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Trump and American authoritarianism?

 
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Here's an interesting if scary story about why so many Americans are apparently so receptive to the rhetoric of Donald Trump:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/01/donald-trump-2016-authoritarian-213533

Have to admit I've always been puzzled by the way a country that places so much emphasis on individual liberty can also seem so vulnerable to the idea of the "strong man" as leader. Perhaps it's the legacy of their religious founders, dreaming of a new prophet to lead them out of the wilderness. But I don't live there, so what do I know?

Thoughts?
 
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Someone else sent me a link to similar nonsense. Why do people need to make up things about subjects they know nothing about when it has been well defined for thousands of years?

In Chapter 8 of Plato's The Republic (Jowett's translation) Socrates explains the five types of government, and how Democracy fails and a Tyrant takes over. The mere fact that he calls tyranny, "great and famous" has Trump written all over it. Though, each party could explain this is the other party, in part or in full, Trump, who has no exclusive identity with either party, takes the cake.

This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.


And the protector of the people is like him; having a mob entirely at his disposal, he is not restrained from shedding the blood of kinsmen; by the favourite method of false accusation he brings them into court and murders them, making the life of man to disappear, and with unholy tongue and lips tasting the blood of his fellow citizen; some he kills and others he banishes, at the same time hinting at the abolition of debts and partition of lands: and after this, what will be his destiny? Must he not either perish at the hands of his enemies, or from being a man become a wolf --that is, a tyrant?


Much of chapter 8 seems rather prophetic.
 
chris webster
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Brian Tkatch wrote:Someone else sent me a link to similar nonsense. Why do people need to make up things about subjects they know nothing about when it has been well defined for thousands of years?


Well, I must confess I've never got around to reading "The Republic", so thanks for the pointer on that score. On the other hand, I'm not convinced all of modern politics can be explained exclusively through reference to the ancient Greeks (and certainly not via all that numerological stuff that often gets mixed in there). I'm at least as likely to think Marx might be relevant in many contexts, as Plato or Socrates, for example.

Anyway, I thought the article opened an interesting if limited window on a phenomenon that is quite mystifying to most of us outside the USA: why do freedom-loving people seem to worship a man who sounds a lot like an old school fascist? But that's just one narrow view, so I'm curious about how those of you inside the "moronic inferno" might view things.
 
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chris webster wrote:(and certainly not via all that numerological stuff that often gets mixed in there)


There is a minor amount of numerology, and the one paragraph can be skipped. Please do not let that tiny bit mar the whole.

I'm not convinced all of modern politics can be explained exclusively through reference to the ancient Greek

why do freedom-loving people seem to worship a man who sounds a lot like an old school fascist?


I find your ignorance rather ironic.
 
chris webster
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Brian Tkatch wrote:I find your ignorance rather ironic.


Feel free to illuminate my ignorance, then.
 
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Quite often people who claim to love freedom actually mean "I want the freedom to be able to live my life the way I want to, and if this means denying others freedom, then so be it".

I don't think Trump's supporters see him as a fascist. I think they see him as someone who isn't part of the establishment, and that's why they rally behind him - many people seem to be so tired of the corrupt system in place, they'll support anyone who is from outside it.
 
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chris webster wrote:Feel free to illuminate my ignorance, then.


But i'd rather just make fun of it....oh...wait...

To do it true justice, i would have to quote the entire chapter, but, i guess we'll stick to "a few" lines. My hope is you just read the whole thing.

Anyway, after discussion how a perfect society would work, Socrates turns his attention to the four other types of government worth looking at, explaining how one springs from the other: Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, Tyranny.

A democracy comes into being:

And then democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, while to the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and power; and this is the form of government in which the magistrates are commonly elected by lot.


The democracy is about freedom:

In the first place, are they not free; and is not the city full of freedom and frankness --a man may say and do what he likes?

'Tis said so, he replied.
And where freedom is, the individual is clearly able to order for himself his own life as he pleases?

Clearly.
Then in this kind of State there will be the greatest variety of human natures?

There will.
This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of States, being an embroidered robe which is spangled with every sort of flower. And just as women and children think a variety of colours to be of all things most charming, so there are many men to whom this State, which is spangled with the manners and characters of mankind, will appear to be the fairest of States.

Yes.
Yes, my good Sir, and there will be no better in which to look for a government.


