Saturday, March 12, 2016

Brief Analysis on Plato’s Politics

It occurs to me that the sentiments of Plato in The Republic are some of the sentiments of the Anti-Communist Conservative and Libertarian fringe in America.  The kind that fears of “too much freedom” and tyranny through the majority or tyranny through free things.  Plato talks about how the Oligarchic stage of the State becomes the Democratic.  Where everyone has an abundance of freedom and there is an emphasis on equality and freedom. 
The aspiring tyrant however, uses the populism of the “greedy” majority and promises to redistribute wealth.  He frees the slaves and makes them his body guards and establishes his power in the promise of satisfying the ever-growing desires of the Polis.  This is similar to the Christian Right that criticize consumerism (it isn’t common but it’s out there) and what they deem the Liberal emphasis on “free stuff” that they claim (ala Hayek’s Road to Serfdom) will lead to a tyranny and the rights of the people (especially “hard-working” land owners) being taken like in the Soviet Union – so they claim.
In this Tyranny, the worst do best and the best are either killed or nullified by the tyrant, much like in the Soviet Union where Josef Stalin killed many a loyal Communist, many of whom had an honorable military record or service to the State in some way, because their goodness and virtue posed a threat to his power – or so he thought.
It’s strange that he finds Tyranny to be the worst, and that Tyranny is the form of government that, coming from democratic sentiments and sensibilities, appeals to the masses the most – once again something that a Conservative or Libertarian would criticize of the “tyranny” of Socialism.  Timocracy, government by the military is given considerably less description and for him is not a tyranny.  So a military state like Hero Hito’s Japan would not be a tyranny but a society that professes populist sentiments either is or is well on the way.  It shows the anti-democratical sentiments in his philosophy, viewing all Democracy as having the mentality or functioning of an Ochlocracy.
Also, in Plato’s Republic, justice is defined as everyone minding their own business and doing what they’re best equipped at.  If interpreted in a certain light, this could be seen as a form of Meritocracy that Libertarians believe Capitalism is the natural realization of.  Now, of course the Philosopher King will stick his nose in other people’s business, but only when he reasons it is objectively right and for the virtue and well-being of the Polis – not for his own power and not out of populist sentiments of people having a right to health care or free education.  This is certainly something Conservatives would be in favor of, considering they are against business regulations but love laws that limit the freedom of the individual if it in theory benefits society (e.g. drug laws, ban on homosexuality, gambling, etc.).
Aristotle favors the individual more than the welfare of the state, but is still very Conservative in his sentiments of not wanting to give the poor too much in land or power and obeying one’s superior as proper and just.  Aristotle might then be seemed to be more of an American Conservative who has emphasis on individual rights (in some areas) while Plato is more of an Old World Conservative who doesn’t have the Liberal aspects the American Conservative is unaware of (or is unaware that it is traditionally Liberal; America being foundationally Liberal).
The one area that doesn’t fit this narrative well at-all is the Tyrant’s bloodlust in needing to constantly start new wars to keep the people distracted and keep taxes high.  Obviously warfare is something that Conservatives favor far-more than Progressives, and America was far-more involved militarily in the world than the Soviet Union was – at-least directly.  But I suppose someone might say that a Timocracy would naturally be keen to go to war as well, since this is what warriors know the best.
Ultimately I find this interesting, but don’t think Plato’s depictions of things carry much weight.  At the most this is an analysis of the Christian mindset that values what is “right” (what is set-out by God) over the will or even needs of the majority – essentially Democratic values.  I’ve heard that medieval societies were fairly close to Plato’s conception of the proper state and I can see it.
Here is a video of a talk that a past professor of mine gave on Plato’s Republic and its hypothetical connection to our ecological and dietary concerns:

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