The First Collectivist

November 18th, 2009

By Brianna Aubin

Plato&AristotleWhen the Communists, Fascists, and Socialists started advocating their ideas around the turn of the 20th century, they billed them as completely new and radical ideologies. Little did they know that they had already been scooped… by a guy who had been dead for literally over two millenia. Their predecessor’s name? Plato of Athens. In his work The Republic¹ Plato lays out, in a faux dialogue format between his teacher Socrates and another character named Glaucon, how he would go about creating his ideal state. In the process he advocated many progressive, liberal and fascist ideals, including…

Eugenics:

The principle has been already laid down that the best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the inferior with the inferior as seldom as possible; and that they should rear the offspring of the one sort of union, but not of the other, if the flock is to be maintained in first-rate condition. (p. 150)

The right of the rulers to lie to the people:

Our rulers will find a considerable dose of falsehood and deceit necessary for the good of their subjects. (p. 65)

Now these goings on must be a secret which the rulers only know, or there will be a further danger of our herd, as the guardians may be termed, breaking out into rebellion. (p. 150)

Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rules of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with the enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good. But nobody else should meddle with anything of the kind; and although the rulers have this privilege, for a private man to lie to them in return is to be deemed a… heinous fault. (p. 75)

Censorship:

Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorized ones only. (p. 62)

Abolition of private property:

In the first place, none of them [the guardians] should have any property of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary; neither should they have a private house or store closed against any one who has a mind to enter. (p. 107)

Determinism:

Citizens… you are brothers, yet God has framed you differently. Some of you have the power of command, and in the composition of these he has mingled gold, wherefore also they have the greatest honor; other she has made of silver, to be auxiliaries [guardians]; others again who are to be husbandmen and craftsmen he has composed of brass and iron; and the species will generally be preserved in the children. (p. 105)

But when the cobbler or any other man whom nature designed to be a trader, having his heart lifted up by wealth or strength or the number of his followers, or any like advantage, attempts to force his way into the class of warriors, or a warrior into that of legislators and guardians, for which he is unfitted, and either to take the implements or the duties of the other, or when one man is trader, legislator, and warrior all in one, then I think you will agree with me in saying that this interchange and meddling of one with another is the ruin of the State. (p. 124)

Wives and children “in common”:

The law… which is to be the sequel of this and of all that has preceded, is to the following effect, — “that the wives of our guardians are to be common, and their children are to be common, and no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent.” (p. 147)

The evils of private feelings:

Can there be any greater evil than discord and distraction and plurality where unity ought to reign? Or any greater good than the bond of unity?…. where there is no common but only private feeling a State is disorganized… when any one of the citizens experiences any good or evil, the whole State will make his care their own, and will either rejoice or sorrow with him. (p.153)

Duty and service to the State regardless of those evil personal feelings:

The business of us who are the founders of the State will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we have already shown to be the greatest of all – they must continue to ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended and seen enough we must not allow them to do as they do now… remain in the upper world… this must not be allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are worth having or not. (p. 210)

Even while openly admitting that all of these lies would merely be a convenient fiction fed to the citizens for the sake of the State, particularly to the young who would have no defenses against it:

“…. Such is the tale; is there any possibility of making our citizens believe in it?

“Not in the present generation… there is no way of accomplishing this; but their sons may be made to believe in the tale, and their sons’ sons, and posterity after them.” (p.105)

But look on the bright side. Whatever Plato’s faults, he was at least intellectually honest in that he had some idea of what the results would be, and said as much when he finally made Socrates’s sidekick Glaucon ask the question:

“But is this not unjust?… ought we to give them a worse life, when they might have a better?”

“You have again forgotten… the intention of the legislator, who did not aim at making any one class in the State happy above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State, and he held the citizens together by persuasion and necessity, making them benefactors of the State and therefore benefactors of one another; to this end he created them, not to please themselves, but to be his instruments in binding up the state.”
(p. 210)

Or, in the words of Ayn Rand’s Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead

Don’t allow men to be happy. Happiness is self-contained and self-sufficient. Happy men have no time and no use for you. Happy men are free men…. Of course you must dress it up. You must tell people that they’ll achieve a superior kind of happiness by giving up everything that makes them happy. You don’t have to be too clear about it. Use big, vague words. “Universal Harmony” – “Eternal Spirit” – “Divine Purpose” – “Nirvana” – “Paradise” – “Racial Supremacy” – “The Dictatorship of the Proletariot.”

Whatever else Plato was after when he advocated these ideas, it wasn’t your happiness or mine that he was particularly worried about when he did it. Just as it is not your happiness or mine that our politicians are particularly worried about when they advocate universal health care plans, National Service Days, or redistributing wealth in the name of the public good.  They know perfectly well that happy men are free men who do not need Washington politics or politicians; it’s you and me they’re hoping to keep in the dark.

Get out of the cave of Plato’s myth; stop staring at shadows cast by firelight (or in today’s day and age, by the mass media) on the wall as though they were universal truths.  Come into the light of day by reading your history and learning what really happens when politicians start talking about the welfare of the State.  Realize that although they will have no trouble accepting whatever sacrifices you’re willing to make for “the public”, you probably aren’t going to be considered a member of “the public” when it becomes time to redistribute those collected alms.  And then start fighting to get this country out of the Platonic/collectivist mentality while we still have a chance.

¹B. Jowett, Plato: The Republic and Other Works (New York: Random House, 1973), 552 pages.

²Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943), 694 pages.


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3 Responses to “The First Collectivist”



  1. larry |

    Briana
    I do indeed see much of what you mentioned in our society today
    A lot of the same went on years ago. People weren’t quite as open about disrespecting others and lying about everything for personal gain. If man could decide between right or wrong, there are good things, as stated in your last paragraph, that could come from such an awakening.

    I’ve argued with some here regarding the many possible scenarios we could find in Heaven if it does, as I believe, exist. Many of the things you (and I) see as objectionale will most likely not be such a problem if we do earn a reward of immortality and everything furnished. Free food, housing and everything else plus everyone gets the same rewards. Sounds like socialism but is it?


  2. Harvey |

    Brianna,

    You’re observations are priceless! The similarities between the thought process in Plato’s writing and much of the thought process in 20th and 21st Century America are absolutely spooky!

    My bad for being such a slacker when it comes to studying history and the old philosophers.


  3. Tom |

    Great work, Brianna! Reflections of similar kinds of thinking can be found among extremists of both left and right, including in states ruled by them. Part of Plato’s thinking was undoubtedly influenced by the chaos of the Athenian form of democracy, which was for the most part and at most times little more than mob rule. In fact, that highly flawed democracy condemned Socrates to death, along with lots of other significant political and military leaders who displeased the mob.

    Reading this kind of thing always gives me a small shiver. Once in a graduate independent study seminar, I designed for myself a project consisting of reading Plato (mainly The Republic), Aristotle (mainly Politics), Thucydides, and Herodotus. The idea was to meld those sources, along with others, into a paper dealing with the politics and history of the era, with emphasis on a critique of Athenian democracy. I was given a lot of rope, and I hung myself. The paper turned out to be at least twice as long as I had envisioned, and it took a huge amount of time. The paper was well-received, but I always thought that was charity, or at least a reluctance on the part of the professors to admit that it confused them as much as it did the hapless author.


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