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Was Plato right?

Ore_Ele
Posts: 25,980
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11/4/2010 5:07:58 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
In The Republic, Plato descibes how government evolves, from a timocracy all the way to a dictatorship (or tyranny).

Do you think his "vision" is playing out in the US? Or at risk of playing out in the US?
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SuperRobotWars
Posts: 3,906
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11/4/2010 6:38:23 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Nah I think American government is too loose to allow that and the only form of government our democracy can evolve into is a technocracy, or a rule by corporations (I forget the technical term) and if the over the top conservatives have their way (wanting absolute zero regulations on anything) that is what will happen (the same goes for over the top liberals who want us to become a hippie state) so we need to keep our stable democracy (well its unstable) and stop it with these gridlocked political ideologies for they get us nowhere.
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charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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11/4/2010 7:02:05 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 11/4/2010 5:07:58 PM, OreEle wrote:
In The Republic, Plato descibes how government evolves, from a timocracy all the way to a dictatorship (or tyranny).

Do you think his "vision" is playing out in the US? Or at risk of playing out in the US?

Well, Webster's defines timocracy as follows, 1 : government in which a certain amount of property is necessary for office 2 : government in which love of honor is the ruling principle

As for definition #1, once upon a time in American history a certain amount of property was an official requirement for people to take part in the "democratic process", as both an office seeker and a voter. Of course this hasn't been an official requirement for some time now, but unofficially and in reality it's as true as ever that one must be moneyed or backed by the money of Big Business to have a realistic chance of gaining political office. So in this regard the American system hasn't really traveled that far from what it was way back when.

The Founding Fathers were not the great paragons of democracy they're portrayed to be in the history books. They were actually affluent pillars of the Establishment who felt that a business and political establishment made up of competent gentlemen, such as themselves, should govern the great unwashed masses. During the Constitutional Convention much concern was bluntly expressed about the risk of creating too genuinely democratic a system. In the end they worked out a system that would have democratic institutions but that gentlemen of substance could always maintain control of. The money-ruled political power structure we have today is just the devolution the OGs of US democracy set us on the path to, not a big evolutionary departure from their original intent.

In other words, our system is just becoming what it was framed to be, a system in which an economic overclass runs the show, behind, around, and through the structure of manipulatable representative government. Our system has always been a supposedly benign dictatorship of money. Of course dictatorships are never really benign, and the dictatorship of money is no exception. It's simply the case that when times are good many of us don't personally feel how unbenign our form of dictatorship really is. Right now the socio-economic state of the union isn't that good and so we're feeling the unbenignness more keenly.

Then there's the second definition of timocracy, the one that has to do with the "love of honor" being the ruling principle of politics. Again, the game of politics in the era of the Founding Fathers wasn't pure and saintly. Do a little reading on the subject and it won't take too long to learn some disillusioning factoids about what real politicians, in the modern negative connotation of the word, they could be. Just one name for you, Vice President Aaron Burr. Burr was a self-seeking scumbag who could probably teach Bill Clinton and Dubya a thing or two.

And there've been subsequent eras in American history in which political graft and corruption have been just as rampant and even more crudely blatant than today. Does Tammany Hall ring a bell?

Is there a more politically pristine past that we might nostalgically long to return to? Hardly, such retrogressive nostalgia is just a conservative thing. Our society and system didn't start off as a timocracy in the positive second definition, and is just becoming more of what it's always tended to be.

Plato, alas, had a lot of well thought out wrong ideas. It's been a while since I read The Republic, but as I recall he hardly laid out the best prescription for a free society. But then he wasn't exactly a believer in democracy. Not all ancient Athenians were enamored of the idea of democracy. Plato, if memory serves, was downright and profoundly anti-democratic. He's not really someone whose political "wisdom" I think we should follow.
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