Plato’s Critique on Western 21st Century Politics

While looking at 21st century politics in the eyes of Plato, I am absolutely mortified. I finally understand now why our system is so corrupt. It begins with democracy, which is ineffective on various levels. First of all, everyone is eligible to make decisions; this is problematic because anyone who is not a philosopher, does not know what is best for a city. Normal people do not have the intellectual capacity to know and think like philosophers do.

The ship analogy explains a scenario in which passengers on a ship are fighting over who the captain should be. These people have no experience with the craft ship of boats yet believe they should be captain regardless. “They do not understand that a true captain must pay attention to the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds, and all that pertains to his craft if he is really going to be expert at ruling a ship” (182, 489a). While the passengers are running around convincing others that they should be captain, there is a silent person studying how to actually be one. It’s the same as people today seeking a political position using all their time campaigning, while they should be furthering their knowledge. “But by far the greatest slander is brought on philosophy by those who claim to practice it– the ones about whom the prosecutor of philosophy declares, as you put it, that the majority of those who take it up are completely bad, while the best ones are useless” (182, 489d). In 21st century terms, Donald Trump who claims to understand the truth about politics is actually, ‘completely bad’. With democracy, the wrong person will almost always be in charge.

In Plato’s perfect city, power holders are allowed no wealth. “We will tell them that they have gold and silver of a divine sort in their souls as a permanent gift from the gods, and have no need of human gold in addition” (102, 416 e). Rulers who are motivated by wealth or are great holders of wealth are not fit for the job. People with genuine souls already have all the wealth they need within themselves. By this concept, basically every power holder in western culture is not right for their job. Every power position in western culture is based on wealth: gaining it and holding enough of it. Donald Trump is known for holding a share of the top one percent of wealth in America, so it is obvious where his intentions with lay. Plato would rather his city fight a war with brains and bronze than ignorance and money. Plato’s city would kick America’s butt.

Plato’s most basic foundation for a solid political system is justice, beginning with its ruler. A just person acts justly purely for the sake of goodness, not for their reputation. “We must strip him of everything except justice, and make his situation the opposite of the unjust person’s. Though he does no injustice, he must have the greatest reputation for it, so that he may be tested with regard to justice by seeing whether or not he can withstand a bad reputation and its consequences” (40, 361 d). Donald Trump has failed the justice test before he has even taken it. His bad reputation is talked about around the globe, and he withstands the consequences by  being racist, sexist, and worst of all, ignorant.

I hope Plato will come save us all soon.


Works Cited: Plato, and C.D.C. Reeve. Plato’s Republic. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2004. Print.

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