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Democracy or popular rule is defined as the act of governance where each individual under that government has equal rights of making decisions. Democracy is often regarded as an ideal form of rule as all subjects are given equal opportunities to air views affecting them regardless of the impact of such suggestions to the ruler. Consequently, a number of political theorists have strongly criticized democracy in a persuasive manner hence implicating that popular rule cannot succeed smoothly in any part of the world. Therefore, based on theories raised by Aristotle, Plato, Polybius and Marsilius it is apparent that their criticisms on democracy are persuasive.
Plato argues that a democratic republic could be compared to a prison where vision and activities of those confined in the shelter are limited. For instance, in the case of a popular rule government, there would be no special classes for certain social classes as everyone would go to communal schools to learn the basics of doing well to everyone. Consequently, all subjects in the republic would be taught similar skills at school hence at some point everyone would be engaged in the same career and the other fields left without workers. Plato terms this occurrence as disastrous as it acts as an avenue for tyrants to get in and establish their own kingdoms against the wishes of the citizens. However, to avoid such an event the popular rule has to create room for specialization so as to develop self-sufficiency among the subjects (Reeve, 1988).
The other criticism against democracy as demonstrated by Plato is on the degree of disorderly as seen among Plato’s cities which practiced popular rule. The disorderly is attributed to equalizing the rich and the poor yet the rich always posses an upper hand. Plato argues that in as much as everyone in the city will have an equal chance to a decision, the most preferred decision or that which will be adopted will be raised by an individual from the high class. Consequently, disagreements arise due to failure of the ‘ideal’ popular rule as it fails to be popular to all (Sesonske, 1966).
Similarly, according to Plato’s theory, the best person who could successfully govern a democratic republic is a philosopher as they possess adequate knowledge about popular rule. However, no one elects the philosopher but rather his friends appoint him ruler which is contrasting with the attributes of a democracy where subjects freely elect their leader. Based on these accusations, Plato provides strong criticism for democracy which is very persuasive (Birch, 1993).
This philosopher points out that, depending on the law governing a country or republic, human beings are accorded different titles which should not be the case in a democratic republic. For instance, the relationship between a man and his wife is different from that shared with children. Therefore, the voting powers of the family members vary based on the nature or relationship shared. In this case in a democratic republic everyone has equal rights to air their views but then some individuals end up with better opportunities possibly due to their financial status or influence (Mayhew, 1997).
Aristotle also demonstrates the degree of equality in families who possess slaves to work for them. In such situations, the slaves usually lack any form of free will as they have to undertake all responsibilities as per their master’s discretions. Similarly, in the ideal world, those who are not financially well off are presented with fewer opportunities to make decisions as they act as per the convictions of the influential. Aristotle uses the example to illustrate failed democracy in the real world we live in as we have already failed to implement popular rule at the domestic level (Birch, 1993).
Freedom is a key element in Aristotle’s criticism of democracy as he points out that some people must be governed while others have to be the governors. However, the governors must be in position as a result of majority selection rather than merit hence the ruler is responsible for his/her subject’s freedom. Aristotle exhibits the fact that without freedom, democracy cannot prevail as subjects who are not free are incapable of exercising the opportunities which come their way. Consequently, the majority always pass motions which are followed by everyone else include prisoners who never participated in the entire decision-making process (Simpson, 1998).
Consequently, Aristotle describes democracy as an illusion whose key role is in masking the real governance of the republic. The reality in this case is composed of the fact that the elite in a community make fundamental decisions and laws which are used by all hence denying the middle as well as the low class an opportunity to take part in the democratic governance.
Marsilius; The Defender of Peace
Marsilius’ theory on democracy was not directed towards the political leaders but rather towards spiritual leaders heading the church at that time. He argued that spiritual leaders such as the clergy, bishops and the pope should be elected by the people or Christians to whom they served. Similarly, the spiritual leaders were to be dismissed from office through the church council or civil authority. However, the main critique in this argument is the fact that spiritual leaders have always been elected by their fellow churchmen and women though the criteria used is different from that of electing political leaders (Nederman, 1991).
Similarly, Marsilius stated that the responsibility of interpreting scriptures should not be carried out by the spiritual leaders. This is controversial since the key responsibility of bishops and the clergy is to ensure that Christians get to understand the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, denying the clergy this duty shows that they will have no roles related to religion in their line of duty hence chaos are likely to erupt among the Christians (Emerton, 1920).
According to the Defender of Peace, tithing was to be eliminated from the democratic church so that religious leaders never came into any contact with finances or property. The criticism in this statement is that tithing is part of every Christian’s mandate as they should always give10% of their harvest as a form of thanksgiving. Similarly, failure to contribute the percentage would convert the just world into an unjust one due to constant wrangles between the civil authorities governing the church and the religious leaders (Amartya, 1999).
Popular rule as criticized by the three classical and pre-modern political theorists do not practically exist but rather in utopian worlds it could be present. Plato, Aristotle and Marsilius have all provided sufficient criticism against democracy which had been illustrated as a perfect way of governance by philosophers. Plato’s criticism is persuasive in that he points out that a democratic republic will miss out on specialized skills hence make it vulnerable for tyrants to overtake. Similarly, Aristotle singles out freedom as a crucial element in attainment of democracy and as no region in the world offers exclusive freedom to all subjects, democracy fails to succeed. Marsilius on the other hand critics the attempt to incorporate politics in religious leadership which is not only unjust to the spiritual leaders but also the religious doctrines. In conclusion, the above essay provides sufficient evidence that indeed the criticisms of democracy are persuasive.
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