When you put pigs in charge of Democracy
you get pigswill and muck!!
playing ***** chess
and eating bacon butties
unaware of the irony
Within the dialogues of Plato, the founding father of Greek Philosophy – Socrates – is portrayed as hugely pessimistic about the whole business of democracy. In his Book Six of The Republic, Plato describes Socrates falling into conversation with a character called Adeimantus and trying to get him to see the flaws of democracy by comparing a society to a ship. If you were heading out on a journey by sea, asks Socrates, who would you ideally want deciding who was in charge of the vessel? Just anyone or people educated in the rules and demands of seafaring? The latter of course, says Adeimantus, so why then, responds Socrates, do we keep thinking that any old person should be fit to judge who should be a ruler of a country?
Socrates’s point is that voting in an election is a skill, not a random intuition. And like any skill, it needs to be taught systematically to people. Letting the citizenry vote without an education is as irresponsible as putting them in charge of a trireme sailing to Samos in a storm. Socrates was to have first hand, catastrophic experience of the foolishness of voters.
In 399 BC, the philosopher was put on trial on ******* up charges of corrupting the youth of Athens. A jury of 500 Athenians was invited to weigh up the case and decided by a narrow margin that the philosopher was guilty. He was put to death by hemlock in a process which is, for thinking people, every bit as tragic as Jesus’s condemnation has been for Christians.
Crucially, Socrates was not elitist in the normal sense. He didn’t believe that a narrow few should only ever vote. He did, however, insist that only those who had thought about issues rationally and deeply should be let near a vote. We have forgotten this distinction between an intellectual democracy and a democracy by birthright. We have given the vote to all without connecting it to that of wisdom. And Socrates knew exactly where that would lead: to a system the Greeks feared above all, demagoguery.
painful experience of demagogues, forgotten all about Socrates’s salient warnings against democracy. We have preferred to think of democracy as an unambiguous good – rather than a process that is only ever as effective as the education system that surrounds it. As a result, we have elected many crooks and clowns, wasters and dumb anarchists, and very few trained, educated, erudite and wise leaders