Chapter 5 of Book 8

From Democracy into Tyranny Icon

Socrates

Last of all comes the most beautiful of all, man and State alike, tyranny and the tyrant.

How does tyranny arise? Does tyranny spring from democracy in the same way as democracy from oligarchy?

The excess of wealth was the good which oligarchy proposed to itself. Oligarchy was maintained by that wealth. The insatiable desire of wealth and the neglect of all other things for the sake of money-getting was also the ruin of oligarchy.

Likewise, the insatiable desire for freedom in a democracy brings the dissolution of democracy. In a democracy, freedom is said to be the glory of the State. Therefore, the freeman will dwell only in a democracy.

The insatiable desire for freedom, and the neglect of other things, introduces the change in democracy, which creates a demand for tyranny. When a democracy has drunk too deeply of the strong wine of freedom, she demands more. If their rulers do not give more wine, she punishes them and says that they are cursed oligarchs. The slaves of democracy hug their chains and insult the loyal citizens. The subjects in a democracy act like rulers, and rulers act like subjects.

Socrates

Slowly, the anarchy finds a way into private houses. The father grows accustomed to fear his sons. The son has no respect or reverence for his parents. This is his freedom.

The foreigner is equal with the citizen and the citizen with the foreigner. There are several other lesser evils:

  • The teacher fears and flatters his students, and the students despise their teachers and tutors.
  • The young man is on a level with the old, and is ready to compete with him in word or deed.
  • Old men condescend to the young. They adopt the manners of the young and become full of pleasantry and gaiety in order to avoid being thought of as morose and authoritative.
Socrates

The last extreme of popular liberty is when:

  • the slave is just as free as his or her owner, and
  • there is liberty and equality of male and female.

Domesticated animals have the most liberty in a democracy than in any other State. The horses and asses march with all the rights and dignities of freemen.

They will run at anybody who comes in their way. All things are just ready to burst with liberty.

Glaucon When I take a country walk, I often experience what you describe.
Socrates

Above all, see how sensitive the citizens become. They chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority. They cease to care even for written or unwritten laws. Such is the fair and glorious beginning out of which springs tyranny.

The ruin of oligarchy is the ruin of democracy. The same disease that was magnified and intensified by liberty now overwhelms democracy.

The excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction. This is the case not only in the seasons and in plant and animal life, but also in all forms of government.

Socrates

The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, creates an excess of slavery. And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy. The most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery happens in the most extreme form of liberty.

Oligarchy and democracy creates a disorder that ruins both.

In the class of idle spendthrifts, the leaders are the more courageous ones and the followers are the more timid ones. They are drones, some stingless, and others having stings. These two classes are the plagues of every city just as phlegm and bile are to the body.

The good physician and lawgiver should be like the wise bee-master. They should keep them far and prevent them from ever coming in. If they have found a way in, then he should have them and their cells cut out as fast as possible.

Socrates’ Three Democratic Classes= The Drones, The Wealthy, The Workers

Socrates

Let us imagine democracy being divided into three classes.

  1. The Ruling Drones [poor people]

Freedom creates more drones in the democratic than in the oligarchical State.

  • In the oligarchical State, they are disqualified and driven from office. They cannot train or gather strength.
  • In a democracy, the drones are almost the entire ruling power. The keener sort speak and act, while the rest keep buzzing about.
  1. The Wealthy class

The orderly class is severed from the mass. In a nation of traders, this is sure to be the richest. They are the most squeezable persons and yield the largest amount of honey to the drones which feed on them.

  1. The Working Class

The people are a third class, consisting of those who work with their own hands. They are not politicians, and have not much to live on. This, when assembled, is the largest and most powerful class in a democracy.

Glaucon True, but then the multitude is seldom willing to congregate unless they get a little honey.
Socrates

They do not share. Their leaders deprive the rich of their estates and distribute them among the people and reserve the larger part for themselves. The wealthy are compelled to defend themselves against the people as they best can. Some drones charge them with plotting against the people and being friends of oligarchy. In the end, they are forced to become real oligarchs when:

  • they see the people through ignorance, not of their own accord, and
  • they are deceived by informers, seeking to do them wrong.

They do not wish to be oligarchs. But the sting of the drones torments them and breeds revolution in them.

