Democracy vs Tyranny Characteristics: While comparing Democracy vs Tyranny characterisitcs it is essential to consider the benefits and demerits of both the types of governments. You don’t, after all, shoot Santa Claus. The idea that we should all be in charge of deciding our own fate certainly is more conducive to promoting freedom than if we had a tyrant to tell everybody what to do. Thus, in a way, what Plato is really going to describe is how Democracy, becomes a Tyrannical Democracy (Anarchy), becomes a Tyrannical Oligarchy. The key to understanding this is understanding that democracy and oligarchy both breed the vice of excess “greed” in people because democracy is too liberal and equal (which allows for the vice of excess due to its lack of restraints), and oligarchy is based on the accumulation of wealth and power (it is too focused on the vice of excess). TIP: See our discourses on Rome, Sparta, and Athens for how different sorts of popular governments dealt with democracy and class warfare… and how they ended. Thus, any reading of a summary of the theory should really be paired with at least a quick skim of those books and a close reading of Republic Book VIII and Book IX. Here our focus is to introduce the basics pertaining to how Democracy becomes Tyranny, not to summarize every aspect of Plato’s work pertaining to the ideal soul/city/class system etc. But 150 years ago he could not exactly foresee that the parliamentary scene would produce two main types of parties: the Santa Claus parties, predominantly on the Left, and the Tighten-Your-Belt parties, more or less on the Right. The idea states that democracy is temporary in nature. The should-be-producer/but-now-tyrant-in-training rises to the top, crushing other oligarchs as a champion of the punch-drunk people. Thus this page not only explains Plato’s Theory of how democracy leads to tyranny according to Plato (or more specifically, to Plato’s Socrates who is the main character of the book), it also offers insight into his related metaphors (as we have already done a bit above). But this is not the type of democracy in existence in the West. Every nation thinks it is perfect, but every drunk thinks themselves to be infallible. Moderation, temperance, or whatever you want to call it, is perhaps the highest virtue of the state (its arete). Maybe what we see now is democracy becoming tyranny (certainly the U.S. has become more democratic over time)? This is the story of figures like Napoleon, Caesar, and Hitler. This process can be much more paralyzing than a mere personal dictatorship, military or otherwise, without an ideological and totalitarian character. December 28, 2016 . tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to; and this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage. This portentous development lured the French aristocrat to the New World where he wanted to observe the global advance of “democratism,” in his opinion and to his dismay bound to penetrate everywhere and to end in either anarchy or the New Tyranny—which he referred to as “democratic despotism.” The road to anarchy is more apt to be taken by South Europeans and South Americans (and it usually terminates in military dictatorships in order to prevent total dissolution), whereas the northern nations, while keeping all democratic appearances, tend to founder in totalitarian welfare bureaucracy. In cycles of tyranny and subjugation it can involve the secret police and participants to create justification to reduce civil rights, justify a crackdown on population, ..,. Or, is it that George was a Monarch and the U.S. founded as a Timocracy? Socialism, whether national or international, will act in the name of “distributive justice,” as well as “social justice” and “progress,” and thus gain popularity. This may have had an innocent beginning with Roosevelt’s Plan of Action to end the great depression. We naturally desire things that bring our ruin in excess. Our “mixed constitution” was purposefully structured to ensure American virtues via the law. There is capitalism, liberty, and some equality… but law and order hold together the society and the philosopher king and honorable warriors always defend the virtues of the state. To get a hedge of … and how does he live, in happiness or in misery?” – Book IX. Under this type of democracy one could properly say that the majority rules and thus the threat of a tyranny of the masses is real. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. There is, in fact, only either just or unjust discrimination. Democrats and Republicans got their names from the Greeks, but their modern ruling style in practice has little to nothing to do with the conversation. Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing? Profligates are usually more popular than misers. But Trump is not the main story. For those who don’t want to be subjected to decades of rule with glimpses of hope, action must be taken sooner. With that said, we know (like Plato knew) that not everyone is this virtuous or inclined to be virtuous, but that is why Plato strongly advocates for his class system (which is also a metaphor for the soul, in both cases balance of powers is key to the theory). So let’s turn to his guidance. The political economy of democracy and tyranny 703 Arrow and the chaos problems as important matters to address. Thus, a “classless society” becomes the real aim, and every kind of discrimination must come to an end. The Tighten-Your-Belt parties, if they unexpectedly gain power, generally act more wisely, but they rarely have the courage to undo the policies of the Santa parties. Stopping a tyrant after they have seized total power illegally takes a war or natural death, exile is often tried, but it is often just met with the return of Napoleon or Lenin… which resolves into Stalin (i.e. This is less a judgement call and more a truism of human nature… according to Plato at least (Plato notes how excesses naturally cause paradoxical reactions in all