Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Both Jewish, we were raised upper-middle class in comfortable, liberal suburbia he, Santa Monica; me, outside Boston. We both rebelled against the stifling, progressive conformity of our respective communities by embracing a contrarian, at times combative, conservative politics.
Democracies end when they are too democratic. Zohar Lazar when they are too democratic. And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny. It has unsettled — even surprised — me from the moment I first read it in graduate school.
The passage is from the part of the dialogue where Socrates and his friends are talking about the nature of different political systems, how they change over time, and how one can slowly evolve into another.
And Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become.
Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. The freedom in that democracy has to be experienced to be believed — with shame and privilege in particular emerging over time as anathema.
But it is inherently unstable. As the authority of elites fades, as Establishment values cede to popular ones, views and identities can become so magnificently diverse as to be mutually uncomprehending.
There is no kowtowing to authority here, let alone to political experience or expertise. The very rich come under attack, as inequality becomes increasingly intolerable. Patriarchy is also dismantled: The foreigner is equal to the citizen. And it is when a democracy has ripened as fully as this, Plato argues, that a would-be tyrant will often seize his moment.
If not stopped quickly, his appetite for attacking the rich on behalf of the people swells further. He is a traitor to his class — and soon, his elite enemies, shorn of popular legitimacy, find a way to appease him or are forced to flee.
Eventually, he stands alone, promising to cut through the paralysis of democratic incoherence. He pledges, above all, to take on the increasingly despised elites.
And as the people thrill to him as a kind of solution, a democracy willingly, even impetuously, repeals itself. And as I watched frenzied Trump rallies on C-SPAN in the spring, and saw him lay waste to far more qualified political peers in the debates by simply calling them names, the nausea turned to dread.
And when he seemed to condone physical violence as a response to political disagreement, alarm bells started to ring in my head. Plato had planted a gnawing worry in my mind a few decades ago about the intrinsic danger of late-democratic life.
Or am I overreacting? In the wake of his most recent primary triumphs, at a time when he is perilously close to winning enough delegates to grab the Republican nomination outright, I think we must confront this dread and be clear about what this election has already revealed about the fragility of our way of life and the threat late-stage democracy is beginning to pose to itself.
Plato, of course, was not clairvoyant. His analysis of how democracy can turn into tyranny is a complex one more keyed toward ancient societies than our own and contains more wrinkles and eddies than I can summarize here. His disdain for democratic life was fueled in no small part by the fact that a democracy had executed his mentor, Socrates.
And he would, I think, have been astonished at how American democracy has been able to thrive with unprecedented stability over the last couple of centuries even as it has brought more and more people into its embrace. It remains, in my view, a miracle of constitutional craftsmanship and cultural resilience.
There is no place I would rather live. But it is not immortal, nor should we assume it is immune to the forces that have endangered democracy so many times in human history. To guard our democracy from the tyranny of the majority and the passions of the mob, they constructed large, hefty barriers between the popular will and the exercise of power.
Voting rights were tightly circumscribed. The president and vice-president were not to be popularly elected but selected by an Electoral College, whose representatives were selected by the various states, often through state legislatures. The Supreme Court, picked by the president and confirmed by the Senate, was the final bulwark against any democratic furies that might percolate up from the House and threaten the Constitution.
This separation of powers was designed precisely to create sturdy firewalls against democratic wildfires.
Over the centuries, however, many of these undemocratic rules have been weakened or abolished. The franchise has been extended far beyond propertied white men.
The presidency is now effectively elected through popular vote, with the Electoral College almost always reflecting the national democratic will. And these formal democratic advances were accompanied by informal ones, as the culture of democracy slowly took deeper root.
For a very long time, only the elites of the political parties came to select their candidates at their quadrennial conventions, with the vote largely restricted to party officials from the various states and often decided in, yes, smoke-filled rooms in large hotel suites.Reading Analysis of “Where Have All the Criminals Gone?” Student Name Course Name Professor Name Date Introduction From the book “Freakonomics” the authors Levitt and Dubner in Chapter “Where Have All the Criminals gone?".
Need help with Chapter 4: Where Have All the Criminals Gone? in Steven Levitt's Freakonomics? Check out our revolutionary side-by-side summary and analysis. [Miller’s] improbable existence as a Woody Allen character who talks like Pat Buchanan is a near-comical rebuke to those white nationalists who claim a Jewish conspiracy has orchestrated untrammeled immigration to dilute America’s racial stock.
A question, Scott. Have you, so far, regretted the posts you have tagged as Things I Will Regret Writing? It seems to me that the articles are inherently worthy to be written, being all of well-researched, well-supported, (extremely) well-written, and on a very important and very contentious topic, upon which you elucidate many things, very clearly.
The Fallacies of Egoism and Altruism, and the Fundamental Principle of Morality (after Kant and Nelson) I have not done wrong.
The "Negative Confession" or Protestation of Ani, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Book of Going Forth by Day, The Complete Papyrus of Ani, Featuring Integrated Text and Full-Color Images, translated by Dr.
Faulkner [, , Chronicle Books, San. So, with some fancy games and pliant appraisers, the bank recorded a $2 million gain on its deal making. The reality, however, was that $9 million had gone out the door, the bank was paying 15% interest to depositors, and no money was coming in, not even interest payments.