Did Anything Really Change?

A Distant Elite: How Meritocracy Went Wrong

Wilfred M. McClay


McClay, Wilfred M. “A distant elite: how meritocracy went wrong.” The Hedgehog Review, vol. 18, no. 2, 2016, p. 36+. Academic OneFile, go.galegroup.com.ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu:2048/ps/i.do?


The primary audience of this publication can be historians. People who study the constitution, Thomas Jefferson, or even the effects of how America tired to make an aristocracy and it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to.


Adams, on the other hand, regarded the emergence of an aristocracy as something both inevitable and inherently dangerous. He feared the influence of any such aristoi, and sought to restrain their influence by means of the classical constitutional model, as articulated by Polybius, of a “mixed government,” in which aristocracy’s distinctive political voice would be recognized as such and then confined to a senate-like body.

Paragraph 3, lines 8- 13


Consequently this peculiar form of constitution possesses an irresistible power of attaining every object upon which it is resolved. 5 When again they are freed from external menace, and reap the harvest of good fortune and affluence which is the result of their success, and in the enjoyment of this prosperity are corrupted by flattery and idleness and wax insolent and overbearing, as indeed happens often enough, 6 it is then especially that we see the state providing itself a remedy for the evil from which it suffers.

Polybius, Fragments of Book 6


The writer makes a mention of Polybius when he talks about Adams’s fear of a rising aristocracy. Jefferson believed in a natural aristocracy with the idea idea that they should be separated from the general public and groomed for public office. Adams on the other hand thought that though it is inevitable it can be contained because they fought a revolution against a King who didn’t rule them well and they are trying to avoid another monarchy. With a new government one has to let go of everything that they fought against. He wanted what Polybius suggested as a government. One that took one certain aspects of other governments while still making it something new. Looking at the success of the Roman Republic one could agree that something similar to Rome could easily work.

Re-examining the Constitution

Image result for Polybius “United States” constitution
MLA Format:
Jost, Kenneth, Background, Re-examining the Constitution, History of the United States Constitution, Sept 7, 2012, Vol.22(31), p.750(6), Brooklyn College Library, CUNY OneSearch, ISSN: 1056-2036
The target audience for this are for people who into politics and understand the constitution. The author connects the search term by implying that the constitution is outdated and the constitution has let some people down. The article states, “the Constitution’s faults as among the causes of the growing discontent with politics generally and the declining public confidence in all three branches of the federal government.” This shows that the constitution negatively affects the government in multiple ways. According to the reading it states, “Sulla took the dictatorship in 81, purged his opponents by means of proscriptions, and attempted to reform the constitution, strengthening the senate and abolishing most of the powers of the tribunes.” This relates to the article by showing action towards the flaws of the constitution.
– Adam Allan, Team Ares

An Unoriginal Experiment

In the scholarly article “Polybius and the American Constitution”, Gilbert Chinard tells of how America’s Founding Fathers used the writing of the Greeks and Romans in framing the Constitution. This is a story he tells to other experts in classical histories, evident in his use of uncommon Latin phrases. He connects my search terms “Polybius” and “United States Constitution” by commenting directly on the Founders’ (Madison and Adams) use and knowledge of Polybius’s writings. Chinard even goes so far as to include a direct quote from Polybius:  “such being the power of each order to hurt and assist each other, their union is adapted to all contingencies, and it is not possible to invent a more perfect system.” He continues to explain how they agreed and disagreed with Polybius’s ideas about the optimal constitution. Polybius says: “For it is evident that we must regard as the best constitution a combination of all these three varieties.” It is this reverence for the Roman constitution, the balance of the different types of constitution, that is the main focus of Chinard’s article. In short, Madison and other founders used Polybius’s writing and the writing of other ancient historians to make arguments in favor of ratifying the Constitution in 1787.


Chinard, Gilbert. “Polybius and the American Constitution.” Journal of the History of Ideas Vol. 1, No. 1 (1940) Pages 38-58.

How to Create A Strong Country In Only Fifty-Three Years: A Guide

“II: Political Thinkers and Ideas/Penseurs et Idées Politiques.” International Political Science Abstracts, 10 May 2012, Vol.62(2), pp.160-164.

This article gives abstracts of political science articles, including:

Eidujiene, Dalia. “Polibijus: apie valstybes kilme ir dinami ka jos formu morfologija (Polybius on the origin of the state and the dynamic morphology of its forms).” Filosofija. Sociologija 22(3), 2011 : 272-277.

