Plato's City-State. Returning to Sanity

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Plato's City-State. Returning to Sanity

A little private conversation turned into a very productive discussion of the ideal city state as portrayed in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, George Washington and the founders.    The suggestion was that we share this on the public board for anybody interested to contribute, provide their thoughts, suggestions or even disagree.    

Hammer 01/06/2012 - 00:29

Jack 01/06/2012 - 03:10

Hammer,

Most interesting TED video of Paddy Ashdown. He seemed to be suggesting 3 main ideas:

1. "Governance of the global space" via treaty-based institutions

2. End of 400 yrs of the hegemony of western powers. We must increasingly do business with those with whom we have a common interest, but different values.

3. Interconnectedness between nations like never before. A nation state acting alone with these challenges is no longer a viable alternative. The most important thing in what you can do, is what you can do with others.

I need to chew on this a bit more, but off the cuff, much of what he says is disturbing. I agree that we are interconnected, but hold much doubt that large treaty-based institutions like the G20 or IMF can bring us together. Nigel Farage, the outspoken MEP from Britain is always harping on the gross inefficiency of unelected oligarchs in Brussels making decisions that intimately affect the lives of citizens in the English countryside. We have all watched and yawned as the G20 and others meet about the Eurozone financial crisis and come up with next to nothing. Despite the fact that we all share the same biology, we seem to be wired tribally. Just watch a Lakers Jazz game in SLC as an example and all the tribal us vs. them comes out in all its flavor.

To interact with another with a completely different worldview can be exciting and challenging. To see that individual change their world view is as rare as Saul meeting the angel on the road to Damascus. Somehow, to create governance in the global space in a time of declining western hegemony in an interconnected world as Ashdown so eloquently states, we must focus on our commonality and let go of our different ideologies without compromising our most inner beliefs. A stiff challenge indeed.

You 01/06/2012 - 07:01

I agree with Jack. We don't need governance over the global space. We only need justice, fairness, liberty and a return to higher law within our own space. We don't need a league of nations or a United Nations to govern the world to pass through it's agenda upon weaker entities. He most certainly is a politician in his thinking and charismatic presentation.

There are always those who clamor that we must go save the Brazilian rain forest yet they cannot mow their own lawn. You cannot save the world before you have saved yourself.

The US needs to go back to the vision of G. WAshington, which really was the vision of Plato on the city state. Our communities are formed when each individual in a community farmers, builders, clothiers, by virtue of playing their role, will automatically contribute to a healthy community. For the defense of our common property, internal and external enemies, our streets, our cities, our national borders, there are the soldiers and the public policy makers whose role is the care of the republic, not the expansion of it. Every power in history that sought expansion, but could not tend to the welfare of his own kingdom was defeated and collapsed. The British and the United States are now reaping the consequences of 1000's of years of encroachment into other people's lands. The unrest, international criminality, terrorism is not a result of a poorly run "global space" it is a result of an overun space.

If you read Plato's republic, you will find an amazing similarity to our consititution. That's because the forfathers read 1000's of documents including the Magna Carta and incorporated into one document.

Plato:

  • Since the rulers are responsible for making decisions according to which the entire city will be governed, they must have the virtue of wisdom the capacity to comprehend reality and to make impartial judgments about it.
  • Soldiers charged with the defense of the city against external and internal enemies, on the other hand, need the virtue of courage the willingness to carry out their orders in the face of danger without regard for personal risk.
  • The rest of the people in the city must follow its leaders instead of pursuing their private interests, so they must exhibit the virtue of moderation the subordination of personal desires to a higher purpose.

Justice itself is not the exclusive responsibility of any one class of citizens, but emerges from the harmonious interrelationship of each component of the society with every other.

Expanding this to a global framework, then each member of a global community must seek equal harmony within it's own borders before looking outside itself. We simply do not trade with countries that are roque. If you cannot participate in an orderly global community, you simply do not benefit from the commerce, science and production of a more harmonious community.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Give any man the power or control over any space and you will see affairs disintegrate quickly. Men of virtue rarely seek power for it's owns sake or public office. This is what needs to change. Virtuous men governing with wisdom and the welfare of the larger good as it's prime directive.

Idealist? probably. That is why I don't believe i'll see anything that resembles world peace in my lifetime. I'm a realist as well.

Jack 01/06/2012 - 08:21

GL,

Great stuff. At the risk of sounding too simplistic, it seems to boil down to an opposing set of opinions about the capabilities of individual man. On the one hand there are those that believe that the common man is incapable of understanding enough to be able to govern himself and thus needs those that are brighter, richer, more well placed, etc to rule over them. The other view is that the best person to know how a particular individual should be governed is that individual himself. Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson on this topic he said that there are not men born with saddles on their back just as there are not those with boots designed to ride them.

Many have interpreted Plato's republic to be a treatise on the former ideology. I tend to disagree. Though it is true that all may not have the disposition, energy or ability to serve as philosopher-kings, all should have the opportunity to develop themselves as far as they can go. When properly designed, a republic would be ruled by the people who would choose the best among them to serve in government. Like the philosopher-king, those serving would be motivated by their love of what Plato called the good; they would be those that left the cave, saw "the good" and returned to illuminate their companions. We in the west are certainly governed at a far inferior level to this and perhaps could never attain the ideal preached by Plato. I think we all recognize this. (Rafael certainly did in his painting of the school of Athens with Plato pointing up.) Though I believe the ideal of Plato cannot be attained in our current world and that Aristotle's mean was more realistic (more on that in a future post perhaps) that does not stop me from working towards that ideal.

