Plato and Individual Liberty

In Western culture, democracy is deemed as the most appropriate and efficient government to run and manage a state. Citizens of a state like to feel as though they are making some sort of contribution to how they are being governed, and because of this, very few bother to inquire about its effectiveness and whether or not it is really the most adequate system of government. A dictatorship, or the system of guardianship that Plato proposed, is greatly frowned upon by many and is often overlooked.

Plato, being an anti-democratic, has challenged democracy and has suggested that a democracy would not be the best government for a state. One way he proves this is through the notion of craft analogy. This is a very simple idea that speaks volumes about the default of democracy. In order to be successful at an occupation “a special training is necessary, and not everyone is naturally capable even of acquiring the skill” (Wolff 68). In other words, it takes expertise, training and credentials to be qualified for any job, and governing a state is no exception.

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The same way a construction worker is not a reliable source for medical advice, ordinary people are not dependable candidates to be political leaders. Plato uses the example of crew members on a ship. The ship cannot reach the intended destination without a captain who can navigate. No one else on the ship was taught to navigate and therefore is not qualified to do so. Nobody knew that “the true navigator must study the season of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds, and all the other subjects appropriate to his profession” (Wolff 66).

Plato believes that a state can only progress if trained professionals are behind its development, and not ignorant, ill educated people. Although Plato brings up a valid point, there are counter arguments that can be made to contradict him. The primary focus of any political entity should be to appeal to the precise needs of the people. A government is responsible for making the decisions that will produce the most happiness and the most progress. Seeing as how a democracy is a government that is a direct product of the people, it would seem most appropriate.

One of the most basic of all human rights is everyone’s freedom of expression, which is recognized as “the right to say or print anything one wishes” (Qualter 64). Democracy is a result of human expression, therefore to deny this means to strip the people of their most fundamental liberties. On a grander scale, without the right to speak out, “no other claim can be asserted…and if any other right or claim is denied, no protest can be made” (Qualter 64). Any specific demands of the people would fall upon deaf ears in the absence of free speech.

According to Plato, a state ruled by philosopher kings, functions in accordance to the common good. However, it is the government, in this case, that establishes what the common good is. Philosopher kings are expected to know what is best for the people. If the people are not satisfied with the decisions made by the government, regardless of whether or not they were made with the best intentions, the entire system could potentially collapse and descend into anarchy because, with despotism, the people have no other way of expressing their disproval.

In essence, democracy is arguably the more sufficing form of government because it is effective in generating the overall utility of the people. In support of Plato’s anti-democratic position, democracy is a very deceiving and easily corruptible form of government. There are several reasons for this. One of the most evident problems with democracy is that it segregates the population into a minority and majority. Democratic foundation is based upon the votes of people who, in reality, are to ignorant and lack credentials and education for their voice to be the contributing factor that it is.

These are the people who make up the majority of voters, and this can prove to be extremely detrimental to the progression and development of a state. Majority voters tend to vote based upon own interest, without fully analysing what is best, and usually vote for the most popular candidate. Democracy, although is believed to be a government of equality, is bias towards the minority, which usually comprise of the people who actually have the knowledge to know what to vote for. The minority must succumb to the will of the majority solely because of power in numbers.

Government leaders are aware of this so, because of these reasons, candidates can easily manipulate the people to vote in their favor. “Those who know only one point of view, who never receive any counter-information, are easily persuaded of the rightness of their established ideas” (Qualter 134). Using rhetoric and propaganda, government candidates can fabricate an image that is nothing more than a fallacy, but because they tell citizens what they want to hear and teach them to suppress or neglect any opposing ideas, people are easily deceived.

The general public is simply incapable of seeing past the veil of duplicity because of sheer ignorance. That is how a corrupt government is born. Humanity is no stranger to these events occurring. The best example of this happening is during World War II and Adolf Hitler’s reign of tyranny. Hitler committed arguably one of the most atrocious crimes in human history, orchestrating the mass genocide of millions. In the aftermath of his rule, the world began to question why they would give such a cruel man absolute power over the state.

What many people fail to realize is that Hitler did not use hostile methods to get to power; he was elected by the people. He used manipulation tactics, as previously mentioned, to create a false image. He used lies to elude what his true intentions were and showed people the leader they wanted, and when he was elected into power, overtime he revealed his true intentions. The primary concept of democracy and majority vote led to the Holocaust, and this clearly proves that democracy is potentially one of the most dysfunctional forms of government.

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