Impolitic Reflections

Plato’s Socrates begins his great political speculation with the presumption that the vast majority of men in even the best imaginable city will be ruled by appetite, from which he infers that if you actually wanted a city to be governed wisely, you would never place any of its decision-making authority in the hands of the innately and irreversibly appetitive majority. The modern world spent the last two hundred and fifty years of its history desperately trying to prove Socrates wrong — and failing.

When the appetitive class rules, the society is by definition immoderate, insofar as a society is defined by its regime. Reason becomes subservient to desire, which is another way of saying the desires of irrational men become ascendant in the political life of the community, whereas the desires amenable to the fulfillment of man’s nature as a rational animal — the desires restrained and sublimated through education — are stymied. Immoderate societies, like immoderate men, commit slow spiritual suicide, all the while persuading themselves they have all the angles worked out, and that their practical calculations are sufficient replacement for the wisdom and good counsel that men used to believe were essential to living well, i.e., living a life worthy of a human being.

Try to imagine a metaphor more potent than this: Modernity’s greatest, almost definitive, experiment in republican self-government is currently ruled, for all historical purposes, by a man whose entire life has been a testament to appetite wholly unrestrained by rational doubt or moderating education. Meanwhile, his only challenger and would-be replacement is a senile old fool who has spent his own entire life as a climbing government insider without a coherent thought in his head. And ninety-five percent of that republic’s voters are absolutely, almost violently, committed to voting for one of these two untethered monsters of irrational appetite.

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