Plato Would Ban Ad-Blockers

He was a dick.

Cory Doctorow
8 min readDec 11, 2022


A statue of Plato with a Greek temple behind him. Plato has been tinted blue and out of his eyes glare the hostile red eyes of HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The temple behind him has been tinted dark red. Part of the temple’s facade has been replaced with the Matrix ‘Code Waterfall’ graphic.
Cryteria/CC BY 3.0 (modified)

In The Reactionary Mind, political scientist Corey Robin articulates a common thread that runs through all right-wing ideology. Robin starts from the observation that “conservatives” are a coalition of people who believe irreconcilable things:

  • libertarians believe bosses should be in charge of workers,
  • imperialists believe America should be in charge of the world,
  • monarchists believe that royalty should be in charge of the nation,
  • white nationalists believe white people should be in charge of racialized people, and
  • Christian nationalists believe Christians should be in charge of everyone who isn’t a Christian.

These things can’t all come to pass. Small-state, low-tax libertarians shouldn’t welcome the trillions of dollars it takes to fund a US military to coerce the rest of the world to accept Pax Americana. A white nationalist and/or Christian nationalist won’t be happy with a monarch or a business community that embraces a (superficial) liberalism of mulitculturalism and gender equality.

The harder you look, the more irreconcilable the “conservative” movement appears, prompting Robin to ask, “What binds all these different ideologies together?”

But once you lay it out in a bulleted list like the one I opened this essay with, it’s obvious: a conservative is someone who believes that some of us were born to rule, and the rest of us were born to be ruled over.

Different flavors of conservativism elevate different groups to power, but they all agree that there is something intrinsic to some people that make them more suited to rule than others.

Depending on which kind of conservative you are, this fitness to rule reveals itself in different ways: perhaps you emerged from a royal orifice, perhaps the markets allocated capital to you that allowed you to amass a large workforce, perhaps your skin color or your professed faith attests to your fitness to rule.

While Robin’s crystallization of conservative thought is an essential contribution to political theory, the underlying idea is very old. It’s the basis for Plato’s Republic.



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: