Plato and More: A Discussion on Democracy

(Plato appears in Sir Thomas More’s chamber in Henry VIII’s castle)

More: So we meet again, Plato.

Plato: Greetings, Sir More.

M: So what shall the topic be for today’s cross-time continuum conversation?

P: I was thinking about discussing the topic of democracy today.

M: Why not. I’ll let you begin.

P: Let us first define the term democracy. Democracy is a state where freedom reigns supreme as the defining characteristic; the people may live life as they please, may take up any profession they please, and may speak without fear of unlawful censorship or persecution. They also are entitled to private property, where…

M: Private property? Ah, how amusing!

P: Is that so? I’m interested in your thoughts, More.

M: Well, I believe that the concept of private property is the source of class inequalities, thus creating injustice in society. It causes not only a sense of materialism but also the division of society into two classes: the rich and the poor. The rich develop a culture of buying and selling goods, or private property, that the poor laborers produce. Thus, the poor work for the benefit of the rich, causing inequality.

P: That is true. Seeing as how this system does not work, what shall you propose instead?

M: Private property should belong to the central government and be shared by all. This creates a society where all classes, while retaining individuality, combine their talents to produce property for the good of the entire State.

P: A truly just society…that is what you have just described. Where each man fulfills his/her role for the good of the State.

M: A truly just society is what democracy is NOT. In democracy, the poor work for the benefit of the few rich instead of the State as a whole. Justice can only be achieved by eliminating the freedom that paradoxically leads to inequality. Now tell me, Plato, what are your ideas of democracy?

P: I think that democracy, as defined by us earlier, is made unworthy of being called perfect by any means, as you have described it. However, I believe that the true downfall of democracy is the lack of proper leadership that exists because of it. If freedom is to thrive as the dominant quality of a democratic government, then there will be little chance of the people being willing to give in to a leader unless he/she stands for their direct interests. While a leader should definitely listen to his people, is he/ really acting in their interests by doing whatever they want him to do? I believe that because of this, an effective leader is unable of being chosen directly from the people; therefore, democracy at its core is unable of achieving true leadership.

M: Perhaps a form of indirect representation is needed? Where the people are represented by properly educated public officials, who nominate and elect the leaders based on the interests of the people? Anyways, it seems that according to both of us, pure democracy is unfit to be the government of a truly ideal State, even if it be due to different reasons.

P: At least at its core. There are many aspects of democracy that can be adapted to form an ideal government style. I see it as a step towards achieving a perfect society. Isn’t that something you’ve speculated upon, More, seeing as you invented the word “utopia”?

M: Oh come, now. Utopia, in its Greek context, means “a good place”; you of all people should know that. Furthermore, I wrote Utopia as a satire; merely a criticism against the governments of the time. Though many may argue otherwise, saying that it was intended as a “blueprint” for a perfect State or whatnot, I insist that criticism was my original intent. I believe a perfect society is impossible.

P: Even if a perfect society is possible, we can at least both agree that it does not take the form of pure democracy.

M: Indeed.

P: Well it has been enjoyable having a conversation with you, Sir More, but I must be getting back to my time. Until next time, my friend.

M: Farewell.

(Plato disappears from the room)

Discussion on Democracy

The Pessimist and the Optimist

(Plato has invited Sir Thomas More in his abode for an intellectual discussion)

Sir Thomas More(T)

T: Hello, and thank you for having me this evening.

P: Greetings to you too. The pleasure is all mine as I do enjoy having these discussions that contribute to our understanding of the world.

T: Even so, I mean, a person of your stature couldn’t possibly have the leisure to entertain a fellow like me.

P: Of my stature? Good man, in our form of study, we are all equals.

T: Speaking of equality: there were some aspects in your Republic that I thought I wanted to  clarify or rather, verify my understanding of it.

P: Ask away, my friend.

T: I am referring to the antidemocratic leadership that you had imposed in your ‘perfect State’. Would you not agree that people with their free minds will never stand for such subjugation? Would it not be better to work in co-operation rather than relying on one person’s ability to judge and govern? Born under the same sun, does everyone not have the right to have a say in matters which govern them? Furthermore, having a sole figure would attract rebellions, violate freedom hence, defy justice. Clearly, a violation of justice would mean a violation of people’s happiness that your ‘perfect state is supposed to provide. Equality to the extent that not even the leaders are exempt from any laws will provide a stage of independence. Whereas your ideas seem to suggest, if you would permit me inferring, a form of dictatorship.

P: Good man, I believe your words hold weight. However, they are optimistic and naive. People, from birth are driven by their selfish desires. Greed, lust, pride- time and time again civilizations have been crushed due to human nature. And you ask me to put faith in it?! You say, I flout justice? The justice you speak of is individualistic, a justice that accounts for societal happiness has to be achieved. I prefer lack of freedom by imposing rulers who are fit to rule, rather than the lack of any form of peace itself. An instance where the ignorant, unknowing people have elected a leader who is not capable must be avoided. If that is your definition of dictatorship, I confess guilty.

