Fake classicism

My friend Richard Edelman, in his Davos round-up, included this bon mot from Stephen Green, chief executive of HSBC:

“Business has to get on with being trustworthy. We need consistency of promise and action. We should be  engaged in dialogue to bridge differences.” He offered a quote from Tacitus, “Good people don’t need rules to tell them how to behave responsibly and bad people will always find the ways around rules.”

Those Romans, huh? They had the right phrase for everything. But I wondered, is that really something from Tacitus. Or is it fake learning, that somehow has found its way into some eager beaver’s repertoire at HSBC?

Well, here at Davos Newbies Towers we have a trained squad of classicists ready for any eventuality. I sicced them on the quote from “Tacitus” and, so far, they’ve come up dry. It might turn up eventually, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Incidentally, my erudite classicist reports that a “quote” from Cicero is also doing the rounds:

The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign hands should be curtailed, lest Rome fall.

Perfect for Republicans in today’s Senate, surely. Except it’s confected. No Cicero was harmed in the production of the quote.

One thought on “Fake classicism

  1. Dave S.

    The sentiment is certainly bleak enough for Tacitus, though it is difficult to see how any real moral philosopher or historian could retain such anarchic views. A quick google attributes the remark to Plato, which makes even less sense. Reading over the actual words leads me to think it is at best an attempted synopsis of an event in either Plato or Tacitus that has been taken disastrously out of context.


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