Victor Davis Hanson

In Plato's ideal society, philosopher kings and elite Guardians shepherded the rabble to force them to do the "right" thing.

To prevent the unwashed from doing anything stupid, the all-powerful, all-wise Guardians often had to tell a few "noble" lies. And, of course, these caretakers themselves were exempt from most rules they made for others.

We are now seeing such thinking in the Obama administration and among its supporters.

Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution

A technocracy -- many Ivy-League-educated and without much experience outside academia and government -- pushes legislation most people do not want but is nevertheless judged to be good for them.

Take the Obama proposal for health care. A large percentage of Americans do not trust those who run the Postal Service to oversee the conditions of one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

No matter. Our philosopher-king president says of our fierce resistance: "I . . . know what happens once we get this done. The American people will suddenly learn that this bill does things they like."

How about energy policy? Unlike Obama, most Americans believe we should fully utilize our own gas, oil and nuclear resources so that we don't go broke waiting for a promised solar and wind revolution.

In fact, on a number of other major issues, polls show more than half of all Americans are at odds with the Obama agenda: more federal takeover of private enterprise, gargantuan deficit spending, and "comprehensive" immigration reform, for starters.

Why, then, does the Obama administration persist with such an apparently unpopular agenda?

Like Plato's all-knowing elite, Obama seems to feel that those he deems less informed will "suddenly" learn to appreciate his benevolent guidance once these laws are pushed through.

Liberal columnist Thomas Frank once promoted similar assumptions in his book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" Frank argued that clueless American voters can't quite figure out what their own self-interests are.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, another Obama supporter, also reflected the philosopher-king thinking in a recent column praising China's "reasonably enlightened" dictatorship. Unlike the messiness of American democracy, he argued, a few smart strongmen in China can ram through the necessary policies "to move a society forward in the 21st century."


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.