'We must describe', says Plato, 'how timocracy changes into oligarchy .. Even a blind man must see how it changes .. It is the treasure house that ruins this constitution. They' (the timocrats) 'begin by creating opportunities for showing off and spending money, and to this end they twist the laws, and they and their wives disobey them ..; and they try to outrival one another.' In this way arises the first class conflict: that between virtue and money, or between the old-established ways of feudal simplicity and the new ways of wealth. The transition to oligarchy is completed when the rich establish a law that 'disqualifies from public office all those whose means do not reach the stipulated amount. This change is imposed by force or arms, should threats and blackmail not succeed ..'

Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, taken from chapter 4 on Change and Rest. Parts in quotes are taken directly from Plato, boldfaced emphasis is mine.

Perhaps its a trite observation but according to this definition America is an oligarchy rather than a democracy, of course Plato would have been happy about this as he considered democracy to be better only than tyranny.

Ol"i*gar"chy (?), n.; pl. Oligarchies (#). [Gr. ; few, little + to rule, govern: cf.F. oligarchie.]

A form of government in which the supreme power is placed in the hands of a few persons; also, those who form the ruling few.

All oligarchies, wherein a few men domineer, do what they list. Burton.

 

© Webster 1913.

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