The Asceticism of Emperors

Nov 2018
I have read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (as well as the Golden Sayings of Epictitus which were so influential upon him). Likewise I recently read through the edicts of Asoka (the Maurya emperor).

I can not help but find these hilarious, rather than sagacious.

Marky wants us to accept our lot in life, endure, do justice and not dishonor ourselves. Easy to say when you are the emperor of the most powerful state in human history. Of course your state lead mine slaves and the Germans you mow down by the tens of thousands should just 'accept their lot in life'. Whatever you think of Booties, at least he wasn't a condescending ass like his daddy.

Asoka says that not only not spending money, but owning the minimum of property, is the best - this from a guy who conquered an entire subcontinent? When is King Asoka going to give up his state treasury and palaces?

A lot of people say these figures/writings are wise and inspiring. I find them risible and either hypocritical or self-deluding.

People with power can afford to be generous and to 'own' little, because power enables them to simply steal anything they like when they actually need it. The US Government doesn't save any money because it can just print it like the bank in Monopoly. However, the rest of us with real jobs and who can't get what we want by fiat do need to have property, and strive against our circumstances.

This sort of stuff is the philosophy of someone who is so far from understanding poverty that he creates imaginary difficulties to wrestle with, just like the European upper middle class with their psychotic crusades around sugars in cereal. For real people, and not pseudo-divine military potentates or priests and bureaucrats living by tax subsidy, all of this stuff comes off as a slave master talking to blacks about not being 'uppity'.
Feb 2012
Having read those same books and others except for Asoka's can't remember any Greek philosopher who spoke against owning property in the context of a normal political constitution except for the Cynics.