The University of Twitter: Alain de Botton’s Course in Political Philosophy

Today on Twitter, Alain de Botton sent eight tweets, in reverse chronological order. The topic? A short course in political philosophy. Here are the tweets:

The University of Twitter: a short course in Political Philosophy in 7 parts:

1: Plato: We should be ruled not by leaders chosen by a majority, but by those who are most intelligent.

2. St Augustine: We should not try to build paradise on earth. Aim for tolerable government, true government only possible in the next life.

3. Machiavelli: Politician must choose between serving the interests of country and the interests of Christian morality. Can’t have both.

4. Hobbes: Rulers not appointed by God, but by people and if they can’t guarantee their security, they can be legitimately kicked out.

5. Smith: The market cannot alone create a moral community. Civil society must nudge capitalists to be good through emulation and honours.

6. Karl Marx: The ‘profit’ of a capitalist is in essence theft, the stolen life and labour of the proletariat.

7. J.S. Mill: Governments should not tell people how to live, they should give them the preconditions to make their own choices.

So if you wanted to brush up on your political philosophy but didn’t want to read a textbook (or lengthy Wikipedia entries, for that matter), enjoy the above.

You may also like the quotable Alain de Botton, from his The Art of Travel.

8 thoughts on “The University of Twitter: Alain de Botton’s Course in Political Philosophy

  1. I find it both fascinating and peculiar how so many well-meaning thinkers in the world today appear incapable of recognising that ‘Government’ in any form, limited or not, is fundamentally irrational and by its very nature violates human self-ownership.

    The redistribution of wealth through coersive taxation (theft) can never rationally lead to virtuous societies – violence can never equal virtue – and the past 6000 years of human history only serves to prove this.
    Statism clearly does not respect individual property rights or self-ownership, and therefore can be validly labelled a form of slavery; albeit a very intricate and sophisticated form where slaves are allowed to roam much of the world and choose what work they do and where.

    The most free amongst us are those who do not pay tax and do not vote, but that’s as free as one can get in today’s world – true freedom is impossible. True freedom and virtuous societies (the like of which humans, by their very nature, require) will only come once the statist ideology finally dies out. When that will happen is anyone’s guess. I only hope my niece and nephew’s children find themselves in a social order that respects voluntaryism and the non-aggression principle universally.

  2. I find it both fascinating and peculiar how many well-meaning thinkers and citizens think that a virtuous and just society can function without a state, without leadership.
    My conception of human virtue as inherent is not corrupted by the state alone but by a community that intentionally or not imposes vices upon citizens, whose inherent virtue would otherwise outweigh their inherent ills.
    We are social beings, community is in our nature, and for life, society, and institutions to be just the abolishment or trimming back of state is clearly not the answer. Known measures to root out would be enacted, politicians should once again fear the people they serve at the very least.
    Gary Hall, governments today have failed to recognise the people they are supposed to serve as citizens rather than consumers, as a voter base and means to maintain power.
    I certainly agree that true freedom is impossible, but you cannot possibly exercise freedom or complain about freedom if you opt out of your unappreciated right to vote and your irresponsible hostility to taxes.
    The ‘statist ideology’ will not die out and in any society where it may, it would soon be regretted. We are social and political animals.

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