Monday, February 16, 2009

We Can Learn a Lot from the Classics

I just read a marvelous essay over at American Thinker. It's called "How Democracies Become Tyrannies" by Ed Kaitz. This should be read by every American.

Mr. Kaitz's essay refers to scenes from Plato's Republic to show how, indeed, democracies become tyrannies, all with the permission, even encouragement, of its citizens. Here are two paragraphs from Mr. Kaitz's essay:
The answers to these questions were famously addressed in a few pages tucked within the greatest masterpiece of the classical world: Plato's Republic. On the surface, and to most reviewers of Plato's writings, the Republic is a dialogue on justice and on what constitutes the just society. But to careful readers the deeper theme of the Republic is the nature of education and the relationship between education and the survival of the state. In fact, the Republic is essentially the story of how a man (Socrates) condemned to death for "corrupting" the youth of Athens gives to posterity the most precious gift of all: the love of wisdom.

In the Republic, two young men, Glaucon and Adeimantus, accompany the much older Socrates on a journey of discovery into the nature of the individual soul and its connection to the harmony of the state. During the course of their adventure, as the two disciples demonstrate greater maturity and self-control, they are gradually exposed to deeper and more complex teachings regarding the relationship between virtue, self-sufficiency, and happiness. In short, the boys begin to realize that justice and happiness in a community rests upon the moral condition of its citizens. This is what Socrates meant when he said: "The state is man writ large."

The essay bears reading, as does Plato's Republic.

Updated to Add: There are two other articles referencing classics that would be a good read for you also. One that also references Plato's Republic is "How Republics Die: Plato's Cautionary Tale" by Mark J. Boone. Another, referencing Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, is "'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years" by Stephen Moore.

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