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Democracy was condemned by Plato, in large part because he not only saw it as a form of government easily corruptible by all kinds of power-seeking individuals motivated by personal gain rather than the public good, but because he saw democracy also as a form of unstable government, one lacking in basic competent, virtuous leadership, which Plato held could undoubtedly reduce any form of democratic self-government to a state of lawlessness and disorder (i.e., anarchy) or even to a form of government in which the leader was an absolute dictator (i.e., tyranny).
Plato saw the gods as perfect beings, and so advocated the censoring of many stories regarding them, such as those stories told by poets like Homer and the others, who for the most part painted appalling images of gods such as Zeus and Athena, portraying both him, her, and the other gods as petty, devious characters who were militaristic, always plotting, and forever belligerent toward each other. The gods however, at least according to Plato, ought to only be represented as moral, and self-righteous, and because it was the basic nature of divinity to be good.
The economic structure of Platos Republic was maintained by a third class comprised of all those who were engaged in trade and industry activities, though not to be confused in any sense with a proletariat or working class, such as farmers, manufacturers, traders, merchants, and the poor (who were allowed to own property). The economic structure of the Republic of which Plato was thinking, and in which he lived, was simple; the occupational duty of every citizen in this third class served only one purpose, to provide for every material and economic need of the state.
In the Republic, Plato thought differently about women. Plato believed that women had a significant role to play in the Republic, albeit very different from men. In fact, Plato understood that women were necessary for the Republic to run smoothly. Although Plato realized that women were necessary in a well-functioning Republic, this did not mean he thought women and men were equals (e.g., Plato thought that women did not have the muscle mass that men possessed, which meant to him that the women were physically weaker).
Plato saw philosophical education as indispensible to creating and sustaining his Republic. Plato's beliefs on education as such, however, were somewhat difficult to discern because of the particulars of his dialogue. Two differing visions of education were advocated in Plato's Republic, however, the first was the education of the philosopher-king, which involved higher education, and the second was the warrior guardians' education, which involved two years of compulsory military training. Plato methods were extreme, advocating the removal children from the care of their mothers' shortly after they were born so as to be raise as wards of the state.
According to Plato, the arts (e.g., poetry), because of their power to stir the emotions and appetites, were dangerous. Plato seemed to have a love-hate relationship with the arts. In fact, Platos Republic gave the impression that Plato himself believed art simply imitated material things, which in turn imitated the immaterial, and so art has always been merely a copy of a copy, which in all probability serves no other purpose than that of drawing the spectator farther and farther from reality and toward fantasy.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Admittedly the track record of ruling individuals is tarnished; however, the concept of a ruling elite does find refuge in the philosopher Plato. While recognizing the fundamental flaw in mankind so clearly manifested in the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos, Sadaams and Bin Ladens of the world, Platos complete faith in the idealistic notion of one supreme guardian of the state, who he believed with the proper education, could be the competent, virtuous leader (incorruptible philosopher-king) knowledgeable enough to determine the laws in the state, is terribly naive given how the real world works.
Living in Platos Republic
I would never want to live in Platos Republic. In fact, Platos Republic would be very a difficult place to live, given that Plato shows no fondness for democracy, yet favors what appears to be some sort of benevolent-totalitarianism. In Platos Republic, I would not only be not free, but because of the rigidity of his class system (rather caste system) I would have no real prospect for social mobility. What is worse, Plato did not seem to value money, which he believes, held the power to corrupt; he also maintained that people would be happier without it. Platos notion that money possesses the power to corrupt is complete nonsense, as nothing but our own flawed thinking carries any real power to corrupt.
Living Well in Platos Republic
On the other hand, I can see why some people might find Platos Republic an acceptable place to live. For many being ruled by the state best most informed minds, offers a sense of comfort, perhaps even security. And I suppose that many of the crucial policy decisions concerning warfare, peace, and the welfare of the state, which had always been left in the hands of crooked politicians who were incompetent, voters who were ignorant, generals overly-ambitious, and other people unsuited, according to Plato, to run a state, would no longer be, seeing as a wise philosopher-king would presumably know the best direction to take the ship of state.
Improving Platos Republic
First things first, I would get rid of Platos strict, rigid caste or class system, and allow for freedom to choose ones own occupation. Next I would abolish Platos totalitarian-like rule by a philosopher-king, and establish a mixed-government (e.g., monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy), where they the people would be represented locally, regionally, and nationally, and where control of the ship of state would be shared. Finally, I would overturn Platos view that morality outweighs rationality in matters of the state, which I believe could deteriorate into a legalistic sort of state, and advocate that rationality outweighs morality and mythology in all state matters.