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A Socratic Dialogue

(This is based on a discussion with a highly intelligent friend of mine who, like most, was indoctrinated in liberal ideas and has not had time to think them through. Socrates serves in place of myself and two others, and the idealized Bret serves for my friend and four others.)

Bret: Greetings, Socrates. I am told you believe that democracy is bad, and aristocracy is good.

Socrates: So you believe democracy is the best good - can you tell me why?

Bret: The individual is the most important good, and democracy allows the individual to express themselves and have the most power against societies that can cause them harm, through representation. It is freedom for the individual, and that is the highest goal of an advanced society.

Socrates: That sounds well enough. But tell me - if an individual were to develop a virus that would eliminate all of humanity, would you stop him?

Bret: Certainly. He would be impeding the rights of individuals, and would have to be stopped.

Socrates: Even though he has the right to freedom, and to express himself?

Bret: His expression of self would prevent others from having the same freedom, so in the name of the collective, we would deny it to him.

Socrates: So if the individual is doing something destructive to the whole, it must be prevented?

Bret: Obviously, if it restricts the freedom of the whole.

Socrates: What if the individual was using his freedom to create a political state which would restrict the freedom of the whole?

Bret: He would have to be restricted.

Socrates: So if one individual were using his freedom to restrict the freedom of the whole, he would be restricted. What if more than one individual were doing so?

Bret: They would also, have to be restricted.

Socrates: What if these individuals did not know their vote would restrict the freedom of the whole?

Bret: They would still have to be restricted.

Socrates: What if these individuals constituted a majority?

Bret: If the democracy were to keep existing, they would have to be restricted.

Socrates: But then there must be someone to restrict them?

Bret: Yes, a wise leader.

Socrates: So how is this different from a king?

Bret: Well, the people have freedom.

Socrates: But only to choose what is already chosen, namely democracy?

Bret: Anything else restricts the freedom of others.

Socrates: And to keep them from this fate they need - a king?

Bret: No, an elected leader.

Socrates: But if they do not know when their decisions will restrict the freedom of the whole, how can they pick the right elected officials?

Bret: If they do not, they will lose their freedoms.

Socrates: But with a king, they always have freedoms?

Bret: Except to choose a leader!

Socrates: But we've already established that they cannot know if they are choosing a leader who will restrict freedom of the whole, or not, and that if they choose the wrong options, they must be restricted. Therefore, do they really have the freedom to choose a leader?

Bret: Well, it's freedom within limits.

Socrates: It seems to me a king offers the same limited freedom, and removes the chance of the people making choices they do not understand. Supposing that people today are voting for something that would restrict the freedoms of the whole in, say, 500 years, and once it is voted for, nothing can change that course?

Bret: Of course that would have to be changed. Through education, or something of that nature.

Socrates: What if education didn't work - if it was something so complex the average person could not understand it?

Bret: Then their vote would be restricted.

Socrates: So if someone is voting for something that in the far future would necessarily limit freedoms for the whole, their vote would be restricted?

Bret: Yes.

Socrates: Yet democracy, in order to preserve itself from bad votes, must limit freedom of the whole. Do you agree?

Bret: Of course.

Socrates: And votes which restrict freedom of the whole must be limited?

Bret: Yes.

Socrates: Does that include... voting for democracy?

(Democracy is a paradox: people voting on things they do not understand, in order to achieve paradoxical goals such as the freedom to have unfreedom. It does not function, except as an appeasement to the masses, who believing they are "free" will ignore the behind-the-scenes machinations of commerce.)

February 23, 2005