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The philosopher Plato was right when he opined that democracy ultimately leads to anarchy and then tyranny. But he was wrong to dismiss anarchy which, arguably, is the happy medium between failed democracy and treacherous tyranny. The USA has begun its flirtation with anarchy. But anarchy, like democracy, is anathema to the ruling classes and can’t be tolerated for any length of time. As a result, the ruling classes will create a crisis and will attempt to implement a society as described in Plato’s Republic_an alternative to representative government. The USA will transition from anarchy to a Platonic tyranny sometime during the second term (2004-2008) of George Bush II.
That is, unless anarchy takes hold.
Anarchy would be a positive development for the USA and the world. In time it would erode the power of the public and private national institutions that are the oppressive tools of control for the wealthy and those who exercise political and military power. But the opponents of change have read their Plato too. And they know that Plato’s answer to democracy, anarchy and tyranny was to design a Republic that would solidify the position of the ruling classes. Plato’s Republic provides for a system which, among other things, depends on proper breeding and training of the ruling and ruled classes, placating the military leaders, and authoritarian and paternal control of the masses.
In Plato’s Republic, leaders commune with the gods and find meaning in nature’s movements that are invisible to the vast backwash of humanity. When the rulers speak, the ruled listen and obey without hesitation. All know their place in Plato’s society. The USA is ripe for such a system and those who rule know it. Americans believe what they are told to believe. For example, fully 80 percent of the Americans believed George Bush II when he stated that pre-invasion Iraq had scores of unmanned aerial vehicles armed with biological weapons ready to rain death on the continental USA, and that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attacks in New York City and Arlington, Virginia on September 11, 2001. Thomas Jefferson’s quaint statement about the American public being “intelligent” was wildly off the mark. Of course, then again, he was not referring to the public but to his well-to-do peers.
Plato had it right for he knew that the endgame of all governing and profit/war-making classes has always been to entertain each other on the domestic and foreign stage. He also knew that those who rule need the masses as they serve as both pawns and audience for the powerful. But like most elites, Plato feared anarchy and democracy as too untidy.
A Few Meals Away from Barbarism
How far have we come since Plato’s time? Oh, we can splice a few genes, build faster computers and automobiles, and destroy with precision. But the human race is as barbaric as ever led in 2003 by the most “enlightened” nation on earth, the USA, which operates a death camp at a military base in Cuba and concentration camps in Iraq. Bloodthirsty competition for goods and resources still drive nations into the madness of war. Powerful nations bribe weak nations for favors. Mercenary armies span the globe and offer services. Corporations employ slave labor. The poor are still poor. Income disparity has reached record levels. Women and minorities must constantly remain vigilant as their rights are always at risk. Ethnic conflicts plague the world. The appeal of authoritarianism, the “good tyrant” as Plato termed it, in this environment remains. After all, how can the common person know what’s good for him/her.
Most of humanity is just a few meals and a paycheck away from the despair of begging the employer, the bank, the credit card company, the government for help. In short, they are at the mercy of powerful interests. And, alas, that is the trick that every ruling class throughout time has mastered. It is easy. Keep the masses on edge. Apply the hot poker of foreign and domestic threats to their base drives of greed, hunger, domination, control, competition and accumulation. It is great sport and makes for wonderful theater. Folks like Alan Greenspan, George Bush, Don Rumsfeld, Tommy Franks, Tom Daschle, and Dick Gephardt must feel the power of Plato’s Republic. Which of them haven’t thought themselves the equal of Plato or one of his select few? They revel in the reality that they have the power of life and death in their words. And in this they are, indeed, Gods. That view allows, for example, Alan Greenspan to opine that 10 million unemployed Americans don’t matter in the greater scheme of the global economy.
Imagine a system which eroded the power of the institutions through which these people ruthlessly rule. Ruling classes fear anarchy.
