• timocracy •
Pronunciation: ti-mah-krê-si • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Plato considered timocracy government by the principles of honor. 2. To Aristotle, on the other hand, it was a government in which the ownership of property is a prerequisite for holding office.
Notes: The adjective for today's word is timocratic [tim-ê-kræt-ik], and the adverb is timocratically. The plural is timocracies with an I replacing the Y.
In Play: We are likely to see a government run by officials all with the name Tim before we see one run by officials driven by the love of honor and public service. (But I still enjoy dreaming about it as I watch reruns of "The West Wing" on TV.) The costs of political campaigns in the US have reached such heights that we are approaching a timocracy in the Aristotelian sense, where only the wealthy or those with wealthy backers can achieve national political office.
Word History: The ambiguity in today's word begins with its root, Greek time which means "value". It implies "honor" when applied to people and "price" when applied to things. Now since kratia has come to mean "governance", the compound could mean "governance by price" or "government by honor", a familiar confusion in politics to this day. A diluted version of the same ambiguity can be found today in the Slavic descendant of the same root, e.g. Russian cena, which means both "price" and "value."