Facile est imperium in bonis.
The power of command over good people is easy.
(Plautus, Miles Gloriosus 611)
Comment: This statement has a double edge to it. In Plautus’ play, three
characters are plotting together a secret plan against an “enemy”. This
statement is made by the clever slave (who always shows up in Plautus’ plays as
the one who really knows what is going on). He has summoned his
co-conspirators, and one answers that he is responding obediently (an ironic
thing to say to a slave). The slave then says that it is easy to command good
One the one hand it is obvious: obedience to authority is one valued trait of
“good people”. They are good because, among other things, they do what their
superiors tell them to do. On the other hand, such “good” people are perfect
patsies for deceptive and misleading leaders.
The slogan that at one time in this country was faily common on bumper stickers
seems the antidote to this proverb: question authority. It’s a good thing to
ask good, probing questions of authority. Good leaders will welcome good
questions. Leaders who simply love their authority will call those who ask
good questions impudent, trouble-makers and unpatriotic.
In this same scene of Plautus’ play, the same clever slave notes that a good
plan is a bad plan if the enemy finds it out and uses it against you. If your
plan that you were so convinced is so good, then it ought to have good effect
for your people. If the effect turns out to be a bad one, then it was not a
good plan. This old comedy might just have some wisdom for good people when
considering what questions they want to ask of their leaders.
(Used with permission)
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