My new piece for Thai Enquirer, reflecting on the 2014 military coup on its sixth anniversary:
On the ground, those who did support the coup had no doubt about its moral righteousness. An idealist can dream for democracy; those less starry-eyed realize the country is not ready. Dictatorship, as ugly as it may sound, could at least bring order to the streets. And it could even bring moral people to power, governing for the good of the nation rather than benefits at the ballot box. Military rule would be transitional, paving the way for the rule of the virtuous.
A utopian vision, perhaps, yet one that so many who believed themselves practical bought into. It reminds me now of what the great Roman orator Cicero said of traditionalist Cato: “he speaks as if he were in Plato’s Republic rather than Romulus’ cesspool.”
Plato did, after all, argue that the best form of government is an aristocracy of the wisest, where an enlightened autocracy imposes order on the ignorant masses. But the belief that an epistocracy can be built is as unrealistic as it is romantic, whether in antiquity or now.
Read the full piece here.