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Neo-Socratic Government

Democracy being almost as bad of a failure as Dictatorship of the Proletariat
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Plato's and Socrates' disdain for democracy is only being proven out after 200+ years here in the USA. It's a dismal failure. (Who was it that defined democracy as two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner?) The people clearly are not qualified to elect leaders. But suitable philosopher kings aren't exactly going to be easy to find here today, let alone the means to set them on a throne. So, in order to make it happen, I propose a massive, nationwide, philosophy-off (you guys can do it over in UK and OZ too, I suppose -- as for Canada, well... seriously, now... Canada?). Top, say, 10 winners take the philosopher king thrones and rule the country for life (or until their philosophy begins to suck, as determined I suppose by the other nine philosopher kings). On one of the kings's demise, we hold a new philosophy-off. The contest would be overseen by our illustrious university philosophy departments (finally giving them something productive to do!). Of course, it goes without saying that we, unlike Socrates, would enjoy the benefits of having philosopher queens as well. The contest would be televised, the nation's hearts and minds would be riveted to the event, and we would all feel so much better about our system of selecting leaders.
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

movie presidents http://www.halfbake...resident_20Of_20USA
along the same lines... thanks global-t for "you guys can do it over in UK and OZ too, I suppose"... I see your point about Canada, though. [lewisgirl, Apr 30 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

these guys and gals really rule the world http://www.bilderberg.org/
no, i'm not a conspiracy theorist. [mihali, Apr 30 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Bertrand Russell's priapism http://www.newsweek...01jun02_books1.html
Great name for a band [mystic2311, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       Philosopher queens? I nominate Elton John. Surely the Brits are tired of him by now.   

       Let's do a check of the P-King method of government: make a list of top-notch leaders from recent world history, and put an X by all the ones that were professional philosophers.   

       Hmmm. Maybe if we gave Marilyn Manson a crash course in epistemology he would be qualified?
Dog Ed, Apr 30 2001

       However there factions within philosophy. These would become political parties, probably with re-appointments hastened by assassination to get around the job for life aspect. If these selections are based on a popular vote you have restored democracy and if philosophers judge other philosophers you have built an oligarchy. Even with the oligarchy option law schools would simply include a strong philosophy element and your native status quo would be restored.
Aristotle, Apr 30 2001

       We're governed by Status Quo?
angel, Apr 30 2001

       Yes, because we are "Living on an Island". :-)
Aristotle, Apr 30 2001

       UB: Most definitely, there are. Bill Maher.
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       i've already bought a gun, in the event that Bill Maher ever becomes president of anything.
absterge, Apr 30 2001

       I'll be right behind you, there absterge. Sometimes gun ownership is understandable....   

       Anyway, my idea would cull philosophers from the ranks of academia through a "massive, nationwide philosophy-off." Anyone could end up on a throne. And it would be a lot cheaper to run than the elections these days. You see, until now, university philosophy departments have done nothing but produce more faculty for university philosophy departments. This would give them a real purpose. And Aristotle, there would be no voting for representatives at all. I've already established that that system is a failure. All appointments would be by ultimate contest winner. And assassinations would not be necessary, with the inclusion of the "your philosophy sucks" clause, whereby the other nine kings can oust any one of their number (that way we can all feel safe from Bill Maher). And law schools including strong philosphy elements, well that just underscores the utility and feasibility of my idea.
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       I once sold a book to Clive James. I don't remember what the book was, but he was entirely pleasant.
Rodomontade, Apr 30 2001

       I imagine it would be better to have a council of Kings based on intelligence, not philosophy. I've heard philosophical things pop out of the mouths of even the most anal jerks. Intellligence might be a better judge of someones ability to rule an ex-world power.
salmon, Apr 30 2001

       Oh, well excuse me, wise salmon, tell that to Socrates why don't you?   

       Oh, and Dog Ed, judging by the history of world leaders, I'd say the fewer X's we find on your list, the better this idea is supported by the survey.
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       Because he's dead?
StarChaser, Apr 30 2001

       Tell it to him posthumously then.   

       Intelligence would be a lousy way to select world leaders. Backwoods philosopher wisdom ("wull if'n a frog had wings...") usually espouses a better world view than most intelligent people. "I shore hope Billy Bob Analjerk takes the throne this year, yee-haw!"
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       In what way can democracy be called a dismal failure?   

       Do you really think any autocratic governing body with no checks on its power would remain true to its noble goals given such a heady responsibility? The immediate result would be that the philosophy departments of universities would become the new power center, and everyone interested in attaining power would study philosophy.   

       Your idea is eerily similar to the old Soviet politburo, whose members were (ostensibly) elected by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Now there's a dismal failure. So, baked, I guess.
francois, Apr 30 2001

       Oh, I suppose we could have a constitution. If you insist.   

