Ellis Washington is a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review and law clerk at the Rutherford Institute. He is a professor of Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, and Contracts at the National Paralegal College, a counselor at the American College of Education, and a founding board member of Salt and Light Global. Washington is a co-host of "Joshua's Trial," a radio show of Christian conservative thought. A graduate of JohnMore ↓Less ↑
“When a benevolent mind contemplates the republic of Lycurgus, its admiration is mixed with a degree of horror.” ~ Thomas Day
Lycurgus (c. 820–730 B.C.?) was the mythical lawgiver of Sparta that flourished in the first half of the seventh century B.C., who established the militarist reforms of Spartan society based on the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Lycurgus’ law reformations were instituted to affect the three primary Spartan virtues: equality (among citizens), military strength and austerity.
Lycurgus’ legislative contributions were celebrated by such great ancient historians and philosophers as Herodotus, Xenophon, Plato, Polybius, Plutarch, Epictetus and in many of the constitutions of Western civilization, including America’s Founding Fathers. Historians aren’t sure if Lycurgus was an actual historical figure. Many Greek scholars believe that Lycurgus was responsible for the radical communalistic and militaristic reforms that caused Spartan society to take a quantum leap over other contemporary Greek city-states, most significantly the establishment of the Great Rhetra (e.g., constitution, proclamation).
According to The Faber Book of Utopias, “The Life of Lycurgus” by Plutarch has affected utopian ideas to nearly the same extent as Plato’s “Republic.” A major difference being that Plato’s ideal citizens are philosopher-kings and Plutarch’s are soldiers. Plutarch’s “Life” is an explanation of how to transform a nation into a war machine. Plutarch (c. A.D. 46-120) was a historian. Conversely, in recounting Lycurgus as the legendary lawgiver of ancient Sparta, he undoubtedly relied on his own imagination, as well as integrating popular oral traditions, myths and legends that form Greek history.
Plutarch’s opus recounts how Lycurgus seized power through a military coup, replacing the existing government with a 28-member senate. His next reforms addressed the inequality between rich and poor, and the vices of “insolence, envy, avarice and luxury” this caused. To remedy these disparities Lycurgus instituted a compulsory redistribution-of-land program (e.g., Marx, Hitler, Stalin, Mao). All private property and existing land boundaries were canceled, and the territory of Sparta was divided into 9,000 equal parcels to accommodate each citizen. Next he sought to eliminate inequality in money and all material needs. This policy was much more difficult to accomplish, so Lycurgus used a deceitful device.
First, Lycurgus outlawed the currency of gold and silver coin (e.g., Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Nixon), and mandated that the Spartans should transact only in iron money (Federal Reserve’s printing trillions since 1913). Then he assigned only a trivial value to a large quantity and weight of this iron money – so that to hoard the equal of 10 silver coins would require an entire room, and to transport it would necessitate a yoke of oxen. The idea was that the iron standard would cause many kinds of economic injustice to cease in Sparta. Since it would be difficult to hide even a small amount of money, the financial gain from stealing would dissipate.
Another of Lycurgus’ anti-luxury laws mandated that the ceilings of houses be made with no tool but the ax, and the doors with no tool but the saw. The effect is housing became collective, primitive and egalitarian (e.g., huge housing projects via FDR and LBJ’s socialist policies, New York’s rent-control policies). This force or “nudge” (Cass Sunstein), like Communist Russia, moved the people away from luxury furnishing and toward common tables, where all would eat the same food, dictated by law. Reminiscent of the fascist food reforms of New York Mayor Bloomberg, Lycurgus reforms were thought to outlaw greed, self-indulgence and fancy, high-fat foods thus making a leaner, meaner society.
In his essay on Plutarch’s “The Life of Lycurgus,” editor John Carey wrote this telling passage about Lycurgus’ views on the family:
Lycurgus considered children not so much the property of their parents as of the state, and therefore he could not have them begotten by ordinary people, but by the best men in it [e.g., Plato's "Republic," Marx's "Communist Manifesto," Nietzsche, and Hitler]. Secondly, he observed the vanity and absurdity of other nations, where people take steps to have their horses or dogs of the finest breed they can procure, by money or personal influence, and yet they keep their wives shut up, so that they may have children by none but themselves, even if they happen to be … decrepit or infirm. As if children, when sprung from a bad stock and consequently good for nothing, are no detriment to those whom they belong to, and who have the trouble of bringing them up, or as if they are not, on the other hand, a great boon when well descended and of a generous disposition. These regulations, designed to secure healthy offspring, advantageous to the state, were so far from encouraging licentiousness that adultery was not known among them. [e.g., Francis Galton (Darwin's nephew), proto-eugenics, 1935 Nazi Nuremberg Laws]
Plutarch chronicles how from age 12 Spartan boys were relocated to companies, each under the command of a 20-year-old and living off the land. Plutarch chronicles that the boy soldiers would steal with such unyielding secrecy that “one of them, having hidden a young fox under his tunic, allowed the creature to tear out his bowels with its teeth and claws, choosing rather to die than to be detected.” Lycurgus soldier-class did no domestic work, which was done only by “helots,” the underclass of slaves who grew the solders’ food and performed all manual labor. Plutarch recounts how young Spartans would perform mass murders of helots both as sport and as a measure of their military training. Though commonly deferential to the ideas of Lycurgus, Plutarch does not accept this policy.
Though I consider Lycurgus’ practices proto-fascism, just as applicable would be proto-Marxism, or progressivism, or liberalism, or socialism, or Darwinism, or environmentalism, etc., because historically all of these failed, evil, socialist worldviews demand an invidious racism, managed outcomes, social engineering, Social Darwinism, class/race eugenics, statism and collectivism designed by leftists to force society into the same, perpetual, globalist dystopia affecting most citizens.
Although he lived over 2,600 years before Karl Marx, the father of communism and socialism, I call Lycurgus a proto-Marxist (fascist) because Marx echoed the same pagan, anti-Christian, anti-family, anti-capitalist insanity of Lycurgus, which causes me to conclude: As in the world of the Democratic Socialist Party that gave America the Progressive Revolution and the Age of Obama, so it is in the world of Darwin, Nietzsche and Marx who wrote, “My object in life is to dethrone God and destroy capitalism.”