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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.

The Time Has Come for Vote-By-Mail

Electronic Voting Hot List: Information on on-line voting. 

Marshall Ganz: "Motor Voter or Motivated Voter?,"

Plato campfire chat: Includes on-going discussion about Plato and democracy

Plato’s Criticism of Democracy: An Essay

Socratic Ignorance in Democracy, the Free Market, and Science


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