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Plato’s Republic - The Shadows Are Dancing Again

 
EN
 
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EN
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10 January 2016 07:41
 

I’m restarting this thread - the original thread was lost in the Great Christmas Massacre of 2015.  The discussion is confined to subjects from Plato’s Republic.

Plato argues that democracy leads to tyranny.  Is this inevitable?  We’ve survived 239 years with a democratic republic, and while some presidents have verged on being “imperial”, none has ended up a tyrant.  By the end of the second term, they all seem ready and willing to leave (with the exception of FDR), and the public is generally tired of them.  But I can see how a tyranny could develop. As the nation becomes more and more polarized with a two party system, the candidate that is prepared to cater to his/her party’s extremists is the one who will be nominated.  If he/she wins in the general, you can end up with a more extreme president, willing to do more to move the country to one extreme or another. If successful, the seeds of tyranny have been sowed.  Discuss.

 
Jefe
 
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10 January 2016 08:01
 

If a particular president runs on a particular platform, and has the opportunity to load the SCOTUS with like-minded judges, that can be tyrannical.
If a majority of the population continues to vote in presidents who continue to load the SCOTUS with politically aligned judges that can lead to a tyranny of the majority - where the politics of the country follow a majority that may be hostile or harmful to the minority.

If Plato was referring to pure democracy and not to a democratic republic, then the the tyranny of the majority has less infrastructure to infect in order to achieve that state.

So yes, it is entirely possible to have tyranny within a democracy.

Imagine if an ultra-conservative majority were to form in several key states that wanted to totally do away with contraception - and make it illegal.
That would probably feel pretty tyrannical to those who were denied the choice contraception brings.

 
 
burt
 
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10 January 2016 08:11
 

Kurt Gödel was being driven to take his US citizenship test by Oppenheimer and Einstein. Along the way he said that he had made an extensive study of the constitution and found a flaw that would allow a fascist regime to come to power. He was warned not to mention this to the citizenship judge.

 
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10 January 2016 09:08
 
EN - 10 January 2016 07:41 AM

I’m restarting this thread - the original thread was lost in the Great Christmas Massacre of 2015.  The discussion is confined to subjects from Plato’s Republic.

Plato argues that democracy leads to tyranny.  Is this inevitable?  We’ve survived 239 years with a democratic republic, and while some presidents have verged on being “imperial”, none has ended up a tyrant.  By the end of the second term, they all seem ready and willing to leave (with the exception of FDR), and the public is generally tired of them.  But I can see how a tyranny could develop. As the nation becomes more and more polarized with a two party system, the candidate that is prepared to cater to his/her party’s extremists is the one who will be nominated.  If he/she wins in the general, you can end up with a more extreme president, willing to do more to move the country to one extreme or another. If successful, the seeds of tyranny have been sowed.  Discuss.

Democracy leads to tyranny because people are stupid.

The absence of a free unbiased press is destroying us.

 
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10 January 2016 10:58
 
burt - 10 January 2016 08:11 AM

Kurt Gödel was being driven to take his US citizenship test by Oppenheimer and Einstein. Along the way he said that he had made an extensive study of the constitution and found a flaw that would allow a fascist regime to come to power. He was warned not to mention this to the citizenship judge.

didn’t know that LOVE IT!

We can learn a valuable lesson from this: NEVER ELECT A MATHEMATICIAN!
Luckily, there is no chance of that in the US ...

 
 
EN
 
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10 January 2016 11:31
 
jdrnd - 10 January 2016 09:08 AM
EN - 10 January 2016 07:41 AM

I’m restarting this thread - the original thread was lost in the Great Christmas Massacre of 2015.  The discussion is confined to subjects from Plato’s Republic.

Plato argues that democracy leads to tyranny.  Is this inevitable?  We’ve survived 239 years with a democratic republic, and while some presidents have verged on being “imperial”, none has ended up a tyrant.  By the end of the second term, they all seem ready and willing to leave (with the exception of FDR), and the public is generally tired of them.  But I can see how a tyranny could develop. As the nation becomes more and more polarized with a two party system, the candidate that is prepared to cater to his/her party’s extremists is the one who will be nominated.  If he/she wins in the general, you can end up with a more extreme president, willing to do more to move the country to one extreme or another. If successful, the seeds of tyranny have been sowed.  Discuss.

Democracy leads to tyranny because people are stupid.

The absence of a free unbiased press is destroying us.

In Texas we grow stupid as a cash crop.  Some very, very smart people are here, but they are out-numbered, and in democracy numbers matter.  As a republic, we have some assistance from term limits.  I’m fine with term limits for all, as that prevents some dumbasses from staying in office too long.

[ Edited: 10 January 2016 11:35 by EN]
 
hannahtoo
 
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10 January 2016 15:07
 

Thank you for posting this thread.  I never learned about classics, so have been reading a bit now. 

I think Plato is assuming that people are born with character (gold, silver, bronze).  I would say that character is built through education and life experiences.  So education is the key.  I know our school systems have some major problems, but somehow most people in democratic countries are brought up at least giving lip service to freedom and rights and equality.  A person doesn’t have to be golden to understand the basic concepts because they are in fact largely “self-evident.”  Or at least they appeal to the human psyche in much the same deep way that religious principles do.

It is interesting that it is not “the unruly mob” who exercise political power.  It seems that the more educated you are, the more likely to vote.

 
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10 January 2016 16:43
 

Education is the key. Without it you cannot have a successful democracy, and tyrants will find it easier to manipulate the masses.

