1:29:17 A Platonic Slide Into Tyranny

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama wrote an essay "The End of History." The end-point for humanity's social evolution was Liberal Democracy. Not coincidentally, 1989 witnessed the fall of communism.

[Plato]

The decades to follow have not been kind to Fukuyama's Liberal Democracy thesis. Detractors labelled it Western cultural hegemony, and Fukuyama's End of History seemed more a victory lap, if you will, at the end of the Cold War, and history--if paused--resumed.

Recently, I was reading about how governments evolve. The author wrote this before any national republic or democracy existed on the face of the planet. Yes, nearly 2,400 years [380 BCE] ago Plato wrote The Republic.

Plato, of course, is famous for proposing the best form of governance is one overseen by a Philosopher King, a ruler for whom love of knowledge is paramount. Only this royal figure in an Aristocracy form of governance displays human virtue in all its aspects and has a free, unfettered soul desiring the best for all.

But Plato, idealist and realist, knew Aristocracy was subject to change. In Books VIII and IX, he details, after Aristocracy, four other forms of government. Each “devolves” from its higher form. Thus, Aristocracy changes into Timocracy, with honor as a value taking the place of love of knowledge. Timocracy will change into Oligarchy with an overarching value of pursuit of wealth by the ruling few. Oligarchy generates its replacement, Democracy, whose overriding priority is freedom for all. But the freedom or license of Democracy, in time, can lead to the last form: Tyranny.

Alas, Plato changes the topic before telling how the slide into Tyranny can be reversed.

But are we now truly immune to the slide of the Platonic forms? Does the character of our United States of America keep us away from the slipping point?

Plato warns we in a Democracy can become too full of our liberties and freedoms, unable to distinguish satisfying necessary desires from unnecessary desires. A libertine population becomes slave to lust and starves its soul of virtue. Our future is youth that get lost in the country of lotus-eaters. Our freedoms are entitlements, unearned by civic duty.

Plato says of the tyrant: “And you know that a man who is deranged and not right in his mind, will fancy that he is able to rule, not only over men, but also over gods?”

Gods are what our American value of religious tolerance respects. The question today is, Where does one sign up for this national Muslim registry?

Image credit: stenudd.com


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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection [and feel free to share with a friend] The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.



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