Socrates Didn’t Think You Should Vote

03 Nov

With the election just hours in the past, this is normally the period of time in which the folks whose candidates lost get really existentially distraught, start talking about moving to some other country or how “stupid” people shouldn’t be allowed to vote.  And yes, both sides are absolutely convinced that the other side is stupid, so that would be a real problem with enforcing such a distinction – defining the term.

I mean, what if it turned out I was the one who was stupid?  I’ll bet that would make me pretty mad.

The truth is, stupid people get the exact same vote that Harvard Law Professors get, whether they are stupid Democrats or stupid Republicans or stupid Independents or Socialists or Tea Partiers.  That’s something the Founding Fathers decided early on – that stupid people get a vote, too, as long as they’re white and own land and not girls. 

Okay, so not that many people could vote at first, but at least whether or not you were stupid had nothing to do with it.  These days, lots of people are prone to speculating that maybe some people shouldn’t get to vote because they’re too stupid, but you can bet your ass they don’t mind if stupid people agree with them.  Suddenly it’s, Stupid Rights!

Well, if that’s where you are emotionally right now with regards to voting and elections, you’re in luck, because Socrates agreed with you – he didn’t think we should be voting much at all, at least not the way he lays it out in Plato’s The Republic. 

You probably recognize Socrates from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the world’s very first Extreme Philosopher, so extreme that he turned down a chance to escape the death penalty and live out his days in relative comfort and ease, all because he thought it would be philosophically wrong to skate on his tab.  Or possibly as historian Steve Martin suggests, because he didn’t know hemlock was poisonous.

But before he drank poison to make a stubborn point, Socrates apparently designed what he considered to be a perfect society, and in it, there wasn’t going to be any voting going on.  That would be crazy, argued Socrates, since most people have no idea what the hell they are talking about.

Instead, Socrates, Extreme Philosopher and Shameless Self-Promoter, deemed that governing should be done by philosphers, since that was definitely a crew who liked to sit around for hours on end and figure out exactly what they were talking about.  And before you jump on him for shamelessly appointing himself ruler, you should know that Socrates didn’t really think you ought to get paid for being in charge.

Room and board, a modest allowance, that’s it.  Where did all these franking limousines come from?

He also thought that people shouldn’t be picking out who they’re going to be having babies with.  Again, not a very nice thought, but Socrates wasn’t planning on running a daisy farm.  Everybody knows ten people who shouldn’t have had kids with the ten people they had kids with, and frequently, they have a LOT of them.  Socrates was going to go ahead and put a stop to that, and he was going to try to think of a better term for it than Terrifying Fascist Race Purification.

Maybe the Happy Baby Bill?  The Friendly Fornication Act?

It wasn’t anything personal, Socrates just thought, you know, if we’re running low on smart people, let’s get babies out of you six right there.  And if we need some big strong kids, too, then you ten, get crackin’. 

My guess is, Socrates probably thought you could never have too many philosopher babies.  Line up!

Speaking of babies, Socrates didn’t think you should raise your own kids either.  He says, you know, look around and it’s easy to see that some people are better at parenting than others.  Those folks ought to be the ones doing it, while the rest of us just sort of fork them over and then do something else, something we’re good at.

What are you going to do stand there arguing with Socrates?

And anyway, that’s exactly what we do to some extent or another, depending on which culture you’re from.  The boarding school system is just like that – ship them off, write a check, they come back parented. 

Even public schools – we hand our kids over for a solid one half of their waking lives, and then you only get what’s left of the other half after you get home from work.  Who raises them again?

Well, don’t worry – as an enlightened species with gargantuan brains and barges just loaded up with homespun wisdom, floating around in our harbors, we killed Socrates and built our own version of Utopia, ignoring most of what he said, keeping a little bit of it, like picky kids at a salad bar.  All You Can Eat Freedom!

The best thing to do is just keep watching.  Watch what this batch does, and remember it, and keep voting.  I’m as always a little appalled by the number of people who disagree with me, and maybe I’m stupid, maybe they’re stupid, maybe both.  But I’m far more appalled by the people who couldn’t be bothered to show up and cast a vote at all.

If only only about thirty percent of us showed up to have our voices heard on Election Day, then why does it sound exactly like a full one hundred percent of us are bitching all the time?

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Posted by on November 3, 2010 in Future Tom Grab Bag


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