Now, I must question your democracy: assuming democracy is achieved, how do you attempt to prevent your leaders from falling into sins?

T: I believe that human nature is prone to lean towards malice. Therefore, I impose religion and practices of good faith from a very young in order to deter them from such malpractice. Furthermore, my utopia is segregated from the rest of society and cannot be influenced by it.

How do you suggest to find this ultimate leader who will have the skills to rule without falling for the sins himself?

P: I will select children out of society, teach them the subjects which will enhance their skills as leaders and finally choose the one who show the best results in their adult lives.


P: I believe, we have reached a stalemate. Since we are both prejudiced in some ways: you in your resentment of the Catholic church and the tyrannical English monarchy,

T: And you, in your lack in faith of the society that murdered your teacher, Socrates; we cannot reach a point of agreement.

P: Therefore, we must leave our works for the next generation of thinkers to comprehend its meanings and unveil right from wrong.

T: Fair enough. I hope our conversation has changed your pessimistic views on democracy to some extent.

P: Oh, if only…

Locked Out

[Karl Marx sits in the hallway of his dorm room.  Claud de Rouvroy, who goes by “Simon”, trips over Marx’s outstretched feet.]


K: [quickly pulls his feet back] Ooh, sorry, man!

S: [getting up] Don’t worry about it… er, what are you doing?

K: I’m locked out of my room… Adam’s MIA. Have you seen him?

S: [dropping his bag and sitting down] Nah, not since Econ this morning. I’m kind of glad, though… it got a little intense today.

K: Ha, yeah, he was getting really defensive in the class discussion.  Tonight will probably be a little awkward.

S: Well yeah, the Industrial Revolution and communism/capitalism conversations always rile people up… we were totally right, though.

K: [excitedly] Oh, I know! What was he even saying?

S: I don’t know… division of labor… laissez-faire

K: That industry was toxic, though. He agreed with that.

S: [shaking his head] No no, he disagreed.  He thought the industrial boom was great for society. He kept talking about all the jobs and merchandise it created.

K: Well yeah, but at the expense of the workers.  The free market in the UK led to the Industrial revolution, which led to a huge gap between the rich and poor.

S: I think what Adam was trying to say was that when labor got competitive, wages went down, because everyone wanted whatever job they could ge-

K: Right, which is bad for the working class.  Low wages mean more members of a family are forced to work.  They devote so much of their time to work that hardly pays off- literally, because wages still drop.  And then on top of that, they were expendable. Anyone could learn to do their job, and they could be replaced immediately.  How does that help the working class?

S: Well it doesn’t, but he did mention afterward that on the other hand, when employers got competitive, wages went up.  Like a fluctuating cycle.  I think Adam was sort of saying that it could benefit the eco-

K: [scoffs] How?

S: [he takes a moment to see if Karl is going to continue] -…benefit the economy by stabilizing it.  The whole “division of labor” idea.  Everyone gets really good at one thing, does it really well, and production increases exponentially.  This creates a booming economy, and benefits all the citizens. [He pauses, frowning.] That’s where I really disagree, though.  What good is having a booming economy if the workers can never enjoy it?  Society doesn’t really improve if the rich, business-owning class is the only one that reaps the benefits.

K: Right, and that’s when Adam agreed that the working, proletariat citizens would realize they were being oppressed and revolt against the powerful bourgeoisie.  That would lead to a proletarian-controlled society that would then develop into a truly just Communist society, where everyone puts in equal work and receives equal resources.

S: Er… no. That’s when Adam started his spiel on how the proletariat individual doesn’t matter as much as the country as a whole.  If the country is being moved along by the progressive inventions of the working class, then it is a success.

K: [glaring] That’s what you think?

S: No! You asked what Adam thought! I’m agreeing with you.  The success of a nation can’t just be defined by its levels of production… especially if high production results in low quality of life for the vast majority of its citizens.

K: [throwing his hands up in frustration] Adam doesn’t get it!

S: [he nods, inspired by Karl’s enthusiasm] How can he understand the poor? He doesn’t even get financial aid! What does he know about hard work?

K: [He pauses, furrowing his brow] Simon, isn’t your dad an investment banker?

[Both boys are silent for a moment. No eye contact is made. Just as Simon is about to speak, a portly woman hastily rounds the corner.]

DPS Agent: [out of breath] I got a call for a lockout.



Two Old Friends Are Reacquainted

Thomas More and Plato, two old friends, run into one another at a Starbucks one day.

Plato: Is that—It can’t be… Thomas More?! Long time no see! How long has it been? Five years?

More: Plato! Wow good so see you, how have you been?

P: Not so good actually.  My teacher, Socrates was unjustly executed for his teachings, or as they put it “corrupting of young minds.”

M: Yeah man I heard about that. I’m so sorry. Why don’t you sit down? I’d love to catch up.

P: Sure, I’d love to! So, what are your views on democracy?

M: Very good question. I was just thinking about democracy. I, for one, think a representative democracy, with elected public officials is the way to go.  I believe that whenever an issue arises, the elected official should consult with his electors on how to proceed.