       (If ONLY people interested in attaining power would study philosophy...)
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       It won't do you any good to draft a constitution, unless you also create governing bodies with the power to amend, interpret and enforce that constitution. And you won't get any public outcry about breaches of the constitution unless information about the illicit political activities of the branches of government is disseminated to the people, so a free press might be a good idea, too. And peaceful exchanges of power through elections are probably better than civil wars, so voting for the members of some or all of those governing bodies would be nice. Gee, this is starting to sound familiar, isn't it?   

       People who are interested in attaining power in most reasonably successful nations do study philosophy. The problem I was pointing out was that they would declare themselves philosophy majors not because they were interested in philosophy, but because they would see the philosophy department as the seat of power.
francois, Apr 30 2001

       OK I got you all the way up to the "through elections" part. That's where you lose me. Elections are not feasible, that's the whole crux of the idea. The people are not qualified to select leaders of any governmental entity. So eleventh through 600th place in the philosophy-off could occupy positions of authority in those bodies.   

       Your argument against philosophy department power is empty: in our democracy, people interested in power seek elective office not because they are interested in public service, but because they see it as the seat of power. At least with the philosophy-off we have a real test of world views, as opposed to the popularity contest we call democracy.
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       Global: Note that I said top-notch leaders. Was Nelson Mandela formally trained in heuristics? Did Abraham Lincoln matriculate with a doctorate in philosophy? How about Roosevelt (FDR, not Teddy)? Ghandi was perhaps closest thing to a philosopher-king we've seen in the last 200 years, but I think he was never on the faculty of a major university philosophy department. On the other hand, common traits of these men were their compassionate humanism and an astounding capacity to forgive. Not exactly Nietzche's hallmarks, eh? (God I hate trying to spell his name.)   

       And yes, one may refute Socrates. He once posited a form of government he thought might work for city-states in pre-industrial Greece. He was, in the main, wrong--political know-how trumps philosophy, as Machiavelli noted in regard to the Italian city-state political system a thousand years later--and in any case the preconditions for Socrates' philosopher-king government no longer exist.   

       But. It is an intriguing speculation, and it is fun to explore ramifications. Nice thread.
Dog Ed, Apr 30 2001

       In what way are elections not feasible? We have them all the time. Someone is almost always elected by a reasonable majority, and people generally accept the results of those elections (recent anomalies notwithstanding). They're entirely feasible. You keep saying that democracy is a failure, but you present no evidence to support your claim.   

       "...in our democracy, people interested in power seek elective office not because they are interested in public service, but because they see it as the seat of power." This is true, of course. That's why we, those who are to be governed, are given the opportunity to weed out those who are egregiously power hungry.   

       This topic isn't really appropriate to the site, so further discussion should be moved elsewhere.
francois, Apr 30 2001

       The evidence to support my claim that democracy is a failure is simple: The United States of America.   

       Enough said.   

       (As much as the evidence to support the claim that Dictatorship of the Proletariat was a failure was the USSR)   

       Please note: This is not a rant against the current political state of the US. It is an analysis of the current state of democracy here. We have not even a recognizable semblence of democracy, much like the USSR in its final years had not a recognizable semblence of Proletariat rule. It is because the concept is flawed, and does not take into account the exigencies of power. Everyone knows the best form of government would be Benevolent dictatorship. The autocracy proposed here approaches that. I am willing, however, to entertain other sources of kings than university philosophy departments to find that benevolence (that's why I liked Dog Ed's recent post), but decrying the idea because anal power-hungry jerks would overrun the means to power is empty because that doesn't prove any other system -- much less US democracy -- more sound than this.
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       Apparently he thinks that the mere existance of the US is proof it failed. Me, I'd tend to think the opposite...
StarChaser, Apr 30 2001

       No no no. As I specified, it isn't the US itself that provides my evidence, it's the state of so-called democracy here. Its implementation in the US is so far removed from the concept of democracy as to warrant being called something very different: perhaps plutocracy. Mediacracy (that's a great term! homophone serving). I am submitting that the reason for this sorry state is that the concept of democracy itself is flawed. We need not try to force our system back to true government of, by and for the people, because that won't work. I'm reaching for a means toward that utopian state called benevolent dictatorship.
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       I will certainly admit this: democracy in the USA seems to select crafty, ideologically palatable, or intelligently manipulative leaders for the position of President. It does not seem to select wise ones.   

       I'm not sure how men or women become great (in the sense of wise and ethical) leaders. I'm not sure what political system could selecti consistently wise and ethical leaders. WIBNI we could figure it out, Global? In that, I'm behind you all the way.
Dog Ed, Apr 30 2001

       WIBNI we could, yes. My little philosophy-off idea is one such attempt to do this in a practical way. Flawed? Perhaps. More flawed than our currrent US most-money/most-media-coverage/most-innocuous-takes-all "democracy"? Certainly NOT. Less flawed than any other idea out there? Who knows....
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       Well, perhaps not "perfectly okay," but point taken.
globaltourniquet, Apr 30 2001

       No, this is honestly not a rant. I've been thinking about the problems of democracy for many years, since I first understood the term "tyranny of the majority." I think that is a real phenomenon, and a true deficiency of democracy. Benevolent dictatorship would be the way to go if we can get there somehow. Is that a WIBNI, as Dog Ed says? It is if you aren't proposing a possible way to implement it. That's what my idea begins to do. As I said, philosophy departments certainly may not be the source of wisdom, but it's a start of an idea.   