Light, Paul C. “Federalist No. 1: How Would Publius Define Good Government Today?” Public Administration Review 71, Suppl. 1, Dec. 2011 : 7-14.

The article that came up when I searched for the terms “Polybius” and “Thomas Jefferson” was intended to help political-science students find the appropriate article, but the Eidujiene article explains Polybius’ attempt to explain the political circumstances that allowed Rome to grow so strong so quickly, and the Light article is about the Federalist Papers (written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, under the pseudonym Publius, to defend the new United States Constitution) and how the Founding Fathers (including Hamilton and Jefferson) built the framework for the country we live in today.

Since this article was meant to aid with location of sources, it doesn’t really draw connections between these other articles, but their relation is clear. Polybius spoke about how the Roman empire grew in power, and the founders of America wanted to build a country that could become its own independent power. Both of these articles therefore discuss how best to set up and strengthen a political entity like a country or empire.

Light’s abstract demonstrates the desire to make a strong country by saying:

 [The first of the Federalist Papers] contains an implied definition of “good government” that occupied the founders as they built a stronger national government.

The class reading by Polybius says in the very beginning,

…the best and most valuable result I aim at is that readers of my work may gain a knowledge how it was […] that in less than fifty-three years nearly the whole world was overcome and fell under the single dominion of Rome…

Polybius wanted to teach people how Rome became so powerful in such a relatively short time. The Founding Fathers likely drew upon sources like this when deciding how to draw up the United States constitution, since they relied heavily on European philosophy and history to guide them.

-Chaya Ovits, team Venus

By Them, for The People

2017-11-06 17.35.27

As I read the article, “ The Commandments” by Jill Lepore, it seems like the intended audience are people interested in the history of the constitution of the United States. The original paper copy of the constitution itself. I feel like the author is constantly making connections with the search terms. It is very easy for her to make those connections since the words “Constitution” and “ United States” usually go hand in hand. Especially, in regards to the topic at hand. One Example of that is when the author states, “In 1875, the Constitution found a home in a tin box in the bottom of a closet in a new building that housed the Departments of State, War, and Navy.” In this phrase, the author obviously mentions the word constitution as she does in many other sentences in the article, but she does not tell us the location of the constitution directly. Yes, she is not saying it instantly, but as the reader, I know that the Department of State, war, and Navy is located in the U.S. One quote from the ancient text that seems to be relevant to the selected publication is, “Monarchy first changes into its vicious allied form, tyranny…” I find this relevant because before the United States turned into a democracy, it was being ruled by a Monarchy which eventually took advantage of their power and changed into a tyrant rule. Which is exactly why it became more than crucial for the United States to remake its government that abides an inclusive constitution, hence the phrase, “We the people”.  

-Izadora, team aphrodite

Citation: Lepore, Jill. “The Commandments.” The New Yorker, 17 Jan. 2011, p. 70. Literature Resource Centergo.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=cuny_broo39667&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA246875296&it=r&asid=09fa84985772c1939902c76300dd370d. Accessed 6 Nov. 2017.

The Fall of Democracy


“Democratization and development”

What is the appropriate MLA citation of your search return?

Barsh, Russel Lawrence. “Democratization and Development.” Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 1, 1992, pp. 120–134.

Who is the primary intended audience of the publication?

The primary intended audience seems to be politicians.

How (if at all) does the author connect the search terms one to another?  Use one to two short quotes to illustrate your point.

This article whole article speaks of specifically the democracy and constitution in the United States, examples being

“New democracies have succeeded in imposing macroeconomic measures on their constituents.(54) Remmer interprets this as proof of the vitality and resilience of democracy as a political system.(55) She ignores another possibility, however: that transitional regimes are still largely authoritarian in practice, and that this very fact illustrates their macroeconomic dilemma.(56)

A microcosm of this problem can be found within the United States, where indigenous peoples have enjoyed a degree of autonomy since 1934. ” The Greek historian, Polybius, who witnessed the erosion of the Republic, concluded that democracy is born as a response to oligarchy but eventually tends to collapse back into oligarchy due to increasing wealth, inequality, and social conflict.”

Now this isn’t the only connection as the author uses Polybius in their argument, in the section labeled “De-Democratization” where they write,

“The Greek historian, Polybius, who witnessed the erosion of the Republic, concluded that democracy is born as a response to oligarchy but eventually tends to collapse back into oligarchy due to increasing wealth, inequality, and social conflict.”


