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Plato, Confidence Man
by Christopher Tremoglie
8 April 2003

There is little difference between Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Plato’s Republic in that both attempt to convince the public that democracy is wrong.

Human beings have inhabited the planet for thousands upon thousands of years. Throughout the course of time, they have undergone many changes, both physically and mentally, starting from the simplest, unknowledgeable Neanderthal caveman evolving to the modern human today. Society changed as well developing from savages in their homogeneous form to the vast multi-cultured world that exists nowadays. Despite the fact that these changes have occurred and many generations have passed, one “person” survived this progression – the confidence man. The con man is the sole survivor of the evolution of humans and the vast changes in culture enduring many civilizations and societies. One should have little trouble in identifying the con man for the con man is male, considers himself all-knowing, cites the troubles of the general public, cites things which are moral and just (notions all individuals sympathize with) and proclaims ideas that will fix these troubles when in actuality they will better himself. Never does the con man reveal himself so blatantly as Plato does in Republic criticizing democracy. 

In Republic, Plato calls democracy “an agreeable form of anarchy with plenty of variety and an equality of peculiar kind for equals and unequals alike”. In a democracy, Plato argues, people pursue the desire of freedom at the expense of the desires of truth, harmony and the welfare of society by exercising their freedom with “immoral” acts of money, physical pleasure and honor. Plato’s critique of democracy is insightful and thought provoking. Insightful in the fact that it defines the ideas behind his “Government of Platonism” (truth, harmony and welfare of society) and thought-provoking because he attempts to convince the public that with this democratic freedom, or as Plato calls it, “anarchy with plenty of variety,” individuals perform these immoral acts and as a result, is a detrimental form of administration. Plato cons one into believing that money, physical pleasure and honor are terrible things and people should engage in other desires. The sly and clever con man compares money, physical pleasure, and honor to truth, harmony, and welfare of society appealing to the sanctimonious side of an individual (for the majority would believe these ideals are prevalent in contrast with money, physical pleasure and honor) thus propagandizing his idea, “Government of Platonism,” while at the same time denouncing his opposing notion, democracy, the true sign of the con man.

The hypocrisy and the conning begins when Plato asks others to trade in these “immoral” values when he himself posses them. As a philosopher and the son in an aristocratic family, Plato possesses money and while he may not reap the physical pleasures such as “excessive sexual appetites and unnecessary pleasures” as he describes in Republic, he receives it nonetheless from admiration by others for his “wisdom” and “knowledge.” In essence, Plato asks others to give up everything individuals have or strive for, for the welfare of society leaving them with nothing “pleasurable” but mentions nothing of his own personal sacrifices. It is as if everyone else sacrifices happiness but the con man.

Now one may ask, what is the harm of everyone giving up personal pursuits and working truthfully and in harmony for the welfare of society? What is wrong with everyone not competing and being equal? These are the questions Plato wants you to ask. The answer to these questions would predominantly be “nothing,” if that were the question how it was actually to happen. As mentioned previously, Plato has all of these things he wants others to sacrifice but mentions nothing of his own sacrifices. In retrospect, he asks others to give up there money, pleasure and honor so he can live in a society where everyone has nothing and is striving for truth, harmony and welfare, while he and other philosophers have money, pleasure and honor. In other words, he cons the public into having nothing so he (and philosophers alike) can have everything.    
Now at first glance, the “government of Platonism” is very virtuous and idealistic. The premonition that people will work together to help each other is a fascinating one. One cannot disagree with Plato on these principles – cannot disagree until they read, “Philosophers should be Kings”. Ironically, in his fear of democracy leading into a tyrannical form of government, Plato actually calls for a philosophical totalitarianism form of government. The con man asks for all individuals to work for the common good of everyone- everyone not a philosopher. The con man calls for a government of philosophers in power and the people beneath the philosophers. The con man is correct in that his “government of Platonism” will keep everyone in harmony – harmoniously beneath the philosophers. The hypocritical part is that while Plato calls for an end to democracy, it was democracy that allowed Plato to become a philosopher and enjoy all the fruits that came with it.  

Plato attempts to con everyone into believing democracy is bad for his own good. He appeals to individuals’ sanctimonious side for support for his government, i.e. dictatorship. By convincing people into thinking a democracy leads to tyranny, he is trading a fear of tyranny for a philosophical tyrannical organization. While his government seems more compassionate as it proposes working for the common good, in hindsight it works for the common good of the philosopher. There is little difference between Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Plato’s Republic in that both attempt to convince the public in that democracy is wrong and that their idea and style of government is superior and in the best interest of the common people. Both argue that their governments will lead to a utopia in which people stand side by side working for each other and in a unified interest as a whole. Hitler believed his group of people (the Aryan race) would be the best leaders of the land just as Plato believed his philosophers would. Unfortunately, the world got to see Hitler’s utopia. Fortunately, we did not get to see the confidence man’s.

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