE, Julius Caesar was assassinated in a political maneuver to remove him from power on the Ides of March – March 15.

Caesar was punished for fear that he would abuse power, become a tyrant, a king.  Shakespeare wrote a play about it.  As Shakespeare had Brutus explain: “Th’ abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.”

Shakespeare, thus, conjoined morality with governance and law, just as the Caux Round Table proposes in its Principles for Government.

Government is law.  Government works through law and regulation.  Law is what government tells us to do.  Government calls the tune and we are to dance, with punishment hanging over our heads as the cost of possible disobedience, negligent or not.

But as John Locke put it, government is a trust, not a tyranny.  Not every law is necessarily just and legitimate; not every government proceeding is necessarily just and fair.

Government disciplined by the rule of law, which respects the moral agency of the people, their rights, is good government; bad government cages and disciplines the people through rule by law – again from Shakespeare: “When Caesar says do this, it is performed.”

Where is our world going?

In a recent Zoom meeting with some of our fellows, several commented in line with many opinion leaders that the post-World War II global order is fragmenting.

A parallel can be drawn between our times and the 1930s, which saw the desuetude of the League of Nations and a world becoming hostile to constitutionalism and just democracy.

Now, as then, we see the “hard” men rising and more gentle folk slip-sliding away in their capacity for leadership.

This is true in the U.S., as we lose our psycho-social moorings and, more and more, float on currents of intolerance, anti-racism racism, fear and reliance on compulsion instead of persuasion.

As I was taught by my grandfather, a lawyer and in the Harvard Law School of yesteryear, the barrier we erect against prejudice, intolerance, dictatorship, arbitrary and capricious use of state authority is the moral concept of the rule of law, a normative standard of justice by which to measure lawfulness.

I attach here a short essay on the abuses of “greatness,” which we now face, more and more, and why, therefore, we all need the rule of law – morning, noon and night.