Letter: Nation descending to mediocrity, dependency

From: Richard Pitman


The circus-like machinations of the current and some of the past political campaigns have caused me to reflect on Plato’s concerns/criticisms regarding democracy as described in his “Republic” and his argument for an authoritarian form of government. He criticized all other forms as flawed because they clouded and inhibited the quest for the “true good.” Consider his arguments:

• Leaders will seek popularity rather than statesmanship in order to get re-elected.

• People (voters) will tend to vote for leaders more like themselves and not necessarily the most competent.

• Leaders tend to pander to the wishes of the electorate rather than do what is right.

• Leaders tend to focus on short-term goals at the expense of long-term needs of society.

• They tend to spend more than they take in (always easier to give than to ask for sacrifices).

• Politics becomes superficial and focuses more on images and less on substantive issues.

• The electorate becomes more focused on the sensational over the important. Images dominate over substantive debate.

His perception and analysis say imperfect societies (as most, if not all, are) favor appearances over reality. We become enamored with images and appearances, placing more on emotion than reason in our political debates. Politicians manipulate public beliefs to their own advantage rather than seeking truth and the good. Democracy opens the door to rule by manipulations and competing special interests. We gradually lose a sense of shared values, and disagreements increase, leading to social disorder, increased crime, distrust of authority and generational gaps.

I am a retired senior. The current circus has impelled me to reflect on the past few years, and in my opinion we are descending to mediocrity and dependency, and I hope that we the electorate can and will accept our responsibility to become better informed in an effort to reverse the trends. In spite of my judgments and opinions, I have come to cling to the humorous wisdom of Winston Churchill that “democracy is the worst of all governances except for the rest of them.”