Select a quote from the ancient texts assigned as home work that seems relevant to your selected publication.  Insert the quotation and explain its relevance.

As mentioned above, there is a section in the article that mentions the fall of democracy, mentioned topics similar to what Polybuis had brought up, even using his words in the text.  This is very similar to what we were going over in class when we discussed just this kind of topic, oligarchy (or mob-rule). An exact quote in full representing this would be “But when a new generation arises and the democracy falls into the hands of the grandchidren of its founders, they have become so accustomed to freedom and equality that they no longer value them, and begin to aim at pre-eminence; and it is chiefly those of ample fortune who fall into this error. So when they begin to lust for power and cannot attain it through themselves or their own good qualities, they ruin their estates, tempting and corrupting the people in every possible way.”

  • Yekaterina Ignatyeva , Team Cronos

Polybius’s Take on Rome’s Imperial History and the Modern Incarnations


After searching for a good article to blog about, I stumbled upon the article, History of the Hyperpower by Eliot Cohen. The article is intended to inform the audience of the comparisons between the United States “empire” and the major imperial powers of the times of Alexander. The article also explains how the ancient world used the ideals of imperialism and its tactics and explores how imperial history contrasts with modern United States policies. The primary intended audience include historians who wish to know more about the topic of imperial history and people who intend to learn more about this line of foreign policies, along with people who may be studying political science and foreign affairs. The author does not directly connect the search terms of “Polybius” and “’United States’ Constitution”, but rather uses Polybius as an example to further delve into his paragraph about “The Art of Understatement”, which the author goes into how imperial problems lead to people questioning imperial policy. Cohen goes into how the ancient world “considered Rome’s success both a marvel and a puzzle” because although they conquered a large part of territory across Europe and the Middle East, they lacked a rich culture and political scene. For example, Cohen says, “Polybius and many who followed him sought an explanation in the role of the Senate, a body that, although internally divided, provided a degree of steadiness to otherwise turbulent policy. Underlying the turmoil of Roman politics, these authors claimed, was a consistent imperial style that persisted despite the rise and fall of consuls and dictators.” These quotes more in-depth into how historians like Polybius questioned the ideals of imperialism and its tactics. To further explain this, I looked back into the Readings on the Roman Republic and re-read the fragments from book 6 by Polybius. When reading the paragraph “Conclusion of the Treatise on the Roman Republic”, Polybius says, “But the Romans, though they had met with severe reverses in the war, and had now, roughly speaking, lost all their allies and were in momentary expectation of Rome itself being placed in peril, 8 after listening to this plea, neither disregarded their dignity under the pressure of calamity, nor neglected to take into consideration every proper step (Polybius Book 6, 58 7-8). In the quote by Polybius, it helps provide more clarity for the article as he further explains the causes of Rome’s imperial problems through their aggressive foreign policies and as a result, hinders Rome in the process.
MLA Citation:
Cohen, Eliot A. “History and the Hyperpower;” Foreign Affairs, vol. 83, no. 4, 2004, pp. 49-63, Social Science Premium Collection, https://login.ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu/docview/214288403?accountid=7286.
-A.C. Bowman, Team Saturn

Polybius: A Man of Action?

  • MLA Citation:

Herold, David. “Morison, Samuel Eliot 1887-1976.” 1979, pp. 479–500.http://go.galegroup.com.ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu:2048/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&u=cuny_broo39667&id=GALE|CX1381600032&v=2.1&it=r&sid=exlibris

  • The search word i searched was “Polybius ‘Thomas Jefferson'” and the full text I decided to select was written on a American Historian named Samuel Eliot Morison. The full text is based on the life of Samuel Eliot Morison including stories about his background and his works.
  •  The primary audience this full text seem to be intended for is mainly for teens and adults since it’s a lengthy text that speaks on Morison’s life. Adding on, this can be directed for students in college since this text is a scholarly article that can be found at Brooklyn college library onesearch.

