More Popper: View from Chapter 7

 The wise shall lead and rule, and the ignorant shall follow. PLATO.

Popper, Karl R.. The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton Classics) . Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition. 

Perhaps Plato's most famous dictum.  The problem with Democracy, says Plato, is that the ignorant often choose the foolish or evil to rule, as we in the US have seen.  One trouble with Plato's solution is that not only do all known  totalitarian systems do at least as poorly in "choosing" leaders, they also make it virtually impossible to remove those foolish and evil rulers.

For even those who share this assumption of Plato’s admit that political rulers are not always sufficiently ‘good’ or ‘wise’ (we need not worry about the precise meaning of these terms), and that it is not at all easy to get a government on whose goodness and wisdom one can implicitly rely. If that is granted, then we must ask whether political thought should not face from the beginning the possibility of bad government; whether we should not prepare for the worst leaders, and hope for the best. But this leads to a new approach to the problem of politics, for it forces us to replace the question: Who should rule? by the new2 question: How can we so organize political institutions that bad or incompetent rulers can be prevented from doing too much damage?

Popper, Karl R.. The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton Classics) . Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition. 

Plato's solution, a thoroughly brainwashed ruling caste, has failed, notably in the Communist countries.  Of course we know a lot more about human nature and human instincts now than Plato (or Marx) did, so it is not too hard to see why such system failures are inevitable - for people.  They seem to work OK for ants and honeybees.

One of Popper's great bugaboos is "historicism, " which seems to mean identifying some desired political state with the supposedly ineluctable workings of historical forces.  Popper makes his own historical error, I think, of identifying totalitarianism with tribalism.  I don't think that this is good anthropology.

One of the most powerful critiques of Plato by Popper is his charge of dishonesty.  Plato's utopian schemes, says Popper, systematically ignore critiques that were well known to him, as he puts those arguments into the mouths of the dim and unpleasant.  Interestingly, Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy, which seems to have been published nearly simultaneously, makes the same accusation.


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