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Tag Archives: mob

Plato, Democracy, and Mob Rule

By the 4th century BC, civilizations had already existed for at least a couple thousand years.
By then, most of the basic patterns of civilization were ancient news.

Plato’s observations about governments over 2,000 years ago might seem disturbingly familiar to us now.

Humans may boast of mechanical technologies such as airplanes and atomic bombs, but social technology, the ways we organize haven’t changed since the very first farming villages:

“Every form of government tends to perish by excess of its basic principle.  Aristocracy ruins itself by limiting too narrowly the circle within which power is confined; oligarchy ruins itself by the incautious scramble for immediate wealth.  In either case the end is revolution.   When revolution comes, it may seem to arise from little causes and petty whims…when a body is weakened by neglected ills, the merest exposure may bring serious disease.

Then democracy comes…But even democracy ruins itself by excess-of democracy.  Its basic principle is the equal right of all to hold office and determine public policy.  This is at first glance a delightful arrangement; it becomes disastrous because the people are not properly equipped by education to select the best rulers and the wisest courses.

As to the people, they have no understanding, and only repeat what their rulers are pleased to tell them.  To get a doctrine accepted or rejected it is only necessary to have it praised or ridiculed in a popular play.
Mob-rule is a rough sea for the  ship of state to ride; every wind of oratory stirs up the waters and deflects the course.

The upshot of such a democracy is tyranny or autocracy; the crowd so loves flattery…that at last the wiliest and most unscrupulous flatterer, calling himself the ‘protector of the people’ rises to supreme power.

Plato complains that whereas in simpler matters—like shoe-making—we think only a specially-trained person will serve our purpose, in politics we presume that every one who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state.  When we are ill we call for a trained physician, whose degree is a guarantee of specific preparation and technical competence—we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one…when the whole state is ill should we not look for the service and guidance of the wisest and the best?   To devise a method of barring incompetence and knavery from public office, and of selecting and preparing the best to rule for the common good—that is the problem of political philosophy.”

-Plato as quoted, paraphrased, and summarized by Will Durant

The Story of Philosophy
Will Durant, 1953, Pocket Books, Washington Square Press
Excerpts from pages 20-21

I wonder what would happen if you did the Solomon Asch Conformity & Obedience Experiment With North East Asians?

Current literature has the ability to create consensus and eliminate dissent down to a science, but I wonder what would happen if you took into account North East Asian biology and social structure? Where is the tipping point into consensus with asians? Are they more likely to form no-go zones so that they appear to create consensus? I’ve noted psychology studies on young children aged 5-8, and talked to daycare workers, it’s generally agreed that asian children are quieter and easier to deal with from a young age. If there is a flexing point for conformist behavior, 5-25%, then that’s still a lot of room for variation in behavior.

http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/social/asch_conformity.html 

Real subject leans forward to get a better view of the lines being displayed.
This particular individual insisted that “he has to call them as he sees them”
and disagreed with the consensus over each of ‘staged’ trials. 


The subjects’ responses varied with the level of ‘majority opinion’ they were faced with.

He found that the subjects conformed to a group of 3 or 4 as readily as they did to a larger group. However, the subjects conformed much less if they had an “ally” In some of his experiments, Asch instructed one of the confederates to give correct answers. In the presence of this nonconformist, the real subjects conformed only one fourth as much as they did in the original experiment.

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