The author is able to connect with the words searched by connecting the life of Samuel Eliot Morison with Polybius as historians. During the text Herold stated:

“Morison’s history of the U.S. Navy, a labor of twenty years, gave him the opportunity to realize the injunction of Polybius, that a historian should be a man of action. Of all his works it drew the greatest comment and criticism. It confounds the categories into which the separate varieties of history have been divided within the professionalized history writing of the twentieth century. It is an official history that escaped committee authorship and the imprimatur of a review board, and came to command professional respect and have a wide audience. It is contemporary history that draws together official, scholarly, and popular history.” (Herold, 492)

This is implying that during the time when Morison was serving in the
U.S Navy, he was able to understand what Polybius was trying to implement. Polybius was a man of action. Therefore by saying a historian should be a man of action, it’s indicating that Morison has learned from Polybius to not sit around and speak on something rather he should be taking action and keep his word about something.

In the Extracts of Polybius, fragments from book 6 it stated:

“For it is evident that we must regard as the best constitution a combination of all these three varieties, since we have had proof of this not only theoretically but by actual experience, Lycurgus having been the first to draw up a constitution — that of Sparta — on this principle.”

Indicating that Polybius was a man of action. He doesn’t only speak on the three varieties of the constitution Kingship, Aristocracy, and Democracy. He takes action by suggesting it would be best to combine all three constitution together for the ideal constitution. He supports his claim by implying how successful the actual experience of combining all three constitution was, therefore this shows that Polybius was a man of action since there was proof provided in order to back up his statement.

What is the Best Government?

When we think of the best or perfect government, many will say something along the lines of, “A democracy, what else is there?”, because of the fact that we live in the United States of America. But in reality, there are a lot of different types of government that have been established. For example an aristocracy is a system of government that is based on hereditary status and connections through royal blood , that allow for that small, wealthy group of nobles, the Aristocrats to have all the power. Similarly, an Oligarchy a system where the rule of the few, small group of people is established, but not necessarily through “royal blood.” In addition there is such a thing as a Monarchy, which is a system that places supreme power of the state in the hands of a single person or family, the Monarch. Albeit there are myriad of deviations that have been established in the past, such as a constitutional monarchy, unitary state, a parliament. But that list is an endless one.

“The constitution should remain for long in a state of equilibrium like a well-trimmed boat, kingship being guarded from arrogance by the fear of the commons, who were given a sufficient share in the government, and the commons on the other hand not venturing to treat the kings with contempt from fear of the elders, who being selected from the best citizens would be sure all of them to be always on the side of justice; so that that part of the state which was weakest owing to its subservience to traditional custom, acquired power and weight by the support and influence of the elders.” 

This quote from the extracts of Polybius illustrate how Polybius believed that there should be a form of checks and balances in government, a separation of powers should be put in place. The piece of writing that I chose to analyze is an essay, The Rise and Fall of the Separation of Powers, by Steven G. Calabresi, Mark E. Berghausen & Skylar Albertson that expands on that belief and praises Polybius and other philosophers who thought alike. This essay talks about the origins of the concept of the separation of powers and, as you can tell by the title, the fall of such a concept. It talks of how modern governments implement the separation of powers, a prime example is the United States of America. In addition, the essay talks of how the concept of the separation of powers originated from the ideal of a “mixed regime”. A mixed regime is the form of government that combines elements of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. It states how many philosophers and scholars, such as Polybius, conceived of such an ideal so that the not-so-desired offspring of a mixed regime (anarchy, oligarchy and tyranny) could not be formed. This way, Polybius’ Anacyclosis cannot take its full effect and therefore, the undesirable forms of government found in that cycle could not develop and be bypassed.

My search, from which I got this search return from, was “Polybius ‘United States’ constitution.” The authors of this essay connect these two terms quite a lot, as I might have hinted at above. They talk of Polybius’ mixed regime and they connect him and it to the constitution of the United States. They talk of how our government and our constitution aren’t exactly a fully realized or exact definition of a mixed regime.  which is why, as I said before, they believe that our constitution and government lack the full definition of a separation of powers. “our Constitution has actually
operated in practice over the last 220 years as a democratized version of the Mixed Regime rather than as a functional separation of powers. The idea of
the Mixed Regime is a whole lot older than the idea of the separation of
powers, and it may well be more enduring. The writings of Aristotle,
Polybius, Cicero, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Machiavelli all illustrate this
point. The way a regime works, in practice, may show the the nature of the
regime. It may be the case that the U.S. Constitution inadvertently gave rise
to a democratized version of the Mixed Regime. If so, then that is an error
which our generation of Americans needs to correct.” 
They call the U.S. constitution and government a democratized version of a mixed regime and thereby believe that it is a dysfunctional separation of powers. In addition, they later call the U.S. government more of an oligarchy (which I don’t fully disagree with) and that “[Americans] need to revive the functional separation of powers.” Based on this viewpoint and the fact that it prompts whoever may read it(most likely students) and the citizens of the U.S.  to establish a true mixed regime and “revive the functional separation of powers,” I believe that this essay’s primary intended audience is the wide public who are possibly interested in the affairs of law, politics, government, and scholars or philosophers .

