Alierak (alierak) wrote,

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ok, I have a paper topic now...

... but I'm no less frustrated.

During the first days of his reign and for some time after, won't he smile in welcome at anyone he meets, saying that he's no tyrant, making all sorts of promises both in public and in private, freeing the people from debt, redistributing the land to them and to his followers, and pretending to be gracious and gentle to all?

He'd have to.

But I suppose that, when he has dealt with his exiled enemies by making peace with some and destroying others, so that all is quiet on that front, the first thing he does is to stir up a war, so that the people will continue to feel the need of a leader.

Probably so.

But also so that they'll become poor through having to pay war taxes, for that way they'll have to concern themselves with their daily needs and be less likely to plot against him.


Besides, if he suspects some people of having thoughts of freedom and not favoring his rule, can't he find a pretext for putting them at the mercy of the enemy in order to destroy them? And for all these reasons, isn't it necessary for a tyrant to be always stirring up war?

It is.

And because of this, isn't he all the more readily hated by the citizens?

Plato, on the natural and inevitable transition from democracy to tyranny in a city-state (Republic VIII 566d - 567b, dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon). He was describing a leader who "stirs up civil wars against the rich", on the theory that in a democracy the class of power-hungry idlers are likely to end up looting from the rich (organized wealth-seekers) in order to control everything. Power-hungry idlers are blindly followed by the class of indifferent idlers and attain majority support by using the resources of the rich to appeal to (and deceive) the working class. This doesn't quite map onto modern society, but it sure does have a familiar ring to it.

But of course, Plato didn't like democracy either. His ideal society is one where people are trained and assigned into roles early in life according to demonstrated aptitude, either philosopher-kings, auxiliary bureaucrats or guardians, or workers, and they attain happiness by doing what they're best suited for. It's supposed to have the justice knob turned way up. I think it suffers because it has the freedom knob turned way down. There is censorship and selective breeding. There is no voting.

And what about the [democratic] city's tolerance? Isn't it so completely lacking in small-mindedness that it utterly despises the things we took so seriously when we were founding our city, namely, that unless someone had transcendent natural gifts, he'd never become good unless he played the right games and followed a fine way of life from early childhood? Isn't it magnificent the way it tramples all this underfoot, by giving no thought to what someone was doing before he entered public life and by honoring him if only he tells them that he wishes the majority well?

Yes, it's altogether splendid!

Yes, splendid! Popularly elected leaders are inept nobodies whose only skill is demagoguery and who will probably gravitate toward tyranny. Yay! Splat.
Tags: mit, politics

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