Democracy for Dummies

Yet another thread originates from a Portland bus ride.  Yesterday I had to suffer a rather loud and obnoxious, semi-literate, twang-belching redneck with a giant cross around his neck attempting to publicly broadcast his opinion about the so called bailout.  At some point, very predictably, he held up his cross and Mr. Jesus barged into the soliloquy.  Come November this bus rider is going to vote, one can count on it.  Well, I thought to myself, thank you democracy for giving every moron a voice.

For the last half decade I have been struggling with the rise of Platonic sentiments in my political inclinations.  As my respect for democracy has dwindled and disappeared, I have often found myself espousing bits and pieces of the old philosopher’s position on the subject.   When I got home last night I tried to find some quick refresher material.  I immediately ran into an excerpt from  Jorn K. Bramann’s book Educating Rita and Other Philosophical Movies.  It is an excellent introduction to Plato’s criticism of democracy as the lowly form of government that it is. A position that I am firmly committing to henceforth.


8 Responses to “Democracy for Dummies”

  1. endithinks Says:

    Democracy means you have to take the good with the bad. the alternative is selction and that is a scary path to start down. Was the passenger upset by the bailout or in support of it? And how did he intwine Jesus into modern day economics?

  2. Products of democracy are no less scary. The article on Platonic position on democracy I refer to reminds its reader of Hitler’s ascent on that very platform. But we don’t need to go to something even that dated. In our own times we have seen the rise of intellectually challenged and dangerously belligerent leaders the world over. In more than one country, based on what I have seen in personal experience, increased levels of enfranchisement co-relates with increased levels of hatred, violence, economic degeneration, corruption, and a host of measurably bad things. Not merely co-incidentally but causally. Whatever be the good things that democracy has to offer, their awful concomitant are not acceptable.

    I am guessing that by “the alternative is selction [sic]” edithinks means “the alternative is the choice of a few.” As opposed to the choice of everyone? At least in the way things are done in most democratic nations, majority takes the day. Electoral positions adopted are rarely everyone’s choice. Too often, far fewer than all get to trump the others on narrow margins.

    But that is not even the point. The Platonic point is that the populace can’t be trusted, it is incapable of making good choices. Its decision mechanism is non-rational, or worse, irrational. And even if the decision mechanism was rational, it does not possess the necessary knowledge, time, wisdom or expertise. One can argue and agree or disagree with his theory as to how and why that is. Personally I have seen the intellectual inadequacy of the masses he speaks of more times than I can count. So, it doesn’t matter whether the rider in question was for or against the particular electoral issue. He may be right this time, or he may be wrong. In the long run he will be wrong more often than not. His inclusion of religious rhetoric in an issue that has nothing to do with religion is relevant only to the extent that it exemplifies his irrationality. Reality can’t be grappled with using a dice.

  3. wholepair Says:

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  4. endithinks Says:

    I know that Plato thought that the best form of government was a Philosopher King or a varied version of a Benelevant Dictator, but how can we reconcile that with today’s America?

  5. What we have in America is a political chimera, a conglomeration of the worst attributes of oligarchy, plutocracy, and democracy. I can not conceive of a viable formula to directly fix it. It may very well be a lost cause. We’ll all have to do the best we can. Towards that all I can say is that collusion is not the answer. It soils one’s hands, and merely delays the natural sequence of events. Beyond which something better may come about.

    “Philosopher king” is just a label for someone who is actually intellectually equipped and qualified to run a society. We train our pilots, we train our doctors, we train our engineers, we train our soldiers, we train our teachers. Yet from those to whom we delegate the highest responsibilities of all, we require no intellectual and educational qualifications whatsoever. I can imagine a society in which civic leadership is a profession, one for which the practitioners are required to be specifically and rigorously trained, after demonstrating an inclination, aptitude and talent from the earliest age. A profession that has licensing requirements, with which are associated highest standards of ethical conduct. I can see a council of such professionals, mentored, quality-controlled and appointed from within, generation after generation, performing the functions of the “philosopher kings.”

    Can we get there from here? Wielders of power are never voluntary yielders of power. This sort of argument usually leads to the doorsteps of violent revolution. Somehow I can’t see that as being applicable to the society of philosopher kings. Theirs is the power of the mind, not muscle. That leaves one option. Subterfuge.

    PS: I think that is Platonic position also.

  6. endithinks Says:

    Wow what an interesting point of view on the idea to train those that would lead us. It reminds me of the ancient Chinese system of training politicians in schools and having to take tests and prove they are capable statesmen. Would you mind if I blog about this and use our conversation?

  7. endithinks, feel free to use the conversation. Do post a linkback or something if you can, so my readers can follow back to you. Thanks.

  8. […] Democracy for Dummies by njmalhq […]

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