Though Athens was a democracy, Plato was no fan of democracy. In his dialogues he has Socrates repeatedly lampooning democracy as rule by the least qualified. This is because the leaders in a democracy are not chosen by the wise, but by the majority, and the majority is often easily manipulated by bad actors. As a result, Plato endorsed a kind of elitism, the rule by experts or “philosopher kings.” His idea of justice is one where the various functions of society are carried out by those who have the wisdom, expertise and excellence appropriate to the specific role. While Plato places no particular value on equality or freedom for individuals, his ideal state is a meritocracy where everyone has equal opportunity to find his or her appropriate place through a vigorous system of public education. The point of equal opportunity in this meritocratic system was not to be fair to individuals, though. The goal was to identify and cultivate talent wherever it is to be found.

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