LEARNING, Western Civilization

Review of Aristotle’s ‘The Polis,’ from “Politics”


In his article, Aristotle challenged the belief of why some believe Democracy is the best form of government. For most countries, I do not believe that Democracy is the best form of government and most major Greek philosophers, including Aristotle, thought the same. I favor more of a Republic government (The Rule of Law). I do, however, like some aspects of Democracy rule which is supposed to give more power and voice to the people.

Aristotle attempted to point out the differences between good and bad government rulings and attempted to find out what the best constitution and government rule is for most states where the rulers are not too powerful, leaving the citizens underneath them powerless. Aristotle wrote that Democracy is a type of government in which the poorest people use the power they have to serve themselves by, for example, placing unnecessarily high taxes on the rich. He believed that the competing interests in a Democracy would result in chaos. Aristotle did not believe that Democracy is the best form of government because in Democracy, rule is by and for the needy people. As a result, the poor are only going to try and get things for themselves and not have the best interest for the country at heart.

After doing more research on Aristotle and the views he had of government, I found out that Aristotle believed that tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy were all perverted forms of rule. In these perverted forms, a single person, a small group, and the masses, respectively, governed in their own interests, and therefore, at the expense of others. In contrast, monarchy, aristocracy, and polity were to be preferred, because in these forms of government the individual, small group, and the masses, respectively, governed in the interests of all. Aristotle believed that the government should be ruled by those who practiced virtue. He did, however, see in real life that even the most virtuous rulers do not stay that way. Lord Acton of England later said, “All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” Aristotle believed that when people of all classes participated in ruling, government would be more stable.

I believe government should be carried out by rulers who are not in politics to make themselves powerful or wealthy, but are in it to make a better country for its people. Aristotle believed the same because he believed in the mean. The best form of government for most countries, according to Aristotle, would be a Constitutional one (politi), which would be ruled by the middle class, who for the most part, would care for their country as a whole and not just themselves.

I like Aristotle’s government idea. In some ways, it is better than the one we have now. Because we have a partial Democracy, we the people are more free and able to express our pleasure or dissatisfaction with our government leaders. As the years have progressed, however, American politics has become, in my opinion, increasingly¬†unprincipled. Washington has proven that Democracy is not always democratic. While we are able to vote for the leaders we want, most of them do not have the best interests for the country at heart. Many push their political agenda or the political agenda of their party and instead of serving for and by the people, the people’s voices are becoming increasingly marginalized while government is maximized.

Photo credit: Nick Thompson / Flickr


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