Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thomas Paine's Common Sense

Thomas Paine logically points out the troubles in society that come from having a king. His title, "Common Sense," suggests that all people should be able to identify and try to solve the problems caused by having kings, but because so many people are still dutifully allying themselves with their harmful king, one can assume that Paine's logic is not "common" sense. He oversimplifies, jumps to conclusions, exaggerates, and twists facts to serve his purpose of convincing people that kings are evil and deserve to be removed.

Many of his arguments must be oversimplified and forced if they sound so obvious, yet the public hasn't realized it yet. "For 'tis the Republican and not the Monarchial part of the Constitution of England which Englishmen glory in." It cannot be that simple or the English would have instituted a true republic already.

It is impressive that Paine, who was brought up to view kings and monarchies as the norm, is able to avoid the typical views of his society and realize the actual absurdity of kings. He is very good at recognizing underlying evils and at identifying contradictions. For example, Paine recites that "the most plausible favor of hereditary succession is, that it preserves a nation from civil wars" and pairs it with the fact that since the time of kings in England, there have been "no less than eight civil wars and nineteen rebellions."

Although all of Paine's predictions and speculations are logical and probable, the fact still remains that they are not certain truth. In order to strengthen his argument, he doesn't point out the possibility that his conclusions do not actual support his point. Paine doesn't hesitate, however, to highlight the uncertainty of other's predictions. The statement, "but this is mere presumption; the fate of war is uncertain, neither do the expressions mean anything," does not trust the assumer's ability to draw conclusions as much as he trusts himself. Paine conveniently leaves the possibility of a false conclusion out of his presumptions.

The class discussion helped me to be wary of Paine's assumptions. Mr. Quinn identified many instances where Paine exaggerated the good that comes from the absence of kings or twists things like the Bible to make it seem like it argued for the destruction of kings. Many of Paine's histories are probably products of historical revisionism, retold to support the argument.

It is ironic that Paine says "I would carefully avoid giving unnecessary offense" when he earlier called the king an "ass for a lion." It seems to me that Paine is unnecessarily offensive towards the king, either expressing a desire for revenge against injustices or a desire to be beheaded if the king ever got his hands on him.

I find it slightly sad and possibly false that Paine relates the size of a country to its friendliness. He says, "we forget the narrow limits of three hundred and sixty miles (the extent of England) and carry out our friendship on a larger scale." I'm not exactly sure what that's supposed to mean, but it seems like Paine is saying that a country's friendliness is proportional to its size. To disprove that assumption, I would like to offer Wakefield as an example, for it is so small compare to other schools yet it is the friendliest place I know.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Declaration of Independence

Was Thomas Jefferson influenced by John Locke?

Both agree that the people have the power to dissolve the government if it is not acting for the benefit of all of the people because its power is derived directly from the combined interests of all of its citizens.

Both say that people favored the protection of a government.

There is also the connection made to Locke's "State of Nature" with Jefferson's description of the "Laws of Nature."

These foundational ideas are so similar that it is highly possible that Jefferson did read Locke, but the ideas are so simple and logical that they might have just been two independent solutions to government by two unrelated, intelligent men.

One of the main differences is that Locke's system of government seems to rise naturally from the needs of people in the absence of any order. Jefferson's declaration is a form of government tailored to specifically incorporate knowledge from past experience with less effective forms of government.

There are also a few minor contradictions stemming mainly from word choice. Jefferson considers that being independent, governed states means being free. People would be free of British rule, but Locke would argue that there is freedom that is relinquished in the formation of a government.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

John Locke's Second Treatise, of Civil Government

John Locke has a generally negative view on the nature of man. The man in his examples, the exception to most other people, is content with his own freedom and belongings, and he never desires another man's property. The State of Nature could only be a successful way of organizing humans if all of mankind was as moral and independent as the man in Locke's examples. Locke doesn't even allow the possibility of a wholly good humankind though, saying that there will always be that envious and unjust person who creates the need for a punishment or justice system. Those citizens who are law-abiding and who are nervous about the vulnerability of their possessions, will seek solace in social organization. If government can be considered a system of justice and plan to organize people, then government is only necessary because there are bad people.

The fact that Locke describes law as something that is "plain and intelligible to all rational creatures" suggests that he wants all people to be involved in the government. Nothing should be above the citizens' comprehension for the people have a right to know what they gave up their freedom for. He does admit that there must be a higher, impartial power who will not be carried away by the petty, personal relations of the average man.

How were there laws in the State of Nature? Locke said every man knew it was wrong to harm another man or his possessions and that he only has the liberty to control his own. But in real nature, animals have no sense of property other than the resources they gained by killing their neighbor. Laws seem to contradict the State of Nature for the only true law in nature is survival of the fittest.

Although Locke doesn't name it this, his form of government seems to be a democracy where the power and approval for the government comes directly from the people. The people are also the sole judges of whether or not the government is acting in the best interests of the people.

This document was really confusing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Can't Believe I'm Blogging, Especially About Politics!

This is a tester entry of my political blog for my AP Government class.