P: Hahahah oh Thomas, you always were so naïve. Haven’t you considered the implications of democracy?

M: Such as?

P: For one, with democracy comes corrupt, wealthy politicians who can practically buy their way into office.  A perfect society would function best with leaders who are educated from birth and know what is best for their country. The idea that all men are created equal is absurd. Some men are smarter and more apt than others, and clearly those should be the ones with authority.

M: But what about the majority of society and what they think? The people are the only ones who can determine who is apt to rule them, because they are the ones being ruled.  Also, how can you be so sure that everyone will be willing to fulfill their duties and contribute to society when they are not given proper representation?

P: Because everyone will work in the role best suited for him.  There is no reason to be unhappy when everyone contributes to and therefore, lives in a just and equal society.  Besides, with a democracy there is a huge imbalanced gap between the rich and the poor.  The rich people will rule and will want private property.  In democracies, people only value individual liberties and honor.  Everyone will be greedy!  There is absolutely nothing good about democracy ever.

M: Listen, I know your friend Socrates was executed and all, but get over it. There are positives to democracy that you’re completely overlooking.

(Short pause where Plato is taken aback by More’s inconsiderate and hurtful comment)

M: I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.  I was just trying to say that I don’t think you should let one event cloud your opinion. My point is, rulers who are elected by the people are bound to do what is right for the people. Not to mention, a man of the people is likely to better understand the people.

P: Hm, I guess we will never agree on this matter, best just to let it go, enjoy our coffee, and perhaps discuss less litigious subjects.

M: Yes I suppose you’re right. So, tell me, what are your views on education?

Marx’s First Day On the Job

Karl Marx arrives for his first day of work in a factory, only to find that Adam Smith happens to own the factory.

Marx: You’re kidding me, right?

Smith: Sorry?

Marx: I’m taking on this factory job to, you know, unite with the proletariat and stuff, and I get landed with Adam Smith as my boss. This is just too perfect.

Smith: Um…

Marx: Well, I spend every flipping day inciting workers to unite against the bourgeoisie, and actually see that they are part of one big, sad, oppressed class. And now here I am, standing across from the man that basically let the whole bourgeoisie class feel guiltless about stripping the proletariat of their humanity.

Smith: Oh, so you think I’m the reason the bourgeoisie doesn’t feel guilty about the so-called oppression of the proletariat? Actually, wasn’t it you who said that the class situation of the bourgeoisie makes them think the way they do about the world? If you really believed your own theory, you would believe it was impossible for me to have influenced their attitudes towards capitalism.

Marx: You know who I am, then? You’ve read my stuff? Aren’t we proletarians just one big, nameless commodity to you? Come on, admit it.

Smith: I would hardly call you a proletarian.

Marx: Whatever. Let’s tour the factory. Oh, do you see this assembly line? Know what it does?

Smith: Sure. Every worker’s job is reduced to a simple, small task, to the extent that their skills increase tenfold at that one, single task. Not to mention, they aren’t wasting time switching between jobs. The assembly line increases efficiency.

Marx: And you think that’s a good thing?

Smith: Certainly. Just look around the world. The most efficient industries produce the best products and generate the most revenue. Simply put, the quality of their citizens’ lives are just better.

Marx: Come on now, which citizens’ lives are you referring to? Our society only ever looks through the lens of the bourgeoisie. If we were to look through the eyes of the proletariat, we would see that the oversimplification of labor drives wages down, which in turn forces more members of each family to enter the work force. And then, what do you know, the larger work force creates more competition for jobs, which in turn further lowers wages. So tell me, who has this high quality of life to which you are referring?

Smith: Um, the country does. The country is improving and moving along. I never said anything about the quality of life of the proletariat. Anyway, wouldn’t you agree that before the division of labor, everyone was saddled with more work? In unindustrialized countries, people many different types of work, whereas here, one only needs to do one type.

Marx: Well, at least in those countries, everyone is still connected to the product of their work. No bourgeoisie is exploiting them, either; they don’t have to undersell their labor to anyone.

Smith: So you’re proposing that we go back to caveman times?

Marx: No, I’m proposing that the proletariat take control the means of production, rather than continuing to suffer under the bourgeoisie.

Smith: You make it sound so easy. Don’t you see that everyone is selfish? They’re not going to give themselves up to the cause, or let any property be “public property” like you imagine. Selfishness, by contrast, is what makes capitalism work; it’s what causes entrepreneurs to rush into good industries, and drop out when they have negative profit margins. Selfishness creates that balance between supply and demand.

Marx: Haven’t you read St. Simon? At least he thinks of how the people will suffer before balance is achieved. Anyway, I’ve got to go. I’m finally here among the proletariat, and they still haven’t achieved class-consciousness. I’ve got work to do.

Smith: Sure thing. And I’m going to go increase the efficiency of my factory. After all, I’m after profit.

Marx: Sounds amoral, man, but you’ll be powerless one day.


Smith: Good luck with that.