Some notes:

Have you not observed how, in a democracy, many persons, although they have been sentenced to death or exile, just stay where they are and walk about the world --the gentleman parades like a hero, and nobody sees or cares?

Yes, he replied, many and many a one.
See too, I said, the forgiving spirit of democracy, and the 'don't care' about trifles, and the disregard which she shows of all the fine principles which we solemnly laid down at the foundation of the city --as when we said that, except in the case of some rarely gifted nature, there never will be a good man who has not from his childhood been used to play amid things of beauty and make of them a joy and a study --how grandly does she trample all these fine notions of ours under her feet, never giving a thought to the pursuits which make a statesman, and promoting to honour any one who professes to be the people's friend.

Yes, she is of a noble spirit.
These and other kindred characteristics are proper to democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.


Democracy and hedonism (but one of the quotes):

Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting everything, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often he-is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of any one who is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in that. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.

Yes, he replied, he is all liberty and equality.
Yes, I said; his life is motley and manifold and an epitome of the lives of many; --he answers to the State which we described as fair and spangled. And many a man and many a woman will take him for their pattern, and many a constitution and many an example of manners is contained in him.

Just so.
Let him then be set over against democracy; he may truly be called the democratic man.


Freedom extends to everyone, even animals:

When a democracy which is thirsting for freedom has evil cupbearers presiding over the feast, and has drunk too deeply of the strong wine of freedom, then, unless her rulers are very amenable and give a plentiful draught, she calls them to account and punishes them, and says that they are cursed oligarchs.

Yes, he replied, a very common occurrence.
Yes, I said; and loyal citizens are insultingly termed by her slaves who hug their chains and men of naught; she would have subjects who are like rulers, and rulers who are like subjects: these are men after her own heart, whom she praises and honours both in private and public. Now, in such a State, can liberty have any limit?

Certainly not.
By degrees the anarchy finds a way into private houses, and ends by getting among the animals and infecting them.

How do you mean?
I mean that the father grows accustomed to descend to the level of his sons and to fear them, and the son is on a level with his father, he having no respect or reverence for either of his parents; and this is his freedom, and metic is equal with the citizen and the citizen with the metic, and the stranger is quite as good as either.

Yes, he said, that is the way.
And these are not the only evils, I said --there are several lesser ones: In such a state of society the master fears and flatters his scholars, and the scholars despise their masters and tutors; young and old are all alike; and the young man is on a level with the old, and is ready to compete with him in word or deed; and old men condescend to the young and are full of pleasantry and gaiety; they are loth to be thought morose and authoritative, and therefore they adopt the manners of the young.

Quite true, he said.
The last extreme of popular liberty is when the slave bought with money, whether male or female, is just as free as his or her purchaser; nor must I forget to tell of the liberty and equality of the two sexes in relation to each other.

Why not, as Aeschylus says, utter the word which rises to our lips?
That is what I am doing, I replied; and I must add that no one who does not know would believe, how much greater is the liberty which the animals who are under the dominion of man have in a democracy than in any other State: for truly, the she-dogs, as the proverb says, are as good as their she-mistresses, and the horses and asses have a way of marching along with all the rights and dignities of freemen; and they will run at anybody who comes in their way if he does not leave the road clear for them: and all things are just ready to burst with liberty.

When I take a country walk, he said, I often experience what you describe. You and I have dreamed the same thing.

And above all, I said, and as the result of all, see how sensitive the citizens become; they chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority and at length, as you know, they cease to care even for the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no one over them.


Ultimately, the people turn against the rulers:

The people are a third class, consisting of those who work with their own hands; they are not politicians, and have not much to live upon. This, when assembled, is the largest and most powerful class in a democracy.

True, he said; but then the multitude is seldom willing to congregate unless they get a little honey.

And do they not share? I said. Do not their leaders deprive the rich of their estates and distribute them among the people; at the same time taking care to reserve the larger part for themselves?

Why, yes, he said, to that extent the people do share.
And the persons whose property is taken from them are compelled to defend themselves before the people as they best can?

What else can they do?
And then, although they may have no desire of change, the others charge them with plotting against the people and being friends of oligarchy? True.

And the end is that when they see the people, not of their own accord, but through ignorance, and because they are deceived by informers, seeking to do them wrong, then at last they are forced to become oligarchs in reality; they do not wish to be, but the sting of the drones torments them and breeds revolution in them.

That is exactly the truth.
Then come impeachments and judgments and trials of one another.
True.
The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness.


