Aristophanes, in The Frogs, circa 405 BC:
The course our city runs is the same towards men and money.
She has true and worthy sons.
She has fine new gold and ancient silver,
Coins untouched with alloys, gold or silver,
Each well minted, tested each and ringing clear.
Yet we never use them!
Others pass from hand to hand,
Sorry brass just struck last week and branded with a wretched brand.
So with men we know for upright, blameless lives and noble names.
These we spurn for men of brass…
This anticipates both Gresham’s Law and Francis W. Porretto’s extension thereto:
A group that equally values its most civilized members and its most vitriolic members will soon possess a preponderance of the latter. The good, self-respecting members will disdain to remain among persons who hurl insults and epithets at them, leaving the group populated by only the insult-hurlers, plus a smattering of generally decent persons with inadequate self-respect.
The progression won’t stop there. Such a group, now dominated by “the worst of the worst,” will gradually fail to return an adequate “profit” in money, volunteer labor, prestige, fellowship, or anything else one might value to its members, most especially those who’ve taken control of it. The typical response to such enervation is for the leaders to strive to whip up the enthusiasm of the group by artificial means; i.e., to “keep the hate alive.”
So far, none of the four organizations to which I belong have degenerated in such a manner, though I suppose it’s possible. (One of them, by all accounts, is hemorrhaging members, though the only precursor I’ve so far seen is a dearth of candidates for their offices.) Still, twenty years ago I paid dues to no one, and what’s more, these days I have several, um, unofficial affiliations.