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The Republic

Robert Franklin

Posted on December 15, 2018 23:42

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No form of government is more championed in modern times than the democratic state. But long before democracies became the gold standard for government, Plato wrote off democracies as being detrimental to the functioning of a just state. Is there something to his antagonistic view of government "by the people?"

Plato once wrote of democracy, "it will be, in all likelihood, an agreeable, lawless, parti-colored commonwealth, dealing with all alike on a footing of equality, whether they be really equal or not." The ancient Greek thinker didn't express any real favoritism toward democracy, unlike most of the world in modern times. He was generally put off by it, viewing the "democratic man" as someone consumed by his base desires, yearning for passions insignificant and contradictory to justice, and obsessed with possessory gain in a life devoid of order and priority.

According to Plato, the "democratic man" exists in a world where freedom is the supreme good, but a form of slavery in and of itself.

Admittedly, I have had some trouble sifting through my own feelings about democracy over the past few years. Donald Trump's brought-to-you-by-Twitter presidency factors into it, absolutely, but my growing skepticism of democracy is also fueled by such events as Brexit, far-right populism, attacks on the media, worsening income disparity twinned with increasing costs of living, capitalism's abduction of American politics, and the crippling of voting rights.

But I think, more than any of the topics I mentioned (and even others I may have left out due to word count limits), the most notable issue I struggle with when it comes to democracy may actually be democracy itself. I believe everyone should have the right to vote, but I also believe that we'd be better off if some people didn't. I believe that ideas are what shape and save cultures, but some ideas are just so flagrantly offensive and horrifying that I might even support curtailing the First Amendment to silence them.

I mean, what do you do when the axis of a nation's politics is hinged on popular vote and you find it increasingly difficult to trust others to vote in a way that provides actual, quantifiable social benefit?

For two years, I have struggled with making sense of the people around me who voted for President Trump. Unless they weren't paying attention, they knew who this man was when they went to the ballots. It was clear he was in over his head, wholly unqualified, had a racist streak, and boasted, on tape, that he sexually assaults women because he can.

Voting for Trump was a dumb vote against the nation's best interest. It doesn't matter why the vote was cast. Ignorance is no excuse, and the only other reason would be that there was something about this sick human voters found attractive.

Plato wrote that democracy, in its unending obsession with freedom, gives way to tyranny, that its pursuit of freedom is but a set of chains in and of itself. The "democratic man" gives way to the tyrant and the Republic exists in a state of chaos where wisdom and reason are critically wounded.

It appears that modern democracy is in the process of paving the way for the emergence of the "democratic man's" son.

Robert Franklin

Posted on December 15, 2018 23:42

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Source: Quartz

As Greece approaches yet another election--its fifth in six years--the country's philosophical forefathers can only be smirking....

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