Good Riddance Representative Democracy
Representative democracy was always an iffy proposition and, contrary to popular belief, was never really about broad based representation. For example, James Mill believed that active participation by the majority of the people in a democracy had little value. He suggested that only males over 40 years of age be allowed to vote figuring that the expense, and theatrics, of voting was too expensive. He would have shaken his head at US democracy. It costs an average of $1 million (US) to run for a House of Representatives seat. It is roughly $5 million to run and keep a Senate seat. Include the perks these elected folks get and the US Congress is little more than $1 billion dollar business enterprise. Toss in a couple of hundred million for the US Presidency and, for someone like Bill Gates of Microsoft, the allure of knowing that, for a mere $2 billion dollars, the US Congress and the White House could be purchased outright. And, in fact, that’s just what corporations and the wealthy do. And these days, they boast outright about which representative or piece of legislation they own.
From 12 zip codes in the United States, according to opensecrets.org comes almost 80 percent of the funding for the Republican and Democratic frontrunners for President. Only 30 to 40 percent of Americans who are registered to vote actually schlep to the polling place. And their reward? An “I Voted” sticker sponsored, appropriately enough, by a corporation. Little wonder fewer and fewer Americans bother to vote.
And what does a vote get an American these days? Schizophrenic public policy that one is not expected to challenge. Trust in us, say the Platonic Rulers of 2003. Tomorrow it is regime change in “evil” Iran. But it is just fine for General Electric and Halliburton do business in Iran through offshore companies. Today, US troops will be sent to “assist” Liberia (a country with lots of registered oil tankers and making claims to the Gulf of Guinea’s oil reserves). But why not US troops for Burundi? Why not go into Zimbabwe and clean up the mess there? Why not a Marshall Plan for Africa? One month, it is a new US first strike nuclear weapons doctrine and new live-fire nuclear testing plans at the Nevada Test site. The next month the Bush Administration lectures the world about the dangers of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Today the US economy is recovering. But manufacturing data shows it isn’t. But Americans are chided for not spending enough and, in so doing, chastised for not fulfilling their patriotic/economic duty. Last month, US troops in Iraq were coming home. But this month their tour has been extended because the war “wasn’t planned right”. Today, the President and Congress are talking about job creation for millions of Americans. But tomorrow, the President, Congress, defense contractors and the Pentagon oppose Buy-American provisions in the Pentagon’s Defense budget which would create millions of jobs for Americans. And, oh yes, the US Congress voted to eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans. And did you know about “Mission Accomplished” in Afghanistan and Iraq?
As reported by the Guardian, Americans are more inclined in 2003 to believe rap stars than US politicians or business and military leaders. They also know that lies and damn lies are endemic to their society and that there are few consequences for the most wretched systemic failures. Politicians, military personnel, corporate executives are beyond reproach for negligence leading to some of the most nefarious events in US history. Pension theft, election fraud, homeland defense failures, and leading the nation to war under false pretenses are not punishable offenses.
Representative democracy in America has run its course. The only palatable option remaining is anarchy. In 1793, William Godwin’s work, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, set forth a workable system of anarchy. This was not the stuff of violence that is typically associated with anarchy, but, instead, the slow disintegration of governing political and economic institutions and the gradual erosion of the policies of competition, dominance and accumulation. Godwin recognized that the ruling classes and their institutions stand as the greatest barrier to freedom. Government was nothing more than a tool of the wealthy and well-connected. Such is the state of affairs in the USA.
“Government, under whatever point of view we examine this topic, is unfortunately pregnant with motives to censure and complaint. Incessant change, everlasting innovation, seems to be dictated by the true interests of man kind. But government is the perpetual enemy of change. What was admirably observed of a particular system of government is in a great degree true of all: They lay their hand on the spring there is in society, and put a stop to its motion. Their tendency is to perpetuate abuse. Whatever was once thought right and useful they under take to entail to the latest posterity. They reverse the genuine propensities of man, and, instead of suffering us to proceed, teach us to look backward for perfection. They prompt us to seek the public welfare, not in alteration and improvement, but in a timid reverence for the decisions of our ancestors, as if it were the nature of the human mind always to degenerate, and never to advance.”
Godwin’s system of anarchy is all that stands in the way of the tyranny of Plato’s Republic.
JOHN STANTON is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. He the author (along with Wayne Madsen) of America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org