How Taylor Caldwell Introduced Marcus Tullius Cicero To Janez Janša

Just prior to becoming the Prime Minister, Janez Janša gave a speech which outlined the basic priorities of his government. These are a no-brainer: pension reform, cuts in public sector, job creation, lowering taxes and growth stimulation. Needless to say that you cannot have all of the above, but preachers of austerity were never concerned with the niceties of “growing-by-non-spending”, despite decades of failed experiments. But be that as it may, what stuck out was not the fact that Janša elaborated on Pahor’s reforms (the very same he helped bomb and which, looking backwards, look downright meek) and announced a package which would make Milton Friedman jump with joy. No, what caught many an ear, was a quote Janša used to justify the neoliberal happy-meal he’s about to serve Slovenia.

(source and source)

The prime minister quoted the great Roman orator Marcus Tulius Cicero, saying that[t]he budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.

The problem is, Cicero said no such thing.

The quote is an invention of one Taylor Caldwell, an American novelist who made it up in her 1965 novel A Pillar of Iron on the life of the now very much late senator. Thing is, the Cicero quote is much used all around the world, a fact which Janša readily acknowledges in his speech. Why is that? Well, it fits nicely with the Reaganomics of the 80s (notwithstanding the fact that US public debt exploded under Ronald Reagan) and the quote was reportedly used by Gipper himself, who also attributed it to Cicero. And who is Janez Janša to doubt the icon of the Republican party? Especially since the International Republican Institute holds the newly-minted Slovenian prime minister in such high regard

This is not the first time Janša has a problem with sources. Back in 2008 he snatched a portion of Tony Blair’s speech and failed to quote the source. This time around, he did quote the source, but the source is false. Well, sooner or later he’s bound to nail it…

P.S.: hat-tip to the anonymous vigilant birdie who caught the blunder…

P.P.S.: Even thought this post is dated 1 February, it should have been posted on 31 January. Just so you know…

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

9 thoughts on “How Taylor Caldwell Introduced Marcus Tullius Cicero To Janez Janša”

  1. This is not even funny anymore, quoting the link: “Reminding the audience that Reagan had challenged communist governments to let their citizens’ vote if they were so confident in their system, Janša talked about how the…” (bold by me)

  2. @Franc: Both your sources quote the same source (eRumour)in claiming that Cicero did in fact produce a similar quote. However, your second source also quotes professor Collins in saying that the Cicero quote is “is totally without documentation“. A similar statement (i.e.: no record of Cicero ever saying anything of the sort was ever found) can be found on other sites, who have a historic record of accuracy.

    Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that it is extremely unlikely for the quote to be related to Cicero in any way, shape or form. Furthermore, if – for the sake of the argument – we accept that Cicero did indeed speak of curtailing the officialdom and reducing help to foreign lands, adding “budget balancing” makes the quote (again) completely ingenuine.

    Namely, as some bright soul wrote somewhere: Rome usually balanced its budget by invading foreign lands. 🙂

    @Tjasa: What can I say but…. enjoy 🙂

  3. Not a chance. I don’t have enough brain capacity for listening to him for 12 minutes. On Saturday I managed to keep listening for a minute and a half. I just can’t.

  4. I watched that video when it came out. It’s basically just a lot of pandering to the American republicans’ belief that Reagan singlehandedly defeated communism and brought the light of democracy to the oppressed idiots in ex-communist countries who were too dumb to strive for democracy and an end to totalitarianism without Reagan to show them the way. Also, one thing I learned is that apparently, during the protests on Roška to free Janša from military prison, protesters carried billboards with Reagan quotes on them. Who knew?

  5. Yeah, if it hadn’t been for Gipper and his famous quote “Honk to release Janša from prison” the Berlin Wall would still be standing… /sarcasm off

  6. “Roman ignorance of economics was most conspicuous in the great emperors … When they had trouble maintaining the imperial treasury they could think of no better measure than debasing the imperial currency.” HJ Muller, The Uses of the Past, p.231. The Romans had no concept of anything approaching modern economics, so whatever Cicero might have had to say, it really wouldn’t help.

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