       The following statement underscores my point:   

       // The problems inherent in the US system are not limited to the US. They all turn up to varying degrees in all other democracies.//   

       This is because of the deficiency of democracy itself. The system does not work fine, and it's because it doesn't take into account the lack of perspicacity in the voting public. It is like requiring everyone to get around by means of a car they built themselves. Most people aren't qualified to build a safe car, so the problem is not with the unqualified people, but with the regulation. Same thing with democracy. Let's have qualified people build the public service infrastructure.   

       <joke> So I'm starting a new political party -- the Anti-democracy Party. Vote for me next election and we will do away with democracy </joke>
globaltourniquet, May 01 2001

       "university philosophy departments have done nothing but produce more faculty for university philosophy departments"   

       Hahaha... so, now, gt, they'll be able to do something a little more productive than (per the old joke), sitting around thinking deep thoughts about being unemployed?
absterge, May 01 2001

       Well, as my little brother the philosophy major will soon find out, it isn't every day you open the LA Times Classified section to "Philosophers Wanted"   

       And uh, waug, if the objective of democracy is not good government, then I definitely stand by my premise. Good government should be any political system's objective. Your arguments are only serving to emphasize my point about democracy.
globaltourniquet, May 01 2001

       Wull can't we just TRY it? Please? Come on...
globaltourniquet, May 01 2001

       OK, sure. Let's.
Dog Ed, May 01 2001

       Of course the United States was not meant to be a democracy but a republic....   

       The Founding Forefathers were smart enough to include a check and balance for even the voters.... The Electoral College
davros42, May 02 2001

       The electoral college did a good job keeping us from accidently not electing Dubya.
globaltourniquet, May 02 2001

       I wouldn't stand a chance...
globaltourniquet, May 02 2001

       I've come late to this one, so here are some thoughts of varying degrees of relevance:   

       Borges in Labyrinths postulates a benevolent dictator who is appointed for a year at the end of which he (or she) is executed. Thus dictators cannot use their position to feather their nests and have little to gain from bunging friends, family and the oil lobby. The only thing they have to look forward to is posterity and so would do the best for the people to assure it. Of course this is not a solution just an intriguing idea.   

       GT - there was a pub in England a few years ago which employed a resident philosopher (he was a Czech dissident professor who couldn't find tenure anywhere else). I don't know what happened to him or the post or even, come to that, the pub.   

       As for the idea in principle, I don't think philosophers would be any less venal, corrupt or otherwise unrestrained than career politicians. Bertrand Russell's priapism would shade both Kennedy's and Clinton's.
Gordon Comstock, May 24 2001

       The problem with democracy is democracy itself. It *is* two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. The USA is supposed to be a constitutional republic, not a democracy. The problem is that having everything put up to a vote erodes the integrity of the country. People are fickle, but basic principles never change. This is the way it should work:   

       The people may do whatever they wish except that which is specifically prohibited by the constitution (ie initiating force or fraud on others.)   

       The government may do nothing at all except that which is specifically called for in the constitution (ie protecting individuals from initiatory force and fraud.)   

       The unfortunate effect of democracy is inverting the two. Ultimately, we will be able to do nothing except that which is permitted by government, and the government will be able to do anything the majority (or supposed majority) wishes.   

       What we need to do is get more Objectivists in office. I can't believe that there is a Socialist Party in the USA, but no Objectivist Party. The Libertarians are too unfocused for my tastes. They want smaller government, but they don't seem to sufficiently explain to the public why this is a good thing.
VeXaR, May 24 2001

       I'm not sure any goverment can be sucessful forever without becoming corrupt. Like communist Russia capitalist America is becoming corrupt. Maybe we should have manditory revilutions...   

       Every 50-75 years or so. The nation must have a revolution. The entire constituion must be rewritten (exept for the manditory revolution amendment) and a completetly new form of government enstated.
PotatoShrew, Jun 14 2001

       Revolutions every now and then are good, but not that close together. Maybe every 100 years? That's about how long it would take to corrupt.. a couple generations of leaders.
Malakh, Jun 14 2001

       Wouldn't it be better to have a cross-section of society rule the land; the Wealthy, the Hollywood glamour girl, the Professor, the misfit and the resoucefull bull of a man. It worked for Gilligan's Island, why wouldn't it work for us?
StAndrew, Apr 03 2002

       The genius of the Amerikkkan benviolent dictatorship is that we export 90% of our violence.
mystic2311, Dec 23 2003

       Leaders rarely make good philosophers and vice-versa; they have things to do rather than sit around and think all day.
RayfordSteele, Mar 14 2008


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