[ExI] democracy sucks

Damien Sullivan phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu
Sat Feb 26 07:27:12 UTC 2011

On Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 11:03:25AM -0400, Darren Greer wrote:

>    Funny enough, Aristotle agreed with you, and for similar reasons. In
>    The Politics he characterizes it as tyranny by the majority. He
>    classes it right up their with oligarchy and monarchy as potentially
>    corrupt systems of governance. I've always thought it strange that we

Which is kind of unhelpful by itself, since that exhausts the
logical possibilities.

>    claimed to be looking to the ancient Greeks for our inspiration for
>    it, when their greatest political thinker and philosopher next to
>    Plato (and better than than Plato in my opinion, because he made no
>    mind-body duality distinction and didn' t set us up for the one
>    God-heaven-soul-original sin crap that was to come later like Plato
>    did) dumped all over it.

Well, this greatest thinker thought women had fewer teeth than men.  For
a bit of perspective.

Also, from a modern perspective, Democritus or Epicurus might have been
better or equivalent thinkers.  Unfortunately not much of their writings
survives, so it's rather hard to be sure.  Democritus thought the world
was made of atoms and the Milky Way made of stars and wrote the first
encyclopedia, so there's some intriguing potential there.

More relevantly, what Aristotle called democracy isn't what we call
democracy.  Athenian democracy was a mix -- varying over two centuries
-- of New England town meetings and decision-making by giant juries.  In
Aristotelian terms, almost any large democracy today is actually a
democratically selected and replaceable (that's the important part)
oligarchy, with the occasional plebiscite (a Roman concept.)

Even more relevantly, as I understand it Athenian democracy ended with
the conquest by Macedon (though it had bounced back from conquest by
Sparta and imposed oligarchy) -- and Aristotle was the tutor of
Alexander.  I suggest that Aristotle's career would have been rather
different, and possibly shorter, if he had extolled the virtues of
democratic self-government.

Great thinkers aren't immune to bias, whether selling out to pay the
bills or stay alive.  Or Plato's ideal society, a totalitarian state
ruled by people remarkably like Plato.  Or being a great thinker with
property and slaves and coming up with ways to disparage attempts to
redistribute property and free slaves.

Contemplating elitism is great when you envision being part of the

-xx- Damien X-) 

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