The Battle to Avoid Power

Plato, Republic 347d:

It is likely that if a city of good men were to exist, there would be just as much battling over not ruling as there is now over ruling . . .

κινδυνεύει πόλις ἀνδρῶν ἀγαθῶν εἰ γένοιτο, περιμάχητον ἂν εἶναι τὸ μὴ ἄρχειν ὥσπερ νυνὶ τὸ ἄρχειν . . .

This is because, Socrates explains, ruling is all about conferring a benefit upon those who are ruled. And so, every person of understanding would choose rather to be benefitted by another than to have the trouble of conferring that benefit.

In Plato’s day, of course, as in many days, a great battle raged over gaining the power to rule. But in a city where all people are good—so Socrates claims—the battle would be just as intense, but in the opposite direction: a fierce competition to avoid holding political power. Imagine that.

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