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Table of Contents
Democracy, Socrates says, degenerates into tyranny because of the excessive personal freedom permitted by the democratic leaders. A lack of respect for authority follows. Children have no awe or fear of their parents; teachers cater to the whims of their students; foreigners and slaves feel equal to citizens. "Things everywhere," Socrates says, "are just bursting with the spirit of liberty." Finally the democratic bubble bursts. Too much freedom brings anarchy; anarchy, in turn, brings the longing to be controlled.
The unlimited freedom of the democratic state divides people into three classes: the dominating class of spendthrift politicians, sycophants, and desperadoes; the capitalistic class of thrifty, wealthy businessmen; and the large mass of common people who own little property, keep quiet, and, for the most part, stay out of politics. The politicians begin to pass laws that affect the capitalists' wallets. The capitalists retaliate by forming a reactionary political party. Meanwhile, the masses feel the need for protection and elevate one man to champion their rights. This champion of the people tastes power, and, like a wolf that tastes blood, he becomes transformed into a dangerous creature, a tyrant. Power corrupts him.
At first the masses continue to believe that he is their friend. Some of the capitalists and politicians, however, perceive his considerable threat to the democracy and attempt to assassinate him. The budding tyrant demands that the people provide him with bodyguards. They do. And after a while he has acquired a close group of followers who are loyal only to him, and he has gained control of the state's army. He continually stirs up war with other states so that the people are always in need of a leader. Now the tyrant is firmly seated in power. He demands more and more of the people's property; taxes soar. But when the people protest, he has some of them killed and imprisons others. Soon the people realize that they have created a monster. But they are helpless; the tyrant has made the people his slaves.
With the tyrannical state established, Book VIII ends. A discussion on the tyrannical man begins the next book.