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You are here: Allan's TIME > Writings on Government > Socrates and Democracy

Socrates and Democracy

David W. Allan
July 29, 2001

Socrates... did not conceal his contempt for some of the weaknesses of democracy, and this... greatly influenced the political thinking of his disciple Plato. Socrates openly taught that the principal fault of democracy was that it did not require proof of special knowledge in its leaders, that it surrendered the direction of the people’s destinies to men without adequate experience in government, and that on the question of the morality of justice of a policy it treated the opinions of all citizens as equal in value. Not unnaturally, these unorthodox sentiments were viewed with alarm by the democrats, still politically insecure...

Socrates... sought to uncover errors in conventional views, and by the use of inductive argument — the attempt to arrive at general conclusions through striking particular illustrations taken from the life of the common people — to draw a pattern of life consistent with truth and virtue... The apparent harmony of the universe led Socrates to believe that it is ordered by a Divine Spirit and he held... that the soul is immortal. His belief that he himself was inspired by a divine voice... [brought him to his death]. He was a great, good, wise, inspiring... man.

Ironically, he was condemned to death for "impiety" (ungodliness or irreverence towards the Supreme Being; contempt of the divine character and authority; [definition from the original Noah Webster dictionary]). What, in fact, caused his death was his rejection of the current democratic leadership. He was too bold in exposing their inconsistencies, and they wanted him out of the way. The accusation of impiety was a ruse to make them look good and Socrates look bad so that the democratic vote for his death would follow.

Alma taught that "the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom according to that which is just and true." (Alma 29:8) The wisdom shared and example lived in Socrates’ life foreshadowed that of Christ. His death was for similar reasons. He wore no shoes, left no writings, dressed humbly, cared for the common people, had a great many disciples at the time of his death in 399 B.C., and died because he would not compromise on the principles he taught.

Today, many proclaim democracy as the way for the world to be governed — not realizing that the greatness of this land of the free is that we are a republic. Democracy, taken to its limit, is mobocracy. Our inspired constitution protects us against this conspiratorial trickery, and most have lost the vision of this inspired document. Let us repent and focus on the wisdom and inspiration given to our founding fathers and the wise sages of the past. But most especially let us focus on the inspiration He will give us as we come unto Him, who inspired them and Socrates. Otherwise, we will go through the worst world war ever to regain our freedoms, and many will have to die as Socrates — standing for correct principles.

Ref: the first two paragraphs above are taken from the Americana Encyclopedia. The bracketed words and the last three paragraphs are mine.

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