Who cares what Plato had to say about government? We all should, because Leo Strauss was an admirer of Plato and the neo-conservatives are followers of Strauss. Plato’s Republic is as contemporary as today’s headlines.
Plato was a smart, rich hunk of a man whose real name was Aristocles; “Plato” was a nickname referring to his broad shoulders. He was born into a noble family in Athens in 429 BC and lived to the ripe old age of 82.
He was a student of Socrates and much of what we know about Socrates comes from Plato, since Socrates didn’t write books and Plato wrote several. Socrates liked to wander around Athens asking people questions, which really ticked off the citizens of Athens, who accused him of impiety to the gods and corrupting the youth of the city. Socrates trial and execution had political overtones, but think about it-people asking probing questions can make you want to hurt them.
When asked at his trial what he thought he deserved, he said free food and lodging at the city’s expense, but they gave him poison instead and that was that. Socrates was famous for his statement: “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and also for claiming to be the wisest man in Athens because he knew he knew nothing, while everyone else thought they knew a lot.
Plato thought the best rulers were philosopher-kings (people like himself) an elite intelligentsia, who see farther than other men. The neo-cons believe they belong in this group. He despised democracy, there would be no voting in his Republic. Voter suppression, anyone?
Men are rigidly divided into classes, philosopher-kings, warriors and everybody else and no interbreeding should be allowed. In fact he said, “the best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the inferior with the inferior, as seldom as possible.” This policy should be kept secret lest the inferior people rebel. Class snobbery and eugenics are old, old ideas.
Plato also thought monogamy had to go and children should be born “in common” and raised according to their predetermined class. For example, warrior children should be taken along to witness battles. The first thing to be established was censorship, since control of the stories people heard was essential. Religion should be employed to bolster the state and even religious stories should be controlled; especially stories about the afterlife, so warriors would be willing to die to preserve the state.
“Noble lies” were necessary to control the population and this was for their own good. As for healthcare, this should not be wasted on the lower classes. If they get sick they are no use to the state or to them selves and they may as well die: “those who are diseased in their bodies they will leave to die”
The next time someone angrily points out that America is not a democracy, but a Republic, tell them, “Maybe so, but it’s not Plato’s Republic.”