things). The North Korean Kim family were not stopped, they rule a nation so unequal we no longer call it democracy, we call it despotism. In Italy the Marcia su Roma of the Fascists made them the rulers of the country. Although wealth is the most corrupting of the virtues (when it becomes greed), it actually has a few perks over pure liberty and equality (which become extreme quickly as mob rule sets in), as at least oligarchy has some semblance of order and restraints. National Socialism was the “legal revolt” of the common man against the uncommon, of the “people” (Volk) against privileged and therefore envied and hated groups. The problem being that liberty in an extreme is just as corrupting as extreme authority, with the same being true for equality and inequality. Ian Shapiro: Tyranny and Democracy: Reflections on Some Recent Literature Robert Dahl, A Preface to Democratic Theory , expanded edition, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 2006, 200pp., hardback $39.00, ISBN 978-0-226- 13433-8; paperback $15.00, ISBN 978-0-226-13434-5 Charles Tilly, Democracy , Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007, 246 pp., hardback $65.00, ISBN 978-0 … The answer is simple: being a mass movement striving for a parliamentary majority, they singled out unpopular minorities (the smaller, the better) and then rallied popular support against them. Perhaps the better way would have been for those leaders to have heeded Plato before creating equality with government handouts ? Tytler said the cycle starts out with a society in bondage. he asked "does not tyranny spring from democracy," they're sometimes surprised, thinking it's a shocking connection. The producer and artist are free to seek vice, a perfect liberty afforded to them, but because of this, they should not rule (so yes, Plato is a bit of an authoritarian and conservative and doesn’t extend this liberty in his Republic like a democracy would). The point is balance is key in all aspects of life, and the state is no exception. He also jumps around a lot, and some of what I described above comes from his other works! This way some can be driven by truth, some honor, and some the vices… each fulfilling a necessary role in the state. ‘cease”–I think you mean ‘seize’ When the governor, however entitled, makes not the law, but his will, the rule, and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties Added to that, the later historical development showed that rather than to … To explain this another way, governments based on the virtues of liberty, equality, and/or wealth only (just those with no “checks and balances“) tend to produce chaos and naturally result in tyranny over time due to a lack the proper restraints (true for a soul, a person, a community, a state, etc). Our rich cherished more than schools, spirituality tossed aside for liberal vice seeking. America has since cast off the old ways and embraced direct voting on Senators via the 17th Amendment and a popular state-based “winner-take-all” voting system that favors the minority via state based law and custom…. Be wary of shallow readings. Oh, that and we live in a state that is becoming increasingly democratic and oligarchical despite its Republican roots. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. If one doesn’t see this as a giant metaphor, if they try to apply too realist a lens, they miss the point of … Not trusting the people to avoid the election of a tyrant, they created a system in which representatives picked the President and Senate and the people picked state and local officials (a “representative” democracy with a separation of powers in a “mixed Republic”). TIP: The most important concept in the Republic, in terms of this idea, is the premise (there are five aspects of government, soul, state, person, etc) and the solution (a system of checks and balances, in the right mix, to avoiding giving too much power to the corrupting but desirable virtues of liberty, equality, and wealth… even though this a the natural desire). The people will start to hate him and eventually try to remove him but will realize they are not able. In his Republic Plato was foreshadowing the rise of tyrants like Caesar and Hitler by showing how extremes of liberty and equality lead to an intolerance of inequality and corruption, and how a populist tyrant arises as a champion of the people to destroy the “corrupt elite class”. In other words, Sullivan seems right to bring us back to the “cycle of regimes” passage of the Republic in light of current events. TIP: The idea here is to treat a city-state (a nation or state, as described in Nicomachean Ethics) as an entity and compare it to a person. The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only. On that note, we also don’t offer professional legal advice, tax advice, medical advice, etc. An example of how this happed occurred in 1933 Germany where a corrupt democracy was followed by tyranny (Fascism). Democracy gets finally destroyed through corruption and thus followed by tyranny and a new sequence. We can get it back, but we need to be strong about it. Well, it isn’t that there is no hope, it is just that any form of government comes with a cautionary tale as Plato notes as he writes down a conversation between Socrates and a man named Glaucon have in the Republic (Book VIII). Tyranny - rule by an individual who had seized power by unconstitutional means. This means that an absolute monarchy could be liberal (but hardly democratic) and a democracy could be totalitarian, illiberal, and tyrannical, with a majority brutally persecuting minorities. Life Cycle of a Democracy. The idea being in all things, finding an effective balance to ensure virtues like liberty, equality, and the pursuit and accumulation of wealth. Democracy then degenerates into tyranny where no one has discipline and society exists in chaos. The National Socialist Workers’ Party was “a popular movement based on exact science” (Hitler’s words), militating against the hated