The Unhappy Democracy Essay

976 words - 4 pages

The Unhappy Democracy

Abstract

Plato/Socrates defined democracy as "the government of the people." He modeled his democratic society after Athens at the time, a small city-state where every adult male had a vote. The transition to democracy occurred after a revolution in which the rich oligarchic rulers were overthrown and disposed of and the poor gained control. Then, they provided everyone with equal rights. Democracy was characterized as a “bazaar of constitutions" where every citizen chose his own path in life. There was no obligatory military service, no privileged classes, and those that claim to love society were able to acquire the most power. Individuals may have desired honor in the morning and wealth in the evening. There was no consistent goal that individuals pursued and their desires changed constantly. However, democracy, unlike other imperfect societies, did not forbid the practice of philosophy; it had been indifferent to it. Eventually, "Things everywhere are just bursting with the spirit of liberty." Soon children disobey parents, students disobey teachers, and a disregard towards authority develops. Citizens become divided into three classes: the ruling class of spendthrift politicians, the middle businessman/merchant class, and the large mass of poor people who own little property and mostly stay out of politics. The politicians begin to pass laws that tax the capitalists in order to meet their spending promises. Next, a reactionary political party was formed by the wealthy in order to resist the taxes. After a while, the poor became frustrated with all of the disorder and selected a “champion of the people” who eventually acquired absolute power and corrupted by it to become a tyrant who would disregard all aspects of freedom in order to fulfill his individual desires.

Plato/Socrates made a valid point as to why democracy is clearly not the best form of state, but only fourth out five, behind only despotism. Defenders of democracy may feel that this was an unfair criticism since democracy is the form of government that allows for the most individualistic freedom, which makes it the best form of government. This school of thoughts assumes that freedom brings the most happiness to people, which is the goal every state ought to strive for. However, Plato/Socrates was correct in his assessment of democracy not only because it was the second worst form of government, but also because in the end, happiness for individuals was not achieved. Democratic states do not produce happiness since individuals’ freedoms interfere with one another, stability is absent in this society, and that the pursuit of freedom is misguided.

First of all, individuals in a democracy trample on each others freedoms. For instance, a merchant may achieve a monopoly in a certain area and use his freedom to charge citizens excessive prices for a good or a builder may build houses on territory needed for grazing livestock. Their lives are guided...

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