I have no intention of making this a cut-and paste forum, but these excerpts from Plato’s Republic deserve to be reproduced in full. Socrates is the one talking and the man answering with short responses is Adeimantus. These are passages from Book 8 of 10.
And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty?
As we might expect.
That, however, was not, as I believe, your question-you rather desired to know what is that disorder which is generated alike in oligarchy and democracy, and is the ruin of both?
Just so, he replied.
Well, I said, I meant to refer to the class of idle spendthrifts, of whom the more courageous are the leaders and the more timid the followers, the same whom we were comparing to drones, some stingless, and others having stings.
A very just comparison.
These two classes are the plagues of every city in which they are generated, being what phlegm and bile are to the body. And the good physician and lawgiver of the State ought, like the wise bee-master, to keep them at a distance and prevent, if possible, their ever coming in; and if they have anyhow found a way in, then he should have them and their cells cut out as speedily as possible.
Yes, by all means, he said.
Then, in order that we may see clearly what we are doing, let us imagine democracy to be divided, as indeed it is, into three classes; for in the first place freedom creates rather more drones in the democratic than there were in the oligarchical State.
That is true.
And in the democracy they are certainly more intensified.
Because in the oligarchical State they are disqualified and driven from office, and therefore they cannot train or gather strength; whereas in a democracy they are almost the entire ruling power, and while the keener sort speak and act, the rest keep buzzing about the bema and do not suffer a word to be said on the other side; hence in democracies almost everything is managed by the drones.
Very true, he said.
Then there is another class which is always being severed from the mass.
What is that?
They are the orderly class, which in a nation of traders sure to be the richest.
They are the most squeezable persons and yield the largest amount of honey to the drones.
Why, he said, there is little to be squeezed out of people who have little.
And this is called the wealthy class, and the drones feed upon them.
That is pretty much the case, he said.
The people are a third class, consisting of those who work with their own hands; they are not politicians, and have not much to live upon. This, when assembled, is the largest and most powerful class in a democracy.
True, he said; but then the multitude is seldom willing to congregate unless they get a little honey.
And do they not share? I said. Do not their leaders deprive the rich of their estates and distribute them among the people; at the same time taking care to reserve the larger part for themselves?
Why, yes, he said, to that extent the people do share.
And the persons whose property is taken from them are compelled to defend themselves before the people as they best can?
What else can they do?
And then, although they may have no desire of change, the others charge them with plotting against the people and being friends of oligarchy?
And the end is that when they see the people, not of their own accord, but through ignorance, and because they are deceived by informers, seeking to do them wrong, then at last they are forced to become oligarchs in reality; they do not wish to be, but the sting of the drones torments them and breeds revolution in them.
That is exactly the truth.
Then come impeachments and judgments and trials of one another.
The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness.
Yes, that is their way.
This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.
The Democratic Party now largely consists of groups of idle spendthrifts. The Republican Party is a combination of the wealthy and the third class Plato calls ‘the people’. It is good to know that Plato considered ‘the people’ to be the most powerful class.
I believe that the 2nd Amendment makes ‘the people’ more powerful today than they were in Plato’s time. There are more private firearms than there are voters in America-2008. These firearms are the best chance of forever breaking Plato’s cycle of oligarchy-democracy-tyranny.
I concur with Plato’s statement that idle spendthrifts:
‘are the plagues of every city in which they are generated,’ and that societies should
‘have them and their cells cut out as speedily as possible.’
Which is probably why Harvard University has their students stop reading Plato’s Republic at line 341b2, ahead of this discussion.*
* Conclusion made by noting a reference to section 511b6 in another review, where the “unhypothetical principle” is discussed in Book 6 of 10. It appears that Harvard only covers the first four Books. I think Harvard students are tough enough to be allowed to read Book 8, but only if they dare. Ha ha ha.