I had a profound thought this morning and wanted to share it. Partly because it was a particularly good one, and also because I’ll forget it if I don’t record it somehow.

My thought was this:

It’s fair to say that members of both major political parties in the United States are patriotic. Both are fighting against what they perceive to be tyranny; the Republicans against the tyranny of order, and the democrats against the tyranny of chaos. Both sides should be appreciated for their good intentions. The balance we have between the two has kept us freer than most other nations over the past 200+ years. For all the claims that we’re descending into socialism, we’re really not that close.

Of course, both sides have brought about a great deal of destruction as well, but for the time being I am enjoying this slightly more optimistic view of things.

On a related note, I watched season two of House of Cards over the weekend. Frank Underwood very much matches Plato’s conception of The Tyrant:

Democracy then degenerates into tyranny where no one has discipline and society exists in chaos. Democracy is taken over by the longing for freedom. Power must be seized to maintain order. A champion will come along and experience power, which will cause him to become a tyrant. The people will start to hate him and eventually try to remove him but will realize they are not able.

The tyrannical man is the son of the democratic man. He is the worst form of man. He is consumed by lawless desires which cause him to do many terrible things such as murdering someone unjustly. He comes closest to complete lawlessness. The idea of moderation does not exist to him. He is consumed by the pleasures in life. He spends all of his money and becomes poor and leads a miserable life.

When Plato says the tyrant is a prisoner to the lawless master he means that if the tyrant should lose his power for any reason his life and the life of his family would be in great danger. The tyrant always runs the risk of being killed in revenge for all the unjust things he has done. He becomes afraid to leave his own home and becomes trapped inside. Therefore his lawless behavior leads to his own self-imprisonment.

(see Plato’s Five Regimes)

I have often wondered if we, as a nation, were following the pattern laid out by F.A. Hayek in his book “The Road to Serfdom“. He too speaks of a tyrant who is put in power through a democratic process because he is viewed as a champion, and the people are unable to remove him from power after he becomes established. Scary thought. That dark character is portrayed in many of the popular television shows and movies today.


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