“The penalty for not participating in politics is to be governed by your inferiors."
At first glance, that sounds great. The sort of quote where you thrust up your fist and go, "Hell, yeahhh!!" But on second thought -- which comes after about three seconds -- this reads more like, "Say What??," and something you'd read in a Chinese fortune cookie.
I think well of Barack Obama. He's a pretty darn smart guy. Harvard grad. Lawyer. Community Organizer. And more. But if I hadn't voted for anybody in the last election, and not participated at all, that wouldn't suddenly have made him my inferior. Because I was the one too lazy or apathetic to vote.
(I can hear Mr. Obama saying, "Wait a second. Because you sat home on Election Day drinking beer and watching the Wheel of Fortune marathon...I am the one who's now supposedly inferior??!")
For that matter, I did participate in the elections where George W. Bush was elected president. And my participating in those elections didn't suddenly elevate Mr. Bush to my standards of the bare minimum that I expect a President of the United States to be. He was still pretty darn low and hovering far beneath that red line, despite the fact that I did indeed participate. Same too with Richard Nixon, who despite his insistence to the contrary, was a crook. Not to mention a whole lot of other things we don't wish on our children, like petty, mean-spirited, venal, anti-Semitic and more. And resigned from office in disgrace.
Perhaps Plato's quote got lost in translation from the Ancient Greek. Maybe he said, "The penalty for not participating in politics is to risk being governed by your inferiors"
Or maybe Plato was, in fact, just a guy who wrote Chinese fortune cookies, and Ancient Greece is having one huge laugh at modern-day society.