[ Edited: 23 February 2016 16:35 by EN]
 
Dennis Campbell
 
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10 January 2016 17:38
 

In Texas we grow stupid as a cash crop.  Some very, very smart people are here, but they are out-numbered, and in democracy numbers matter.  As a republic, we have some assistance from term limits.  I’m fine with term limits for all, as that prevents some dumbasses from staying in office too long.

We’ve got more than a few here as well, in Wisconsin.  Agree re education above.  Democracy, poorly executed by ignorant people, can result in a dictatorship; does not reverse without a lot of blood spilled.

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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10 January 2016 17:51
 

It’s been a long time since I read the Republic so I’m fuzzy on details. I do remember the sorting of people into a rigid class system. But I have to say I liked the idea of philosopher-kings. Not the king part, but the idea of a thinker as the head of state. For all his faults, at least Obama is an intellectual. I found George W. Bush terrifying more because of his rejection of intellectualism—decision by gut instinct—than anything else. When are we going to have another university professor president? Not that Woodrow Wilson is faring well in popular opinion today.

 
 
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10 January 2016 18:31
 
KathleenBrugger - 10 January 2016 05:51 PM

It’s been a long time since I read the Republic so I’m fuzzy on details. I do remember the sorting of people into a rigid class system. But I have to say I liked the idea of philosopher-kings. Not the king part, but the idea of a thinker as the head of state. For all his faults, at least Obama is an intellectual. I found George W. Bush terrifying more because of his rejection of intellectualism—decision by gut instinct—than anything else. When are we going to have another university professor president? Not that Woodrow Wilson is faring well in popular opinion today.

I watched a lot of Obama’s town hall re gun control.  I thought he sounded so logical and convincing.  Then I watched a reporter interview members of a gun club who watched the town hall together.  These appeared to be middle class white folks with education.  Basically, they all felt Obama was lying, and his ulterior motive was to set the country on the slippery slope to gun confiscation.  So much for the intellectual approach.

 
Dennis Campbell
 
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10 January 2016 19:19
 

Fear not.  We may have Trump.

 
 
EN
 
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10 January 2016 19:30
 

Plato could not have foreseen the effect of 24 hour cable news, social media, and the Internet in general, but he did see the horror of the unthinking masses gaining control.  Reason doesn’t have a chance, especially now when idiots think they actually have something to say.

 
Cheshire Cat
 
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10 January 2016 20:11
 

But I can see how a tyranny could develop. As the nation becomes more and more polarized with a two party system, the candidate that is prepared to cater to his/her party’s extremists is the one who will be nominated.  If he/she wins in the general, you can end up with a more extreme president, willing to do more to move the country to one extreme or another. If successful, the seeds of tyranny have been sowed.

Hmmm.

Did anyone besides me think of a President Donald Trump when reading the above sentences?

 
 
Poldano
 
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10 January 2016 22:54
 

First, I need to get some the sarcasm off my chest.

(1) When did the shadows ever stop dancing?

(2) According to Schopenhauer, we are shadows too, at least with respect to how we describe and explain ourselves.

In the original thread, I expressed simply that I didn’t think the Republic led to a plausible government, simply because it was not possible for any person to approach the level of rationality (Platonic perfection) required of a Guardian. Recent findings (relative to Plato, anyway) on emotional requirements for decision making tend to support this with hard evidence.

With respect to Plato’s fears of democracy, I agree. I think the U.S. founders were also concerned about this, being for the most part either classically educated or aristocrats by birth, or both. That is one of the reasons for tripartite government with an independent judiciary and tiered representation (republican political structure).

Woodrow Wilson (because he was referred to above) came rather close to dictatorship in some of the things he did to advance the war effort (WWI). Had he or his Democratic Party heir gotten in front of the isolationist movement, and made alliances with certain big business interests in support of prohibition, Democrats might have held the presidency through the 1920’s. At some point, some crisis might have spurred the suppression of political liberties that fascism requires to become entrenched. Prohibition itself was somewhat of a fascist movement, in particular in the way the 18th Amendment was herded through state legislatures in cases where the actual voting majorities didn’t reflect actual public opinion but the fear of reprisal amid peaking demagogic influence.

What prevents fascism in the U.S. is the jealousy of power at the level of the States’ governments. When the States show signs of achieving a supermajority in favor of a particularly charismatic demagogue, and when this is also reflected in the makeup of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, then the “stars are in perfect alignment” for the election of a fascist as POTUS. This is quite difficult to achieve, but it can be done. Bringing about an actual Constitutional Fascism requires somewhat more, because it requires watering down the current U.S. Constitution’s protections of political liberties. A legislative branch insufficiently educated in history, political science, and (more and more) general science, could enable the political manipulation that would be necessary to change the Constitution so. Perhaps that is what Kurt Gödel perceived as the flaw in the constitution.

(Thanks for the umlaut, Twissell.)

 
 
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11 January 2016 11:19
 

I have more hope for the American system of government than seems to be shown here because Americans have been through worse than 24-hour news cycles which make money by reporting bad news.  As long as we keep the lines of communication open we can work out issues and find common ground before we give up and split up into Third World kleptocracies.  Our system works pretty well compared to many others but, like everything else, it require maintenance, adjustments, and adaptations from time to time.

When I hear folks on both sides of the political lines bellyache about how this country is going downhill I think of two things:
1. Where is it better and how can we copy it?
2. When hasn’t someone said, “This country is going downhill?!”  When things are great, the Negative Nancys say it won’t last (no shit, it never does), and when things are bad the Negative Nancys say, “I told you so!” and tell us to prepare for a collapse.

Yeah, and in five billion years the sun will expand and burn up this planet and everything we have worked for will be forgotten.  It’s easy and lazy to claim The End Is Near™ because there always is one, but that doesn’t mean we should curl up at the first cry that the sky is falling.

 
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