The Tyrant seems to help at first:

This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.


Perhaps you can exchange "rich" for "establishment":

And the protector of the people is like him; having a mob entirely at his disposal, he is not restrained from shedding the blood of kinsmen; by the favourite method of false accusation he brings them into court and murders them, making the life of man to disappear, and with unholy tongue and lips tasting the blood of his fellow citizen; some he kills and others he banishes, at the same time hinting at the abolition of debts and partition of lands: and after this, what will be his destiny? Must he not either perish at the hands of his enemies, or from being a man become a wolf --that is, a tyrant?

Inevitably.
This, I said, is he who begins to make a party against the rich?
The same.


There's so much more there. The point being, the Tyrant appears as a savior against foreign enemies, and the ignorant masses follow him. Indeed, you can show them this very passage and they will toss it aside as old, not relevant, and all out of sheer ignorance.
 
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Brian Tkatch wrote:In Chapter 8 of Plato's The Republic (Jowett's translation) Socrates explains the five types of government, and how Democracy fails and a Tyrant takes over. The mere fact that he calls tyranny, "great and famous" has Trump written all over it.


Erm, so you're equating the systems of government defined by a privileged member of a slave state - and moreover, one which embodied Tyranny in their constitution, much as the Roman Republic did with dictatorship - to the systems available to a modern state?

Of modern "strongmen" (1900 or later), I can think of only 8 who are still highly regarded in their own country, let alone anywhere else:
  • Mustafa Kemal
  • Józef Piłsudski
  • Mohammed Ali Jinnah
  • Mao Zedong
  • Fidel Castro
  • Jomo Kenyatta
  • Hugo Chávez, and
  • Winston Churchill
  • and most of them (including the last) come with deep reservations.

    They were all (except the last) also identified with the founding of their state - at least in modern terms - and all revolutionaries.

    Does Donald Trump fit that bill? I don't think so. He's an entitled billionaire salesman who, in his own words, tries "to pay as little tax as possible" and hide his wealth from public scrutiny. Good luck with that if you actually do become POTUS, Don.

    I think we all like the idea of a "benevolent dictator", but IMO, the thing that singles out those 8 above is that when they were given dictatorial power, they all exercised it (more or less) constitutionally, and with the good of the state in mind - although in Mao's case, you could argue, sometimes with disastrous results. I could name 8 in Europe alone in that time - let alone Africa, Asia or South America - that don't meet that standard; so I'd say that "batting average" alone is against Don's rhetoric.

    Winston
     
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    Winston Gutkowski wrote:so you're equating the systems of government defined by a privileged member of a slave state - and moreover, one which embodied Tyranny in their constitution, much as the Roman Republic did with dictatorship - to the systems available to a modern state?


    I stand by the quotes above, when the Tyrant is a savior as a democracy devolves.
     
    Winston Gutkowski
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    Brian Tkatch wrote:I stand by the quotes above, when the Tyrant is a savior as a democracy devolves.


    Fair enough, but the context and idiom of a piece written 2,500 years ago can be difficult to fathom - especially when what we're discussing is all about today (Bible anyone?).

    So let me deal with Trump: IMO, given his silver-spoon background, he's a middling, self-aggrandizing, salesman who has abandoned his family roots (his grandfather was an immigrant brothel-keeper) in favour of strongman politics and "fortress America".

    The only likelihood of his getting the first is if he also gets a compliant Congress - and it would have to be a very compliant one for him to achieve it for more than 8 years - and the latter, with its echoes in the navel-gazing America of the '30's, worries me a lot.

    The next 20-30 years, IMO, are going to be interesting ones for the world, including a change of guard at the top. Do we really want Donald Trump and his "strongman" philosophy arguing our corner in the early rounds?

    Winston
     
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    Winston Gutkowski wrote:Does Donald Trump fit that bill? I don't think so. He's an entitled billionaire salesman who, in his own words, tries "to pay as little tax as possible" and hide his wealth from public scrutiny. Good luck with that if you actually do become POTUS, Don.



    In the category of "strongman" I equate Trump with Vladimir Putin. After all Putin's goal is to "Make Russia Great Again" and in the eyes of a lot of Russians he's doing exactly that. You left him out of your list -- was that intentional?
     
    Brian Tkatch
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    Winston Gutkowski wrote:

    Brian Tkatch wrote:I stand by the quotes above, when the Tyrant is a savior as a democracy devolves.


