The (Philosophical) Demise of Democracy

Of late, there’s been much debate about the collapse of authority in the UK.   It would appear a consensus  of sorts has finally been reached this is not a good thing.  However the hope is the new government will sort it all out for us.  I wonder.

In The Republic, Plato reminds us that just as surely as Democracy evolves from Oligarchy (a system of government where the rich rule the poor), that Democracy evolves into Tyranny.  While the first transition results from an excess of wealth, the later results from an excess of freedom.  He provides some startlingly scary examples of the warning signs:

“Father and son, citizen and foreigner, old and young are all on a level; fathers and teachers fear their sons and pupils, and the wisdom of the young man is a match for the elder, and the old imitate the jaunty manners of the young because they are afraid of being thought morose.  Slaves are on level with their masters and mistresses, and there is no difference between men and women.  Nay, the very animals in a democratic State have a freedom which is unknown in other places.”

Plato then goes on to remind us that bloated with desire to do whatever we wish whenever we wish, the citizens of democracy will at last become so sensitive we no longer can endure ‘the yoke of laws’.

This is the beginning of the end.

“… for there is a law of contraries: the excess of freedom passes into the excess of slavery, and the greater the freedom the greater the slavery.”

It happens like this: because law and order have vanished, the disgruntled citizenry elect a champion to seize control.  All goes well until inevitably, the champion oversteps his bounds.  When the citizenry tries to remove him, they discover their champion turned tyrant is even more lawless than they.

I suggest that a little more respect for authority won’t kill us and in regards to freedom, a little less emphasis on our ‘rights’ might help us come to terms our  ‘responsibilities’.   Don’t leave the preservation of what you hold most dear to the government.  You might not be too pleased if you do.

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