Trust in world leaders is down. What if Socrates is right?

~~A few days ago, I met a pilot of Ryanair in Bucharest. This captain was passionate about flying and he loved his job. A happy man at first glance, but when he spoke about Ryanair he didn’t have good words for his CEO Michael O’Leary. I know that O’Leary has a reputation of rudeness and loose talk in the airline industry. Many describe him as arrogant, and prone to making comments which he later contradicts. But this captain had one more remark and that was his biggest issue with him: he didn’t trust his CEO. He saw him as a danger for the future of the company.
When I heard his story, I was also thinking about the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer who reveals global implosion of trust. In this research, they found the CEO credibility at the lowest level ever. And not only that. They found the largest-ever drop in trust across the institutions of government, business, media and NGO’s. 53 Percent of respondents believe the current overall system has failed them- it is unfair and offers little hope for the future- while only 15 percent it works and around one-third is uncertain. Even the elites have a lack of faith in the system. I don’t want to bother you with more figures, but believe me they aren’t good at all.
We see also around us economical, humanitarian, cultural, ecological and geopolitical crisis. Institutions seems to fail to have or create solutions. A lot of articles describe a switch to the right wing as one of the causes. But what if the explanation is deeper? What if democracy itself implodes? How are people looking to their leaders, governmental and in business? For that we can go back to what Socrates is saying about democracy in Plato’s ‘Republic’. Why? Because there are quite some points in which the arguments are scary parallel with the current world stage.
According to Socrates, democracy is all about freedom. Most jobs are available for everyone and everyone can do, or not do, or proclaim what he wants. Almost all people in types and philosophies can live together. They are ‘a dappled fur rug with all kinds of colors’. By the emphasis on freedom nobody needs to obey others. Nobody is forced to follow what they don’t want to follow. Principles are not important anymore. Off course a democracy doesn’t look like this. Socrates only describes the tendency when it is about freedom as ideal. He doesn’t see the democracy as a problem in pursuing the quality, but in her own logic that destroys democracy. It is a Trojan horse. Why?? Socrates is saying the next things about it.
First of all, people give an allergic reaction on leaders and experts, because instructions and advices are seen as a straitjacket. Every suggestion that limits the freedom will give that reaction. The only accepted leaders are the leaders who respond as a megaphone for the wishes of the people.
Second a democracy has roughly 3 classes, because they use the unlimited freedom different. People who are more ‘energetic’ than average will become the leaders of the state. Those who have much more ‘order’ than others will have significantly more wealth. Remains the third and biggest group who have to work and don’t have a big wealth.  In this situation, it is logical that the leaders of the state and the wealthy make a deal. Politicians create nice laws for the wealthy and in return a lot of money goes to the politicians. But the wealthy don’t feel happy after a while. They begin to see the politicians and their laws as barriers for their entrepreneurship. And how can they protest without that people think that they only want to get richer? The solution is off course by appealing to the ideal of freedom. They start to say that politicians are stealing and making obstacles by procedures and rules. Even democracy cannot work without rules and procedures, so success is ensured. The frustrated people will be in rage and one of the wealthy will be appointed as leader.  This all is written around 380 BC. But I see too much similarities with the presence that I can’t ignore it. Off course people are not crazy. They also see now that CEO’s and owners of companies act on personal enrichment. They feel betrayed and lose their trust. As an example: In the time of crisis almost every bank needed government money. Actually, our money because it is paid from our taxes. Still, only in the UK, bonuses paid out since the start of the crisis were breaking the £ 100 billion-pound barrier in 2016. Despite the fines, all the banks have chosen to issue significant bonuses to their senior staff. And beware, this was not only the case in banks. We see daily examples of non-functioning CEO’s who leave the company with a bonus far over the 1 million Euro. And that makes people distrusting the wealthy class. They are no longer an example for them and are refusing them to follow.
If Socrates is right every democracy tends to a society in which the privileged elite acts like a flabby parasite who exploits everyone. If the system doesn’t have an answer on that the only option is to vote for leaders who are fighting the system with a demolition hammer. But these leaders will transform to dictators. It looks there is no hope. But there is. The founders of the modern democracy knew their classics. They knew that democracy is vulnerable for populism. They constructed independent institutions like courts, commissions, limited power systems etc. etc.  There are also mechanisms like referenda and they can account leaders so that they can’t close themselves for the people in the lower and middle class.
The most important now is how society will react on the longer term. Will people become more political active? Are we going to demand more of the politicians and wealthy? Or do we give all power to one person and hope that he doesn’t abuse this power?
I don’t know but it will be exciting times. 

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