Plato imagined a philosopher
king for his Republic. The ideal state, according to the philosopher, ensures
the maximum possible happiness for all its citizens. All citizens. Not a
particular community. Such a state can only be brought into being by a ruler
who is also a philosopher. “Until philosophers are kings,” Plato wrote, “or the
kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy …
cities will never have rest from their evils.”
centuries after Plato, Thomas More imagined an ideal country called Utopia
which would have no king at all. Why would one individual – or a few
individuals like in today’s parliamentary system – set up himself above all
other citizens? More was highly displeased with what his King, Henry VIII, did
with his political power. Henry was a selfish and ruthless man who used his
power as a king for self-aggrandisement. Too many citizens lost their lives so
that Henry could enjoy the best of everything including women. More was also a
victim. Before More was executed at Henry’s order, he gave us his ideas about
does not rely much on money as most governments do. Look at the way prices are
rising in today’s India. Look at the way taxes are added almost on a daily
basis to the common man’s backbreaking burdens. This is just the opposite of
what More imagined for his Utopia. The very idea of money corrupts governments
and destroys justice and happiness in society, More argued. Wealth does not
make people happy; it makes them greedy and greedier. You can see living proofs
today for that. The billionaires are never satisfied with the amounts they have
piled up in banks here and abroad, with money that’s white and black and in all
possible colours. The moment you create a system that is founded on wealth and
wealth-creation as primary virtues, you are paving the way for injustice,
misery, and ultimately, crime. That is More’s argument.
too bad. In fact, there is much goodness in people’s hearts. It is the system
that reshapes the hearts. If people are forced to live in a system which gives
all importance to wealth and little to cooperation and compassion, people will
naturally lose the goodness in their hearts. What India is doing today is worse
than that. It is openly supporting animosity between communities of people.
governance should start with bringing a spirit of camaraderie among citizens.
Simple human goodness should be the foundation of the system even if that
sounds too idealistic. Ideals are never fully practical. But discarding them
just because they are not completely practical is like throwing away the baby
with the bathwater. Creating a system founded on hatred is going to the other
extreme of replacing the baby with demons.
People like to cooperate and help each other, as Rutger Bregman shows in his book Humankind. But without the support of the socio-political system they won’t be able to help and cooperate. You can make people hate one another, compete with one another, debilitate one another, more easily than create a system which encourages mutual help and cooperation. Which is better? You know the answer. Creating that better one calls for good governance.
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Humpty Dumpty’s Hats