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February 2012 Policy Study, Number 12-3


The Idea of "the West" and the Revolt Against It

by Donald Paul Byron Racheter



Citizens Versus Subjects



Aristotle says in the Politics that the excellence of a citizen is knowing the rule over free persons from both the perspective of the ruler and the ruled.[72] Pangle says in Aristotle this excellence of citizenship is a standard by which all nominal citizens can and must be judged. Citizens are and ought to be ranked, honored and dishonored, in accordance with their demonstrated capacity for free obedience. In the truly free and equal society, Pangle says, those who rule must deserve to rule.


Isocrates describes the nature of equality in his famous oration in praise of the democracy of Athens, the Areopagiticus:


What contributed most to the noble management of the city was that, of the two recognized sorts of equality—the sort that apportions the same to everyone, and the sort that apportions what is fitting to each—they did not misunderstand which was most useful, but rejected as unjust the sort that holds in equal esteem the virtuous and wicked, and chose the one that honors and punishes according to the merit of each. Through this they managed the city, not selecting the rulers by lot from everyone, but selecting the best and the most capable for each task. For they expected that the other citizens would also tend to resemble those who supervised affairs.[73]


Pangle says that equality before the law in the reasonable or correct sense, or equal republican access to or eligibility for office, turns out on analysis to mean equal opportunity to earn the trust of one’s fellow citizens on the basis of proven merit and potential.


Having discussed the first notion in classical republicanism as standard of judgment for ranking the ruler and the ruled, Pangle next turns to an examination of virtue, or the qualities of character that ought to be taken into account in determining merit. Pangle lists those virtues which are common to the ruler and the ruled: a sense of shame or reverence, courage, moderation or self-control, truthfulness, justice, especially the obedience to law, and piety.[74] Those virtues which are rarer excellences and begin to distinguish those citizens who have earned the respect of others and set them apart as potential rulers include generosity, noble ambition, pride, justice in the sense of a quasi-paternal concern for the common good, and finally, reigning over all these more strictly moral qualities, a complementary intellectual insight, prudence, or practical judgment and wisdom.[75]




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