All in all, I found this essay to be extremely enlightening and extremely connected to Polybius and his ideals and values.

Appropriate MLA citation:

Calabresi, Steven G., et al. “The Rise and Fall of the Separation of Powers.” Northwestern University Law Review, vol. 106, no. 2, Apr. 2012, pp. 527-549. EBSCOhost, ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=82514124&site=ehost-live.

Sean, Team Ares

Polybius’ Constitution


Fun fact: As I was looking for pictures I came across an arcade version of Polybius. This was a fictional arcade game from 1981 that hasn’t been proved to ever exist. Though it did start an urban legend that it was a psychology experiment ran by the government to see what effects the of addiction the game had on players. Eventually, this arcade game supposedly disappeared from the arcade market.

The search return that I received from using OneSearch was an article called “Polybius and the American Constitution“. The appropriate MLA citation format that I used is Chinard, Gilbert. “Polybius and the American Constitution.” http://www.jstor.org.ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu:2048/stable/pdf/2707009.pdf. Jan., 1940. The primary intended audience for this publication are American Architects. “This theory, however, had not originated with Swift, and the Doc- tor himself had quoted his authority-no less than Polybius-who tells us, ‘the best government is that which consists of three forms, regis, optimatium et populi imperitum’ ” (pg 43). This quote is connected to the search term by saying that Polybius had the best way to describe the best government. Polybius tells us that the best government consists of three forms, which translates to “King, conservatives, and inexperienced people”. What Polybius could be saying is that there should a King or some type of leader to guide us in the government. The conservative people could be for good traditions to keep going and don’t make changes to certain things. Inexperienced people could be for more energy in the government, someone who has ideas that are outside of the box for the government. “Nor again can we style every oligarchy an aristocracy, but only that where the government is in the hands of a selected body of the justest and wisest men” (Polybius, On the Form of States). This quote from the ancient texts explains how Polybius knows that the government can get messed up and how selecting the wisest and adjustable candidates are best for the government. This reminds me of the three orders from Art History. The three orders are columns called Ionic, Corinthian, and Doric. Each of these orders consists of specific bases, shafts, capitals, friezes, etc. If one of the parts of an order get mixed into a different order, it wouldn’t look right. This connects to government in a way that the government, itself, can get mixed up if we choose the wrong candidates. The government also has a lot of orders like the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches.

Chinard, Gilbert. “Polybius and the American Constitution.” http://www.jstor.org.ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu:2048/stable/pdf/2707009.pdf. Jan., 1940.

Caroline, Team Cronos

Empire Without End?

c4wJ0mFThe clear purpose of this article is to serve the audience whose intentions are to enrich their knowledge on Empires in World History. The article portrays an ironic ambition, hence the title, to prove the rule of empires– they always fall in the end. Though the author, Charles S. Maier, doesn’t draw a direct connection between Polybius and Thomas Jefferson, she shows the similarity in their political outlooks. For instance, Polybius is referred to as the Greek living in Rome who made himself to be a preeminent political interpreter. Comparably, Thomas Jefferson envisioned an empire of liberty securing the Mississippi and Missouri regions. The idea of imperial power facing a short-life can also be joined by the quote in the reading, “That all existing things are subject to decay and change is a truth that scarcely needs proof; for the course of nature is sufficient to force this conviction on us.” Maier supports the belief of ‘all existing things are subject to decay’ by following empires chronologically from their rise to their fall. The most familiar empires to us would be the Aztecs, Incans, and the Mayans, which at the time were considered powerful empires amongst the western hemisphere. Yet again, another imperial powers facing their expected outcome.

Maier, Charles S. “Empire without End.” Foreign Affairs, vol. 89, no. 4, 2010, pp. 153-159, Social Science Premium Collection, https://login.ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ez-proxy.brooklyn.cuny.edu/docview/577070717?accountid=7286.

-Amir, Team Juno.