Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some interesting thoughts on aristocracy

Though not from monarchists.

Of course, we are often told, “Why, yes, Plato, he was an aristocrat - but he had other ideas as well.” Thus, the undesirable elements in Plato - for instance, eugenic programmes in Republic - are written off as aristocratic nonsense. Or, again, we know that Montesquieu was a baron, but that is second only to his proto-liberalism; afterall, the American Founding Fathers, those impeachable democrats, would never find inspiration in an aristocrat. Let’s not forget Condorcet, a marquis who died during the Revolution under suspicious circumstances, who just happened to overcome his social origins and embrace liberalism. And, again, despite being an aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville is said to have written the best book on America or democracy. We read aristocrats in spite of who they are. (The only exception, and it is quite notable, is Nietzsche. But, it is hard to tell if his aristocratism was but an early symptom of his later madness.)


For among the best people there is minimal wantonness and injustice but a maximum of scrupulous care for what is good, whereas among the people there is a maximum of ignorance, disorder, and wickedness; for poverty draws them rather to disgraceful actions, and because of a lack of money some men are uneducated and ignorant.

Old Oligarch/Pseudo-Xenophon in Athens, quoted here.

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