    Fair enough, but the context and idiom of a piece written 2,500 years ago can be difficult to fathom - especially when what we're discussing is all about today.


    If you read it and still have that opinion, i would defer your own judgement.

    Winston Gutkowski wrote:(Bible anyone?).


    Considering i still study the Bible, and find it as relevant to day as the day it was given (approximately 3300 years ago), i'll assume you meant the younger NT, and let someone else take offense instead.

    Winston Gutkowski wrote:So let me deal with Trump: IMO, given his silver-spoon background, he's a middling, self-aggrandizing, salesman who has abandoned his family roots (his grandfather was an immigrant brothel-keeper) in favour of strongman politics and "fortress America".



    You know, i see that as a caricature of the man. Regardless of his upbringing, he has given millions to charity (regardless of where he places on the philanthropic list) and is a wonderful entertainer. Matching him up with Keirsey's Artisans would mean he's currently putting on the act he feels is best to score him the candidacy. I don't see anything evil in that, per se. It's just that he sees it as a game, and perhaps as a chance for personal gain.
     
    Winston Gutkowski
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    Paul Clapham wrote:In the category of "strongman" I equate Trump with Vladimir Putin. After all Putin's goal is to "Make Russia Great Again" and in the eyes of a lot of Russians he's doing exactly that. You left him out of your list -- was that intentional?


    Not really. I just don't know too many Russians who have much good to say about him (but perhaps that's because most of my Russian friends are emigres). I think it's also too early to tell, because he's not really "out of power" yet.

    I also left out Francisco Franco, who perhaps should be on that list, simply because the sheer amount of time and effort he spent on suppressing opposition arguably held back Spain's economy for many years.

    And this is something that people often forget: dictatorship usually - at least in any extended form - costs money. Which is probably why the Romans only made it a two-year elected post.

    Winston
     
    Winston Gutkowski
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    Brian Tkatch wrote:You know, i see that as a caricature of the man.


    Sure, along with neo-Cons and Republicans in general. This is the Pit.

    Regardless of his upbringing, he has given millions to charity (regardless of where he places on the philanthropic list)...


    I don't want to violate Godwin's Law here. Let's just say that it's a lot easier for a rich man to be a philanthropist than it is for him to pass through the eye of a needle. I still wonder about them taxes though....

    ...and is a wonderful entertainer.


    I'll have to take your word for that, but that'd be a +1 for me.

    Matching him up with Keirsey's Artisans would mean he's currently putting on the act he feels is best to score him the candidacy. I don't see anything evil in that, per se. It's just that he sees it as a game, and perhaps as a chance for personal gain.


    With POTUS as 1st prize. And hey, if you're happy for your country's top job to be fair game for any billionaire with the time and nuts (and he wins the nom, of course) - Vote Republican.

    Speaking of which: Name the last President who wasn't a millionaire at the time of his election. I bet there aren't too many since 1900; and almost none since independence if you account for inflation. Of the people, by the people, for the people?

    Go on Don, sign over every penny of profit you earn from your companies to a fund for the tired, poor and huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, in perpetuity - even if you don't want any more of 'em.
    That would make me think twice before I dismissed you.

    Winston
     
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    Winston Gutkowski wrote:I don't want to violate Godwin's Law here.


    I think you meant you don't want to prove it, unless you consider this thread too short for it to apply just yet and are hoping to end it before it does. But, if you really don't want to violate it, you did a terrible job, which makes me think highly of you're so refined character that even when you try you still cannot bring yourself to say such terrible things.

    Winston Gutkowski wrote:

    ...and is a wonderful entertainer.


    I'll have to take your word for that, but that'd be a +1 for me.


    Considering his popularity on tv shows, it would seem to be true. But you deserve a thumbs-up anyway.

    Winston Gutkowski wrote:if you're happy for your country's top job to be fair game for any billionaire with the time and nuts (and he wins the nom, of course) - Vote Republican.


    A few points:

  • I think most do not want "any billionaire," but they do want the process to be open to it. It goes both ways, and we'll just have grin and bear it.
  • Republicans often criticize their presidents, unlike the Democrats that almost always stand by them. If a madman were to win the nomination, it would be better as a Republican. We recently saw Democrats refusing to take a stand against Obama.
  • If Trump wins the nomination, i currently do not see myself voting for President.


  • Winston Gutkowski wrote:Name the last President who wasn't a millionaire at the time of his election.



