Aristotle and Leo Strauss (was: Re: Digest Number 1215)
>*******Plato and Aristotle agreed that democracy degenerates into tyranny.This is interesting to me over here in Australia, where we have two major
>They favored a republican form of government, not democracy. I understand
>Steiner agreed fully--- as did the founding fathers.
parties; Labour and Liberal. How would Democrats and Republicans differ to
the (British) Labour/Liberal system?
Also, 'how' does democracy degenerate into tyranny?
Thanks - I look foward to your answer.
*******The details of the second question are in Aristotle's Politics, Book 3. Here's a summary of some of the relevant parts of chapters 8 & 9:
"The correct regimes are kingship (rule by one), aristocracy (rule by a few), and polity (rule by the multitude). The deviations from those regimes are, respectively, tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy...
Tyranny is the rule of a master, oligarchy is the rule of those who have property, and democracy is the rule of the poor. The essential difference between democracy and oligarchy is the accidental distribution of wealth. In reality, however, it always happens that the majority are poor and only a few are wealthy. The cause of dispute between democracy and oligarchy is that while some are poor and others rich, all are free.... democrats suppose that because people are equal in freedom they are equal generally. .... If the majority rules and distributes the wealth of the minority among itself, the city (polis) will be destroyed. If the minority of the wealthy rule, they will rob the multitude... It is best for law, rather than a human being, to have ultimate authority, because human beings are too easily swayed by their passions. "
*******In other words, it all goes back to human nature. "Democrats" make the mistake of thinking that, just because people are all equal in a certain sense -- in what Steiner would call the rights sphere---they are equal in EVERY way. Therefore a person with poor upbringing and education and little self-control should be entitled to have just as much power as a well-educated person of refinement. This is the kind of thinking that gave the French Revolution Maximillian Robespierre, and is responsible for us having to try to deal for the last 30 years with Yasser Arafat.
What in the above translation of Aristotle is called a "polity" is the rule by all the people. When the masses of poor people try to take power and impose their majority will on all others---and the poor are always the majority--- the polity degenerates into democracy, rule by the poor. The inevitable outcome of this is that they will try to ignore the rights of the minority and steal their wealth-- -- which results in destroying the country by a combination of two factors: its wealth is destroyed, and mob rule overcoming the rule of law discourages any entrepreneurs from attempting to accumulate new wealth, because they have no confidence they will be able to keep the fruits of their labors. Thus democracy degenerates into anarchy, and the masses then almost inevitably choose a tyrant to restore order (Napoleon, Stalin).
These classic thoughts of Aristotle were, of course, part of the basic education of all the founding fathers of the United States, which is why they sought to put in protections against this becoming a "democracy". Since 1932, we here in the U.S. have been faced with the trial that Alexis de Tocqueville predicted would come with the "American experiment", when the people discovered that they could vote themselves money out of the Treasury. Democracy does not hold the key, for instance, to undoing the government pyramid scheme called Social Security.
As for political parties in Australia, I'm not sure how to classify them, but you can do it for yourself. The politicians that know that the common people cannot be trusted with complete self-government, but that are usually too cowardly to say this in public and instead cover up with constant references to "rule by the people", are like the dishonest Democratic Party here in United States---socialists wanting ever more government power without admitting it, people who want to grab all the wealth the minority has-- -- like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe but usually a little less obvious about it. Those are the "democrats" --correctly named in the United States.
Those politicians who see very clearly that rule by the masses would always bring disaster, and that what's needed is a republican form of government where hopefully people above the average are given the power--those are also correctly named in the United States, Republicans. In various places they will be more or less shy about saying this openly, because of the inevitable charges of being "elitist" and so on ---but if they believe that it's the chosen representatives of the people that must decide things, rather than plebescites and polls deciding them---and that the power of the government must be limited and the rights of minorities respected, regardless of what the mob wants---those are the "anti-democrats".
A very simple test is to look at which party proposes constantly increasing government power, taking over more and more of the economy---and which one talks about the free market and individual people having control over their lives and financial decisions. Probably you'll find that the Labour Party is the Socialists, who would destroy the wealth of the country through democracy which would degenerate into chaos and then tyranny, while the Liberal Party historically was their opposition and still has people who believe in a free market. This is because the word "liberal" always meant one who believes in the freedom of the market, until the slick trick Communists did in the early 20th century of appropriating that label for themselves, the exact opposite point of view.