In the section “The Dilemma” in “City of Rhetoric” by David Fleming, he focuses on the difficulty of achieving the perfect democracy size due to varying sizes and groups of individuals. Fleming acknowledges the problem with our democracy, and how people are always losing one way or another. His goal is to solve “The Dilemma,” by finding the right amount of people where everyone benefits and can provide input. To begin, he analyzes the pros and cons of smaller versus larger democracies because these are the two major group sizes. Both Fleming and I agree that smaller groups lack debate and diversity. In most cases, they will agree quickly due to how little the group is, and there will be no discourse. On the other hand, they are more unified and focused. Together, they understand exactly what the goals of the group are. There are no questions on what they need to accomplish, and they are more committed to the end objective. However, nobody is challenging each other. When people are surrounded by those who are similar to them, individuals are stuck with repetitive ideas. Although smaller groups may be safer and more comfortable, there is often a lack of growth. In contrast, Fleming claims, “Large democracies, have sovereignty, power, and diversity” (50). While it is imperative for large democracies to be diverse and representative of those they are representing, it is difficult for all individuals to feel a sense of belonging. They also may not be able to be as involved with all the decisions made. The struggle is that a strong democracy should have the qualities of both large and small democracies. Fleming states this and mentions Aristotle’s ideal polis population because it is important to know that the ideal democracy is achievable, and this idea has been in place for over “two millennials” (51) but there does not seem to be any progress to attain it.
Fleming elaborates on how one democracy size is not perfect for every group, and the government needs to adapt based on what they have, and the population they are representing. For example, local governments require unity. It is necessary for them to communicate easily together, and to make decisions quickly and efficiently. There is no need for a local government to be extremely powerful since they are not in charge of large groups. It is unrealistic for them to hear out all of those in the democracy. It is ineffective, and no decisions will be made. In addition, Fleming asserts, “we increase the capacity of the political system to handle critical problems” (51). Smaller groups are incapable of handling conflicts that extend to the rest of the world, or even the rest of a state or country. They do not have the resources or people to deal with issues that concern everyone.
Fleming refers to Aristotle over what the perfect democracy looks like, and how it would potentially be catastrophic if this dilemma is not solved soon. He argues that the best polis “is composed of a multitude of dissimilars in which each takes his turn governing and is devoted to making himself and his polis just and noble” (52). Essentially, he believes that governments must be ran by individuals who are different. If every person share the same principles, there won’t be any discussion or discourse. There has to be distinction. Aristotle refers to a “many-voiced harmony” (52). They all sing and work together, but there are still unique and successful voices. As stated previously, there needs to be a combination of both democracies. However, there always must be debate and challenge. The perfect group will be small enough for all to participate, but large enough for there to be varying opinions. Fleming overlooks what I consider to be a crucial point about what would happen if democracies continued to be ran without peaceful discourse and full participation. We have seen it now in modern-day elections, when individuals can not talk to each other despite their differences, there is no progress made. There is simply more arguing, and a divide is created among people when there should be unification for a common purpose. Although the perfect democracy may be difficult to accomplish, there is no better time for the country to band together and work on solving the dilemma.
Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Suny
Press. 2003. pp 50-52.