    According to this untrustworthy website, perhaps Clinton and Truman. Though, that's a side point that doesn't take away from your main point.

    Winston Gutkowski wrote:I bet there aren't too many since 1900; and almost none since independence if you account for inflation. Of the people, by the people, for the people?


    We're a representative democracy, and this is how its done. We idolize Mr. Smith, but usually don't trust anyone, and demand a record. Though, at this point, the problem has more to with party politics than anything else, something that our first president warned against in his farewell address. There are issues, but it works, kind of.

    Winston Gutkowski wrote:Go on Don, sign over every penny of profit you earn from your companies to a fund for the tired, poor and huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, in perpetuity - even if you don't want any more of 'em.


    Are you complaining that a poet bothered writing The New Colossus, that it was added to the statue a century ago, or that we have lofty dreams?
     
    Winston Gutkowski
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    Brian Tkatch wrote:Are you complaining that a poet bothered writing The New Colossus, that it was added to the statue a century ago, or that we have lofty dreams?


    No, I'm complaining that Americans can quote that poem, written on a statue given to them by another nation state who shared the zeal of your founding fathers, yet don't understand what it's about.

    The United Sates is (practically) ALL immigrant, and it's industrial might is founded on the backs of people who did the jobs that nobody else wanted to do, but don't want to do any more at Chinese wages. Yet you have politicians that want immigration either filtered or stopped, and who epouse the very ethos that allows American companies to continue to export your labour for higher profit. Doesn't that seem like a weakness to you? (And don't worry about it; you're not alone.)

    I'm a huge fan of America; and particularly its Bill of Rights and constitution, which are couched in fine, unequivocal words...until you add the word "citizen".
    That word - which comes from antiquity - meant the difference between potential wealth and unspeakable poverty and abuse.

    I'm also less of a fan about its amendments, or the politicians that want them - notably those to do with (or assumed to be to do with) firearms...and, of course, the 18th - and I wonder why the founding fathers didn't allow for the fact that they might have made some really bad mistakes.
    Lawyers, eh?

    Winston
     
    Brian Tkatch
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    Winston, well said.

    I take a different approach, but i do not disagree with the sentiment you so well expressed. I can't give you a cow, so i sent you some pie instead.
     
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    Winston Gutkowski wrote:. . . Fair enough, but the context and idiom of a piece written 2,500 years ago can be difficult to fathom - especially when what we're discussing is all about today (Bible anyone?). . . .

    I would agree with Winston there; the Bible does come in a very old‑fashioned idiom which one has to learn. Reading old text as if it were written in a 21st century idiom can very easily lead to misunderstandings.
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    Brian Tkatch wrote:. . . Artisans . . .

    That is a new meaning for the word artisan which appears different from anything I have seen before.
     
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    Campbell Ritchie wrote:

    Winston Gutkowski wrote:. . . Fair enough, but the context and idiom of a piece written 2,500 years ago can be difficult to fathom - especially when what we're discussing is all about today (Bible anyone?). . . .

    I would agree with Winston there; the Bible does come in a very old‑fashioned idiom which one has to learn. Reading old text as if it were written in a 21st century idiom can very easily lead to misunderstandings.



    For the Bible, assuming you mean the Pentateuch, yes, but that is because it is intended to be studied and was given with a definition. The Republic is not like that at all. It is a pretty easy read, and if you actually care about exact translations and explanation of context, you can read Allan Bloom's translation. Regardless, as i have pointed out and quoted, what Plato wrote then still applies now, and to not read it and still want to understand why ignorant people support Trump, is ironic.

    I have an idea. I will make you, Campbell, and also Winston, a bet (that's 2 bets). Read Chapter 8 of The Republic and decide if my comment on the irony was correct to your judgement or not. If you say no, i will donate $10 to the Saloon. ($20 if you both feel that way.)
     
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    Campbell Ritchie wrote:

    Brian Tkatch wrote:. . . Artisans . . .

    That is a new meaning for the word artisan which appears different from anything I have seen before.


    Keirsey used different names, but that seems to be the most popular for that group. He writes that the name comes from The Republic, which uses Artisans to refer the mostly people in the city that keep things going, though in the book it is not a proper noun (at least according to Jowett's translation). Keirsey and others have used different names throughout the years, but "Artisan" (for this group) is the most recognized term. Though, some prefer to use "SP", referring to the MBTI as well.
     
    Brian Tkatch
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