The Reason Plato Hated Democracy

Democracy is the most popular system of governance followed across the globe. The idea, whose birthplace were Athens, was initially practiced as direct democracy which gave every male adult citizen a direct say in the legislation of the region. The Athenian democracy, founded by Cleisthenes and Pericles was based on freedom of citizens and on equality of citizens. The idea trickles down and evolves into empowering citizens of any area again, based on a similar slogan “democracy for the people, from the people, by the people”.

Athenian democracy is said to be the birthplace of democracy for all form of democratic system of governments across the globe. Popularly practiced as indirect democracy, Athens played a key role in changing how politics operated for ages to come. While it had its fair share of overwhelming supporters, critics existed even back in Athens including the famous Classical Greek philosopher and founders of Western philosophy, Socrates.

Surprisingly, Socrates never exactly hated democracy but rather criticized it. He rather claimed that voting was a skill which required critical thought which required concern for social welfare and the welfare of the state instead of self interest. He also believed that a vote for everyone stood in opposition to expertise. While democracy reinforced freedom of individuals, he argued that order was to be preferred over the freedom democracy instilled in the hands of a common man. His open dialogue for the pessimism with which he saw the affairs of the state at the end stood a reason why he was executed by the assembly.

Plato believed that the decision of voting could not rest on basic human intuition. The skill required an educated citizenry making that decision and without that state of a citizenry, democracy was as putting them in charge of a trireme sailing to Samos in a storm Plato, the student of Socrates, describes in Book Six of The Republic Socrates falling into conversation with a character called Adeimantus where he convinces him to see the flaws of democracy by comparing a society to a ship. If you were heading out on a journey by sea, asked Socrates, who would be ideall7 deciding who was in charge of the vessel? Just anyone or people educated in the rules and demands of seafaring? The latter of course, says Adeimantus. Socrates then questioned why we kept thinking that any old person was fit to judge who should be a ruler of a country?

He spoke of his philosophic point of view at a time it was opposed so much so that opposers included the state itself. Socrates opinion of the order holding the precedence over freedom was an unpopular kind, but a point to ponder nevertheless. The control given to the common man promotes freedom but it would inevitably lead anarchy as everyone would make decisions based on the interests of the self-leading to a huge conflict of interest while long term goals of the state and its well-being will get ignored. It is a question of modern philosophy today.

Maybe democracy is the best system of governance but is our electorate the best to vote?

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