Mike H. sent me this link to a brief response to a recent book on Plato by Simon Blackburn (author of “Think,” which hasn’t been as popular as “Blink” — go figure). The book is about how a number of neocons in the Bush administration were students of Leo Strauss, who understood Plato to claim (convincingly, I guess) that the state can decide to do whatever it wants and mislead the people in any way it wants in order to get its tasks done.
It’s certainly true that Plato thought some people were wiser than others, and the rulership should be entrusted to the wisest. And, if the political leaders truly are wise, as Plato understands wisdom, then the state doing “whatever it wants” would be a good thing (since what it wants is what wisdom would endorse). I would say, though, that at least several of these neocons either had an imporperly inflated sense of their own wisdom, or else (more likely) renounced the obligation to follow wisdom, and followed some sort of “will to power” instead; perhaps believing, as they learned from their teacher, that that’s exactly what Plato would advise.