A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 29, 2011
“The penalty for not participating in politics is to be governed by your inferiors”

The philosopher Plato (428/427 BC – 348/347 BC) wrote this, from the English translation of Republic 347c:

“That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule.”

The popular modern interpretation of the passage has been “The penalty for not participating in politics is to be governed by your inferiors.” This formulation has been used since at least the 1950s and has been frequently quoted in political books and websites in the 2000s.


Wikipedia: Plato
Plato (English pronunciation: /ˈpleɪtoʊ/; Greek: Πλάτων, Plátōn, “broad”; 428/427 BC – 348/347 BC), was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science

Plato, Republic
[347c] for they are not covetous of honor. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse(1) if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves

1 Cf. Aristotle Politics 1318 b 36. In a good democracy the better classes will be content, for they will not be ruled by worse men. Cf. Cicero, Ad Att. ii. 9 “male vehi malo alio gubernante quam tam ingratis vectoribus bene gubernare”; Democr. fr. 49 D.: “It is hard to be ruled by a worse man;” Spencer, Data of Ethics, 77.

Wikiquote: Talk: Plato
Unsourced
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. [But see next below, and Republic I : 347-C]

Google News Archive
14 February 1890, Sherbrooke (Quebec) Examiner, pg. 1, col. 5:
He indorsed the saying of an old philosopher that “if the wise were too indifferent to concern themselves in the government of the state they must endure to be governed by their inferiors,” an ignoble predicament and one to be avoided.

Google Books
Greek Thinkers:
A History of Ancient Philosophy

By Theodor Gomperz
London: John Murray
1901
Pg. 60:
Now, in the sphere of political activity, there are tow kinds of reward, “money and honour,” and besides these there is a penalty, the fear of which induces men to accept positions of authority. it is this last motive alone—such is the somewhat surprising assertion made at this point—which maked the “best” men willing to rule; the punishment of refusal is to be governed by their inferiors, Public spirit is here left out of the reckoning, and so is the craving to exercise an inborn gift; while the two kinds of reward just mentioned are excluded as being “disgraceful,” and therefore unworthy of the “best,” who are free from avarice and ambition.

Google News Archive
25 November 1959, Youngstown (OH) Vindicator, “Challenges Americans To Get into Politics,” pg. 1, cols. 2-3:
All Americans have a deep-seated responsibility to participate in politics if they are to retain their freedoms and if a free society is to survive its mounting dangers, Allan B. Kline declared here Tuesday night.
(...)
Kline loosely quoted Plato that there is a penalty for a man’s failure to take part in government—namely, that of “being ruled by his inferiors.”
(Allen B. Kline was a past president of the American Farm Bureau Federation—ed.)

21 July 1960, Panola Watchman (Carthage, TX), “Anderson’s Platform For America,” pg. 5, cols. 1-2:
The following is a recent speech made by Tom Anderson, editor of Farm and Ranch magazine.
(...)
Turning the clock back more than 2,000 years ago, we find that a reactionary named Plato said that one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.

Google News Archive
15 September 1960, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “‘Default” by Business Aids Socialism Trend,” pt. 2, pg. 13, col. 3:
Quoting Plato, he (Tom Anderson, president and publisher of Farm and Ranch Magazine, Nashville, TN—ed.) noted the penalty for not participating in politics is “being governed by your inferiors.”

11 August 1970, Paris (TX) News, Editor’s Notes, pg. 4, col. 7,
“THE PENALTY good men pay for neglecting politics is to be governed by their inferiors...”—Wes Izzard.
(Wesley Sherman Izzard, 1900-1983, was a Texas journalist—ed.)

Google Books
Something Ventured
By Christopher M. Woodhouse
London: Granada
1982
Pg. 137:
Plato had put the point better than I could: “There is no worse punishment than to be governed by your inferiors because you refuse to undertake the government yourself” (Republic, 347c).

Google Books
Straight Talk
From the Heartland

By Ed Schultz
New York, NY: ReganBooks
2004
Pg. 102:
Plato said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

The Other McCain
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Allen West: ‘Governed by your inferiors’
In a letter to his supporters, retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West quotes Plato—“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”—and talks about the problem of “impostors” in politics:...

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Friday, April 29, 2011 • Permalink