Using the article, "Aristotle's Philosophy of Equality, Peace, and Democracy" by Matt Qvortrup (Philosophy Now, October/November 2016), let's examine what Aristotle said about these three topics in his lecture notes, The Politics, and how they still resonate with us today.
When it comes to equality, Aristotle felt that political leaders have to find ways to keep people happy. "The truly democratic statesman must study how the multitude may be saved from extreme poverty" (Politics). The official poverty rate in America in 2015 was 13.5% (for Black Americans it was 24.1% and Latino Americans it was 21.4% and Asian Americans 11.4%). There are about 19 million people in America living in extreme poverty, making about $10,000 annually for a family of four. This would be one area where an American President and Congress would start, according to Aristotle. In order to make sure that everyone was happy, according to Qvortrup, Aristotle advocated "measures... that bring about lasting prosperity for all" and was willing to redistribute the wealth of all: "The proper course is to collect all the proceeds of the revenue into a fund and ditribute them in lump sums" (Politics). We do something similar today with our taxes that go for welfare, Social Security, food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare, and other aid programs. But it sounds like Aristotle advocated something more drastic than what we have today.
In the second part of the article, Aristotle gives us the key to ending our culture of political violence and terrorism - including minorities and increasing democratic engagement in order to lessen inequality and lower levels of violence. When we look at civic engagement in America, there has been a recent push by Emily's List to increase the number of women and specifically women of color to run for office in America since November 2016. When looking at the gender make up of Congress, our highest law making body, it is 80% male, 80% white, and 92% Christian (see charts below). Aristotle would likely scoff at these numbers and say that things need to change. But the question remains how?
Also, the article questions how we deal with terrorism and political violence. Written from a British point of view (but similar to America's responses), Qvortrup questions whether increased surveillance and military action are the best ways to deal with domestic or international terrorism.
In the last section of the article on constitutional democracy, Qvortrup stated that Aristotle made a massive study of constitutions, but only his study of Athens' constitution is the one that survives. He found that balanced constitutions work best, with an enlightened and elected aristocracy (based on "uncommon prudence and intelligence, not wealth") making the laws and the people having a say-so on those laws. Today, you practically need to be a millionaire to run for national office, or raise hundreds of millions of dollars to compete and possibly win. A wealthy aristocracy (made up of white Christian men) appears to be running our country. However, they seem to have listened to their constituents lately when it comes to health care repeal and possibly tax cuts for the rich. The next issue Americans need to be heard on is net neutrality (here's an article on what it is and why you should care - http://gawker.com/what-is-net-neturality-and-why-should-i-care-the-non-g-1657354551). Aristotle believed in the wisdom of the crowd and that the more people deliberated over an issue, the better. I tend to agree with this, that enlightened discourse about a topic is much more effective than just watching commercials about it. But is this enlightened discourse still possible today?
Questions for you to answer (answer one from each part for a total of three questions):
1. Should the aim of government be to increase the general happiness of its people - even if this means redistributing peoples' wealth? Why or why not?
2. Should women and people of color be more included in governing bodies at all levels of government? How do we get more people to run?
3. Should America change the way it deals with political violence / terrorism from its current ways of increasing surveillance and military action? Why or why not?
4. Do you trust the wisdom of the crowd to make the right decisions most of the time? Why or why not?
5. Is it impossible to have an enlightened discourse in today's age of sound bites and social media and fake news? Why or why not?
Poverty facts came from https://www.worldhunger.org/hunger-in-america-2016-united-states-hunger-poverty-facts/
Info on current Congress: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/01/05/the-new-congress-is-80-percent-white-80-percent-male-and-92-percent-christian/?utm_term=.ed49da3978f6
350 word minimum response. Due Wednesday, Dec. 20 by class time.