You 01/06/2012 - 08:46

Jack, You are on fire! I love the wisdom that pours fourth in this place sometimes.

Our founders knew that the mass of citizens were not fit for positions as the ruling class. I prefer leading class over ruling class. Men who set the tone, spirit and laws of the land. Ultimately, unobtrusive leadership. This is why they established a republic and not a true democracy which is mob rule. A very bad form of government.

The ruling class is indeed meant to be an exceptional group of individuals. How do we get there? I'm not sure. It seems our system of voting doesn't work for it does not put forth men of great thought. The citizens of Early America were much more informed than the average individual of today. Discussion like we are having here does not take place among the people. That's why I come here.

Honestly, i would have no problem putting into office almost any of the men that we listen to on KWN or similar places. Ben Davies, Peter Schiff, Jim Sinclair Rick Rule, Doug Casey and obviously Nigel and Ron. They are all men of great thought, abilities and steeped in history. They are not always right and like our founders they were not perfect men. But despite the individual failings of our founders, together they were able to put together a document that has been unparalleled in political history. No man is perfect and no man is an island.

The individual differences and disparate point of views are an asset. Great men can disagree, sometimes vehemently, and have great respect for each other.

How do we get great thinkers like these to run and get elected when the individual is easily swayed by charisma, good looks, sharp suits and good haircuts? Beats the hell out of me.

Jack 01/06/2012 - 09:07

GL,

You asked how we get great thinkers to run and get elected. Great question. Perhaps there is an analogy with chemistry that might fit. If I remember correctly from biochemistry, many reactions require both proper conditions and a catalyst to be effective. For proper governance to occur, proper conditions such as virtue in the people (Benj. Franklin had much to say about this), a well-perceived need for change would be required. Under those conditions, the catalyst of virtuous thinkers can be added and the reaction can occur. Going back to the founding as an example:

1. Conditions: The colonists were sick of being ruled by Parliament without any proper representation

2. Conditions: The colonists kept up as best they could on events through reading, study and discussion

3. Conditions: The colonists were developing an American can do identity in a land with unfathomable space and opportunity

4. Conditions: The colonists through belief in God or at least a higher power that endowed them with reason (deists), had a healthy respect for natural law ideals.

5. Catalyst: Among this people were a not insignificant minority that had been prepared to lead and were not afraid to put their lives and fortunes on the line to do so.

Are we there yet in the early 21st century? Hell no, but perhaps with time and continued effort there will be the catalysts/leaders that are prepared to step in when the conditions are right. Certainly a callow Washington at the Mohangahela at the start of the Seven Years War, was not ready to lead the Continental army, but when the 1st Continental Congress met, there he was, a known hero, dressed in full military uniform sitting and listening to the proceedings.

Just some thoughts.

Hammer 01/06/2012 - 09:12

Ah, free will. If we have complete free will and the tools are provided to let people enjoy free will, people will react in different ways, some good, some maybe not so good.....and here we dive into psychology and philosophy etc.............and Descartes for example. Which comes first, the self first then society or society first and then the self ?

You 01/06/2012 - 09:28

Jack-

Well if Maybury is right that there is an 80% chance of revolution, the system might reset. As I mentioned I'm not sure how a bunch of armed citizens can take on the 82nd Airborne but Maybury usually see's things that are out of my purview.

And oh yea, not all great men can disagree agreeably. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr case in point. Hamilton had a nasty temper.

Jack 01/06/2012 - 09:45

Just amazing how an idea can be brought up, discussed and agreed upon by a calm back and forth. I nominate GL for POTUS, Jack for VP and Ron Paul to run the Treasury! Let TF run the CFTC.

Be Prepared 01/06/2012 - 10:58

GL

The ruling class, or as you refer to them, the leadership class can solidify to become a construct unto itself over time. As soon as we, The People, allow for a define group to believe themselves to be destined for greatness, a level of in-born ineptitude begins to pervade into a paradigm of "them" over "us." Maybe, it's just me, but I have a problem with allowing the term "class" or "caste" to become a permanent fixture in the venacular of our Democratic Republic. We have some very good examples of "dynastic" families.. Rockfellers, Bushes, Morgans that have had over 80 years of great influence not based upon the greatness of their minds or their belief in goodness, but rather their net worth and their defined "priveledged" class.

The challenge is to allow for the cream of any generational crop rise to their potential into a period of public service, but not a lifetime. I don't want to see a Kennedy in every period of our government. I would like, if possible, to eliminate the access that money brings and that the lack thereof eliminates for selecting our temporary leaders. This selection for being a Representative of the People should be a great Honor and bring with it a great sense of Duty without any access or thought of financial gain. We have missed generations of potentially great leaders because we haven't ensconced a vision of rotational leadership by merit and selection by the People. It is about living the ideal that truly any person can dream and become great within our country.

We all know, though, that this process has been corrupted long ago. Until we get rid of the idea of the "Corporate" citizen and eliminate their overbearing influence on our society, I find it difficult to see a path that doesn't lead to a loss of our Republic's experiment of freedom. We must not forget.... and I know we don't... that this type of Government, in modern times, had never before been framed and implemented as a way of self-governance. :-}

Edited by admin on 11/08/2014 - 06:22

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murphy
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Good stuff. Thanks for

Good stuff. Thanks for posting.

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