Plato's republic and ours

Critical Review 5 (4):453-473 (1991)
Abstract
The politics of Plato's Republic has been all but universally condemned by modern liberal readers as totally and odiously inimical to democratic ideals. Plato's proposals for government by an unelected elite class of guardians, for censorship and indoctrination, for occupational restrictions, etc., are seen at best as stifling freedom and individual initiative and at worst as totalitarian. It has seldom or never been noticed, however, how much his polity resembles our own, for better or worse. American democracy, present and past, has endorsed most of the basic political principles of the Republic. If often only tacitly, we recognize natural inequalities among people; that some are more fit than others for some occupations, including governing; and that indoctrination and censorship are desirable in some circumstances. Most important, though little recognized outside political theory, is the fact that the United States, like most modern democracies, has a guardianship form of government, comparable to that outlined in the Republic, in which the electoral franchise has little significance. Making due allowance for our own ideological myths on the one hand and for Platonic whimsy on the other, it can be seen that Plato's Republic and ours are, paradoxically, much the same in both aims and means.
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