Plato and Vote-By-Mail
In many striking ways the city-state Athens, at the time of
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, was similar to the modern United States. One of these
similarities was that Athens supported a democracy. It is clear from Plato's philosophy,
however, that he did not think democracy was the best possible form of government. In his
dialog "The Apology," we see Plato describing one of the problems with a
democracy; a good man like Socrates can be condemned to execution. Plato simply did not
believe that the average citizen had the intellect or strength of will to govern justly.
In the history of Western philosophy, Plato was not alone in describing the problems
associated with a government by the people. J.S. Mill, for one, believed that many people
were not educated to the extent that would make them reliable voters.
Since we live in a democracy, we need to think about the criticisms
made by these two philosophers. One contemporary issue that touches on this debate is the
effort to make voter registration and the act of voting easier. Some people argue that
every citizen should have easy access to the political process. The Motor-Voter Law,
passed in the early nineties was one attempt toward this end. A more recent tactic is the
Vote-By-Mail program being tried in Oregon, among other places. Some people even argue
that citizens should be able to vote over the internet. Issues of fraud aside, do you
think it is a good idea to make voting easier? Or, as some critics argue, should voting
remain a moderately difficult chore so that ignorant and apathetic voters are eliminated?
Use these links to explore this issue.
Time Has Come for Vote-By-Mail
Voting Hot List: Information on on-line voting.
Ganz: "Motor Voter or Motivated Voter?,"
campfire chat: Includes on-going discussion about Plato and democracy
Criticism of Democracy: An Essay
Socratic Ignorance in
Democracy, the Free Market, and Science