Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Socrates Knew About Democracy

In my Philosophy 100 class we are reading and discussing Plato's Dialogues chronicling the trial and execution of Socrates. Socrates, as many know was an ancient Greek philosopher from the city-state of Athens, who was executed for "corrupting the youth", mostly because he had become unpopular with the people of Athens for his criticisms. In Apology, Socrates recounts why one of the oldest rumors about him started, he was told by an oracle that he was the wisest man in the world and he set out to disprove her by going to other men who claimed themselves to be wise. First he went to the politicians (Athens was the first democracy), then the poets, and finally to the craftsmen. But he found that the politicians and poets were completely ignorant and refused to admit it, while the craftsmen were quite knowledgeable about their craft but nothing else. That was one of the reasons he was unpopular, he told people that they elected fools and that the people at the bottom of the social ladder (aside from slaves) were the least ignorant.

It still holds today that the vast majority of politicians know next to nothing about what the *bleep* they're talking about. Which is one of the main reasons why I think that a meritocracy would be better than a democracy, the people in charge have proven themselves competent at their job. Unfortunately so many people are convinced that democracy is the best form of government and the majority rules so probably the closest thing we could get would be a futarchy as suggested by fellow transhumanist blogger Roko Mijic here. Futarchy would be a form of government where elected representatives formally define and manage national welfare, but the policies themselves would be determined based on what a group of market speculators and other experts think would benefit us the most.

1 comment:

Roko said...

Note that futarchy still involves a democratic element: people have to first vote on a simple collection of easy-to-measure tests that will be used for settling bets.