The Rise of the Tyrant

Socrates

Then come impeachments and trials of one another. The people always have some champion whom they nurse into greatness. This is the only root from which a tyrant springs.

When he first appears, he is a protector. He changes into a tyrant when he does what the man in the tale of the Arcadian temple of Lycaean Zeus does.

In that tale, the man who has tasted the entrails of a human victim minced up with those of other victims becomes a wolf.

Socrates

The protector has a mob at his disposal. He is not restrained from shedding the blood of kinsmen.

His favourite method is false accusation. He uses this to bring his kinsmen to court to be murdered or banished. At the same time, he hints at the abolition of debts and partition of lands. After this, he will either perish at the hands of his enemies or become a wolf–a tyrant.

This is the same as the drone who begins to make a party against the rich. After a while, he is driven out, but comes back as a full-grown tyrant. If they are unable to expel him, or to get him condemned to death by a public accusation, they conspire to assassinate him. Then comes the famous request for a body-guard. All successful tyrants have this device. When the wealthy man, who is also accused of being an enemy of the people, sees this, he flees and is not ashamed to be a coward.

Socrates

The protector is the overthrower of many. He stands up in the chariot of State with the reins in his hand, no longer protector, but tyrant absolute.

What is the happiness of the man, and the State under Tyranny?

In the early days of his power, he is full of smiles and salutes everyone he meets. He makes promises in public and in private! He liberates debtors and distributes land to the people and his followers, wanting to be so kind and good to everyone!

Socrates

But when he has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, he starts stirring up some war so that the people may require a leader. He impoverishes the people with taxes so that they would focus on their daily needs and would be less likely to conspire against him. If he suspects them of resistance, he will destroy them by placing them at the mercy of the enemy. Because of these, the tyrant must always be getting up a war.

Now he begins to grow unpopular. Then some of his supporters who are in power, speak their minds to him and to each other. The tyrant then gets rid of them. He purges the State of the valiant, high-minded, wise, and wealthy. It is a purgation that removes the better part and leaves the worse, opposite from the one done by physicians. It would be better for the tyrant’s supporters to support him than to be purged!

Socrates

The more detestable his actions are to the citizens, the greater devotion he will require. They will flock to him if he pays them. And so drones of every sort come from every land.

But he will desire to get them on the spot. He will rob the citizens of their slaves. He will then set them free and enroll them in his body-guard. He has killed the others and has these for his trusted friends. These are the new citizens who admire him and are his companions, while the good hate and avoid him.

Euripides was a tragedian who said= ‘Tyrants are wise by living with the wise.’ He meant that the tyrant’s companions are wise. Thus, tragedy is a wise thing.

Glaucon Yes, Euripides also praises tyranny as godlike. Many other things of the same kind are said by him and by the other poets.
Socrates

The tragic poets are wise men who will forgive us if we do not receive them into our State, because they are the eulogists of tyranny.

But they will continue to go to other cities to:

  • attract mobs,
  • hire fair, loud, and persuasive voices, and
  • draw the cities over to tyrannies and democracies.

Tyrants pay the most for such poets and give them the most honour. Democracies pay them a bit less. But the higher those poets ascend our constitution hill, the more their reputation fails. From shortness of breath, they are unable to proceed further. How will the tyrant maintain his numerous ever-changing army?

Glaucon He will confiscate sacred treasures in the city and sell them to reduce the taxes on the people. If these fail, then he and his boon companions will be maintained by his father’s estate and family.
Socrates

But what if the people declare that a grown-up son should not be supported by his father, but that the father should be supported by the son?

The father raised his son to protect him and be free from the government of the rich and aristocratic. He did not raise his son to be the servant of his own servants, nor to remain dependent on him. And so he tells his son and his companions to leave.

Glaucon

By heaven, then the parent will discover what a monster he has been fostering in his bosom. When he wants to drive him out, he will find that he is weak and his son strong.

The tyrant will use violence and beat his father if he opposes him.

Socrates Then he is a parricide, and a cruel guardian of an aged parent. This is real tyranny. The people who escaped the smoke of the slavery of freemen then fall into the fire of the tyranny of slaves. Thus liberty, getting out of all order and reason, passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery.

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