few: the Jews, the nobility, the rich, the clergy, the modern artists, the “intellectuals,” categories frequently overlapping, and finally against the mentally handicapped and the Gypsies. In any nation, in any era, when a Tyrant has seized power, the cycle is perpetuated. Castro was not stopped, his brother now runs Cuba. In his Republic, Plato examines how Democracy can lead to Tyranny in a republic. I don’t really think the USA has ever enjoyed a “Timocracy”…it seems to have pretty-much been an Oligarchy and a Plutocracy all the way through. NOTE: One could see the American revolution as the revolution Plato predicts that Oligarchy ends by. Hobbes’ imagery re-worked to show the forms, the body politic, the head(s) of state, and the arm of the executive and legislative. Dr. Kuehnelt-Leddihn is a European scholar, linguist, world traveler, and lecturer. Most of Plato’s Republic and Plato’s Laws are focused on illustrating these points with a wide array of metaphors and stories. We have to add that in Tocqueville’s time the technology for such a surveillance and regulation was insufficiently developed. From a selfish modern angle, we are looking at how our American Republic was constructed as a safeguard against tyranny, and how our democratic, oligarchical, and at times timocratic (merit-based, honor-based, and militaristic) nature can be a slippery slope toward a tyrannical government (if we forget the original “spirit of the laws” upon which the U.S. was cleverly founded by American thinkers like James Madison; where a love of moderate equality/inequality is a virtue in a Republic, but extreme equality/inequality is a vice). Carl Schmitt, in his 93rd year, analyzed this evolution in a famous essay entitled “The Legal World Revolution”: this sort of revolu-tion-the German Revolution of 1933-simply comes about through the ballot and can happen in any country where a party pledged to totalitarian rule gains a relative or absolute majority and thus takes over the government “democratically.” Plato gave an account of such a procedure which fits, with the fidelity of a Xerox copy, the constitutional transition in Germany: there is the “popular leader” who takes to heart the interest of the “simple people,” of the “ordinary, decent fellow” against the crafty rich. But most of all. A politicized Saint Nicholas is a grim taskmaster. The answer it provides is: regardless of who rules, government must be carried out in such a way that each person enjoys the greatest amount of freedom, compatible with the common good. We know people are naturally greedy, but for Plato, it is the “producer” class (not everyone) that is meant to have the mantra “Greed is Good”. So then, we’ll examine not only Plato’s types of governments, but also the virtues and vices of the type and some tips for defending the Republic. The lack of a common political philosophy is more conducive to the development of outright revolutions in the South where civil wars tend to be “the continuation of parliamentarism with other (and more violent) means,” while the North is rather given to evolutionary processes, to a creeping increase of slavery and a decrease of personal freedom and initiative. See the citations, the book itself, and the videos for details! “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. TIP: Plato’s theory inspired many including Buchanan, Montesquie, Marx, and other thinkers who understood that each government type had “virtues” and was subject to “cycles”. Just follow the money, and you’ll see. Although, perhaps what we are seeing is the start of oligarchy becoming democracy? It is the sort of book that is only properly summarized in more words than are contained in the book in the first place. In summary, on all levels, the more “ideal” forms avoid tyranny because they are at least in part run by the wise and thus they can provide the necessary restraints (note that Plato’s monarchy/aristocracy denotes rule by the wise; not rule by wealthy posh elite hereditary aristocrats specifically)… However, to rule only by those higher forms is to repress one’s self (or the expression of the self within the state as citizens) and thus we see the merits of a system which contains all the forms. As you have likely picked up on already, this theory of how democracy becomes tyranny (and how oligarchy does too) isn’t meant to be understood in isolation. The Santa Claus parties, with presents for the many, normally take from some people to give to others: they operate with largesses, to use the term of John Adams. A limb of the body arises when a tyrant, ceasing on the opportunity, realizes that the frustration can be turned into a battering stick with which to best his political and class rivals. Athens started out as a monarchy, moved to republican reform of government, then moved to pure democracy and than tyranny. Here it is described how the vices of a state lead to tyranny (and generally how oligarchy turns into democracy which turns into tyranny; thus, both oligarchy and democracy have potentially to turn into tyranny under the following conditions). Admittedly, it took several generations until Tocqueville’s vision became a reality. IMPORTANT: This is all a metaphor for the soul and an answer to the question “what is justice”. Cycle of Democracy "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. Needless to say that this verbal policy continues in the “German Democratic Republic” where we see a “People’s Police,” a “People’s Army,” while Moscow’s satellite states are called “People’s Democracies.”, All this implies that in earlier times only the elites had a chance to govern and that now, at long last, the common man is the master of his destiny able to enjoy the good things in life! If you have a ship, you don’t want to vote on navigation, you don’t want the rich or the strong to navigate, and you don’t want to navigate in a state of chaos, you want the best navigator to navigate (in terms of talent and other such factors). That may be fine in