From Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I maintain in my article that all … well, legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either, if that bloodshed—often of innocent persons fighting bravely in defence of ancient law—were of use to their cause. It’s remarkable, in fact, that the majority, indeed, of these benefactors and leaders of humanity were guilty of terrible carnage. In short, I maintain that all great men or even men a little out of the common, that is to say capable of giving some new word, must from their very nature be criminals—more or less, of course. Otherwise it’s hard for them to get out of the common rut; and to remain in the common rut is what they can’t submit to, from their very nature again, and to my mind they ought not, indeed, to submit to it. You see that there is nothing particularly new in all that. The same thing has been printed and read a thousand times before. As for my division of people into ordinary and extraordinary, I acknowledge that it’s somewhat arbitrary, but I don’t insist upon exact numbers. I only believe in my leading idea that men are in general divided by a law of nature into two categories, inferior (ordinary), that is, so to say, material that serves only to reproduce its kind, and men who have the gift or the talent to utter a new word.
The purpose of this post is to stimulate discussion rather than offer analysis/commentary. This post was partly inspired by Robert Lindsay’s Portrait of the Billionaire as a Monster. The question that I’ve always pondered over was this: Do the powerful abide by a different code of ethics than the rest of us? Are the “alphas” destined to rule over the “betas” and “omegas”? To what degree are sociopathy and power linked? In one of our discussions, an old friend told me that States are amoral because they are forced to juggle the competing interests of heterogeneous groups. But what of individuals? Do the powerful bend the rules by the sheer force of their will? What is the goal of acquiring power? Maximizing personal freedom? A broader question one could ask is if class is simply inherent to our species regardless of society and culture. If class is a function of talent, then the flatness of a communist society is an impossible pipe dream.
What are your thoughts on this?