Philosopher king Obama could learn from Sparta
by Melvyn L Fein
October 20, 2013 10:29 PM | 1461 views | 4 4 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Melvyn Fein
Melvyn Fein
When I was in high school, a cousin who was in college told me about Plato’s vision of a philosopher king. The next year, when I was myself in college, I read “The Republic” and came face to face with this concept for myself. The notion was intoxicating.

On the cusp of adulthood, and in the first generation of my family to obtain a college education, it seemed to me perfectly reasonable that some people were smarter and more moral than others. It also seemed sensible that these people should run society for the benefit of all — especially the less qualified.

I had not yet run into the Lord Acton’s caution that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Hence it seemed to me, that as one of the best and brightest, this would never be my fate. I was too pure, too insightful and too committed to be seduced into what we later called “the dark side.”

Evidently Barack Obama came to a similar conclusion. He must always have known he was smarter than his peers and must surely have had confidence in his own motives. He would thus be the one in his family to reconstruct the world along more “just” lines; lines his parents, and mine, could never produce.

Clearly Obama is still intoxicated with this flattering assessment. He still believes he knows better than others because he is smarter and less tainted than they. As a result, he constantly lectures us on why his signature programs are indispensable. We may not understand the wisdom of his stimulus package or Obamacare, but he understands what we do not.

Liberals, in general, have an inflated sense of their own abilities and intentions. For this reason, they dismiss the intellectual capacities and moral aptitudes of both ordinary people and their political adversaries. This being so, these others must simply shut up and do what they are told.

So pure do Obama and his liberal fellow travelers feel that they have no compunctions about distorting the truth. If less talented, or virtuous, individuals do not comprehend what is good for them — or for society at large — it is essential that they be manipulated into complying with the policies of their superiors.

Mind you, Obama and his Democratic allies are no less intelligent or less moral than others. The problem is that they are no more so, and therefore are often seduced into behaving foolishly. Their judgment is so thoroughly warped by intellectual arrogance that they regularly misperceive reality.

Obamacare is in big trouble, but they do not see it. The economy is being held back by their fiscal irresponsibility, but they are oblivious to the connection. The budget deficit is unsustainable, but they are not worried because the collapse is not yet upon us.

Obama and his allies could use a dose of humility; nevertheless, their overriding concern is with winning the political wars. They are so convinced of their own merit that they deem it vital to sweep away the opposition so they can grow the government and save the less gifted from themselves.

Sadly, too many Americans are willingly swayed by impossible promises and unrelenting invective. Ceaselessly told that their president knows best and that Republicans are dastardly villains, they are prepared to give the nation’s chief executive yet another chance.

Plato’s model for his Republic was Sparta. Unlike Athens, this state was a military camp run from the top down. Moreover, in Plato’s time, Sparta had just defeated his native city in the Peloponnesian War. Thus, from his aristocratic perspective, it looked like the wave of the future.

It was not. Sparta was soon exhausted by its overweening ambitions and reduced to a backwater. The lesson here is that people frequently do not become alert to a danger until there is a catastrophe — and then often when it is too late.

Let us hope Americans realize their peril before Obama’s self-certified brilliance and immature narcissism lead us to our doom.

Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Tony Maddox
October 21, 2013
Chas, those 'dark things,' as you refer to them, are more recognizable as intelligence, enlightenment, wisdom, and proper English... all of which seem unattainable and of little or no value to much of today's younger 'class.' Surely you must see the parallels of modern society to former (now extinct) societies, which means history DOES repeat itself. Hope you're not in a position of leadership!
Rod Paramoure
October 21, 2013
Your column very closely matches my understanding of where are heading absent a massive awaking by the pubic. The road to dictatorship, or something very similar to it, can be very short when people are not paying attention, or are sufficiently self-satisfied (for now) that they neglect think outside the political B.S. that passes for news and information.

The first Roman emperors were elected by the citizens but then "evolved" into tyrants.
East Cobb Senior
October 21, 2013
Mel, the old saying "what goes around comes around" is apparent in today's apathetic society. Our Founding Fathers were confronted with similar circumstances when they saw the evils of a "King", who through dictate, ruled without regard for his "subjects". The "King" believed he was not only omnipotent, but above the masses intellectually, morally and spiritually. Only he knew what was best for his "subjects".

Our Founding Fathers, realizing that continued "subservience" to the "King" would continue to suppress the potential of the colonies and the individual declared independence from the ruler. At the time, the majority of the "subjects" were apathetic to this growing rebellion and the "King" in his arrogance, and narcissistic view of his superiority ignored the festering dissatisfaction. Those in opposition to his "rule by fiat" were vilified, chastised and labeled anarchist, terrorists and other invectives in order to discredit their cause and them personally.

It appears we are in the "come around" phase of the saying. We have an apathetic class who has been seduced by the rhetoric of the "king" and his liberal left minions who spew their vitriolic name calling at any that oppose their rancid policies while trying to destroy the opposition. Just as in 1776, when the "King" attempted to reward those that supported him with "special favors", those that continued to fight against the imposition of "Top Down" statist rule and the suffocation of initiative, innovation and the potential of the individual did prevail. The "subjects" finally woke up and said "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH".

chas holman
October 20, 2013
Whomever wrote this has some strange dark things cooking up in that head.

That said, I suggest next time he delivers it, for theatrics sake, he should be dribbling beer foam from his intoxicated and gaping mouth.
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