CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER

Jealous Gods, Angry Mobs, and the Struggle for Lasting Legitimacy

Even with Authority from the Almighty Above, Rulers Need Consensus from the People Below

Even if political power sometimes comes from the barrel of a gun, any government is more effective if it enjoys popular acceptance. Today, governments usually claim a popular mandate from an election, even if that election is fraudulent. In the past, however, elections played little role in bestowing legitimacy.

In the ancient world, rulers usually staked their legitimacy by proclaiming their divinity. The Persian emperor Shapur I claimed on his coins to be “Divine Shapur King of Iran whose seed is from gods.” Julius Caesar had himself declared a god, …

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