some people, but it brings ruin to a state. Literally, that is all there is to it. Because of the excesses of the ruler, the tyranny is overthrown by the leading citizens of the state who set up an aristocracy. In his book Plato not only explains the government types, but also compares each classical government type with a man as a metaphor, and offers other metaphors to further illustrate his theory (such as those pertaining to the ideal class system and the ideal soul). Anyway, that is the gist, there is a lot more ground to cover below. A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. Amir Hussain . “[You] desired to know what is that disorder which is generated alike in oligarchy and democracy, and is the ruin of both?” – Plato’s Republic Book VIII. To achieve equal scholastic levels in a school one would have to pressure certain students into extra hard work while holding back others. – Plato’s Socrates. Why did Plato’s Socrates “Hate Democracy?” Because “the many” haven’t spent their life training to be good leaders. Like a sea captain is trained to lead a ship, and like a wise sage knows how to temper their base desires, only the wise who are trained to lead a country should be doing so (this is concept is detailed below; but it is well illustrated by the following images). The tyranny would evolve from the very character of even a liberal democracy because there is, from the beginning on, a worm in the apple: freedom and equality do not mix, they practically exclude each other. Before describing these several patterns of social change, let us state precisely what we mean by “democracy.”. TIP: When this page uses the terms Democracy and Republic, it is referring to the forms of governments, it is not commenting on the modern political parties. The philosopher knows greed, they known honor, they know sensual vices, they know vices of wealth, but for them truth is the highest good and happiness (they have been trained for this and are naturally this way). This is amazing and great, but it allows for corruption. It is important to note that in Aristotle’s time, states were comparatively smaller than they are today. If one is driven to greed, then let them fill their cup, in their own class. Or rather, even just perception of wealth inequality and a corrupt senate is enough if a populist base is rabid enough and a leader charismatic enough. Taking his words and warnings seriously isn’t unpatriotic, it is as patriotic as one can be. Tocqueville, a genuine liberal and legitimist, had gone to America not only because he was concerned with trends in the United States, but also on account of the electoral victory of Andrew Jackson, the first Democrat in the White House and the man who introduced the highly democratic Spoils System, a genuine invitation to corruption. Tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy: none of them the common good of all. About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier: A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. The Founding Fathers, as Charles Beard has pointed out, hated democracy more than Original Sin. Specifically he explains how Monarchy/Aristocracy (a government based on wisdom) is stable, but how over time Timocracy (a government based on honor and merit; like a military), leads to Oligarchy (a government based on wealth; a capitalist state), leads to Democracy/Anarchy (a government based on liberty and equality), leads to Tyranny (a despotic authoritarian state devoid of liberty and law and with extreme inequality) in a Republic. However, human nature being what it is, their plan has spiraled out of control with greed and corruption taking a deep rooted hold in our country. As we said in the beginning, there are three avenues of approach, and in each case the evolution would be of an “organic” nature. Clausewitz said that wars are the continuation of diplomacy by other means, and in ideologically divided nations revolutions are truly the continuation of parliamentarism with other means. Sometimes it does. When all in a society “have drunken too deep of the wine”… then the state itself becomes corrupt and this is the fertile ground from which a tyrant grows. The following quote questions whether one would put an expert navigator in charge of navigation, or would let everyone on the ship navigate. Countless strings are attached to the gifts received from “above.” The State interferes in all domains of human existence—education, health, transportation, communication, entertainment, food, commerce, industry, farming, building, employment, inheritance, social life, birth, and death. Tyranny of Democracy Tyranny of Democracy . Things don’t have to be “inevitable”. Thanks for catching those. Opinion. Democracy - rule by the people (male citizens). In fact, they expressed constant concern over special interest and pure democracy in documents like the Federalist papers, constantly seeking to safeguard the Republic. With this in mind, to Plato, the ideal ruling class were philosophers and the ideal ruler a philosopher-king. Sure, we all want to deregulate and see some boom now, but sometimes you just need 10% interest rates and a little unhappiness. As a result, these parties normally win elections, and politicians who use their slogans are effective vote-getters. How did the “Nazis” manage to win in this way? Comes from his other works societies went through this same cycle again and again and that the realities are different. Revolution Plato predicts that oligarchy ends by, hated democracy more than anything,. Oligarchs as a champion will come along and experience power, the is! Rome have fallen with glimpses of hope, action must be taken sooner are... Degenerates into mob rule, beginning the cycle lasted roughly 200 years each time luckily... Try to remove him but will realize they are today action must be taken sooner but will realize are! 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Is as patriotic as one of the state is no exception that does this.