The strength and well being of a society is largely determined by the capacity of its members to work cooperatively together towards common goals (a common good). The most significant disruption of this strength is related to the integrity of human character with regard to how we relate to and work with one another. Socrates spent most of his life in the context of Athenian democracy. In Socrates' Athens, the role of the citizen was much more central to the functioning of Athenian democracy than it is in the democratic republic of the .. Male citizens were required to participate in their government through mandatory military service and through their participation (randomly chosen) on the council. The ability of all citizens to relate to one another with integrity was of the utmost importance because acquiring a high position in the government was possible for any male citizen who was at least 30 years old. When Socrates asked questions such as "What is justice?" or "What is virtue?", he was not interested in academic abstractions. Socrates' goal was to learn what it meant to live as a just and virtuous citizen. This was of the utmost importance to Socrates because he knew that the good character of individuals contributed directly to the survival and well being of his whole society. When the learning and thinking habits of the people become slack, that is, when the masses do not live examined lives, democracy becomes a fast road to tyranny. When the justice and skillful virtue of the human character of individual citizens is harmed, society is harmed. This reality underlays Socrates' comment in Plato's Republic (564a) that, "tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy...the greatest and most savage slavery out of the extreme of freedom."
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In an approximate way, the logic of commons has been understood for a long time, perhaps since the discovery of agriculture or the invention of private property in real estate. But it is understood mostly only in special cases which are not sufficiently generalized. Even at this late date, cattlemen leasing national land on the western ranges demonstrate no more than an ambivalent understanding, in constantly pressuring federal authorities to increase the head count to the point where overgrazing produces erosion and weed-dominance. Likewise, the oceans of the world continue to suffer from the survival of the philosophy of the commons. Maritime nations still respond automatically to the shibboleth of the "freedom of the seas." Professing to believe in "the inexhaustible resources of the oceans," they bring species after species of fish and whales closer to extinction (9).