I linger for one hour, listening to deliberations about legal policies and social services. An emphasis on individual rights is interspersed and sometimes intertwined with an emphasis on collective responsibility. I am reminded of the concept of “communitarianism” offered by George Cabot Lodge (of the famous Cabot and Lodge families in US business and government history) (Lodge, 1995). Lodge was an unsuccessful candidate for the US senate from Massachusetts –losing out to a young man from another powerful family: John Kennedy.
In looking around the room, I focus finally on its entrance. I find that the word “Polis” is chiseled on the room’s marble portico. Also chiseled on the wall next to the entrance is a quotation from the Greek philosopher Aristotle. It reads:
Any member of the assembly, taken separately, is certainly inferior to the wise man. But the state is made up of many individuals. And as a feast to which all the guests contribute is better than a banquet furnished by a single man, so a multitude is a better judge of many things than any individual. – Aristotle, Politics
I find this Aristotelian statement to be inspiring – and it also makes me a bit hungry. I have not eaten since snacking on the small treats available at the Alpha picnic. Somehow, the Delta feast sounds much more appetizing (and fulfilling—figuratively and literally) than the individually-prepared Alpha snacks. But how valid is this assumption about collective wisdom that Aristotle conveys? Sure, it is nice to sample the diverse dishes being provided collectively at a no-host potluck-feast, but does this same process hold any credence in the realm of public deliberation and decision-making?Download Article 1K Club