Plato: Extreme Liberty and the Road to Tyranny



Tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty . . . . The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness . . . . This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector . . . . At first, in the early days of his power, he is full of smiles, and he salutes every one whom he meets—he to be called a tyrant, who is making promises in public and also in private liberating debtors, and distributing land to the people and his followers, and wanting to be so kind and good to every one . . . then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader . . . . Has he not also another object, which is that they may be impoverished by payment of taxes, and thus compelled to devote themselves to their daily wants and therefore less likely to conspire against him? . . . Thus liberty, getting out of all order and reason, passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery.

Source: Plato, 400 B.C., The Republic, Volume VIII.

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