Quid faciant leges, ubi sola pecunia regnat?

JaimeB

Civis Illustris
Quid faciant leges, ubi sola pecunia regnat?
What will the law do where only money rules?

—Gaius Petronius Arbiter, Satyricon, Cap. xiv

It may seem cynical to think that only money rules, but apparently this was a common impression even in ancient times. Then think about our modern "democracies": are most laws framed for the public good, or do they rather serve the interests of the monied classes? What constitutes fame and success in our societies? Are our systems of government really plutocracies, whatever their official designations might be?
 
This is not a ſtatement about how laws are made, nor by whom, nor for whoſe benefit they ſhould be made; but only a comment about how effective any laws are likely to be in a ſociety advanced enough to employ a medium of exchange.
 

JaimeB

Civis Illustris
Why would Petronius mention the ineffectiveness of the law against money if he thought the laws by themselves were able to restrain the rich? The fact remains that, in our day at least, the wealthy wield more influence over the law-making organs of the state than others in society, and that, even beyond that, those with considerable wealth at their disposal can undermine or avoid the law by the use of the influence granted by their wealth.
 

Imber Ranae

Ranunculus Iracundus
It would be nice if you used more legibly-sized text. Just a suggestion.

Anyway, I find myself more in agreement with Scriptor: the quote doesn't suggest anything about the vulnerability of the legislative process to subversion by the monied classes. It seems rather to point out the effectiveness of bribery against the laws ('what effect can laws have?') in the absence of enforcement of the rule of law ('where money alone is king'). There's no implication that the laws themselves are sufficient to restrain the rich from employing bribery; quite the opposite, in fact.

Any commentary on modern government seems somewhat incidental.
 

JaimeB

Civis Illustris
Sorry about the type size: I thought I set it larger, but apparently, whatever I did didn't work. I've fixed it now.

I see your point, Imber Ranae and Scriptor. Still, I never attributed my views on the present to Petronius, if you read my comments carefully. Things have certainly changed quite a bit since then. However the rich try to gain their ends, whether by bribery, avoiding breaking the letter of the law, or (as in our day -- and I'm obviously not saying anything here about ancient times) buying the political process with their wealth through the control of media, lobbying, and electoral campaigns, the net result seems to be the same. As the French would say, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." It does indeed change, but the result is still that money talks, and the rest walk. It may seem incidental to some, but not to me.


 
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