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Popular views of government have changed constantly throughout history. For a government to be popular and legitimate, it must meet certain intangible guidelines. These guidelines have been the topic of many an essay and book over history. Political science, and philosophy to a large extent, has attempted to define these guidelines. Both are ever ready to either praise or destroy the values that any government is based upon.
The view of government, initiated in writing, very rarely examines any current government of the world.
Writers often feel that the current governments are rather susceptible to trends that could deny their writing in the status quo. An author writing about history is much safer than attempting to tackle the present. History offers a realm to hypothesize about new ideas, but the present allows the only true test of whether an idea or theory is practical and substantial.
Few authors have the privilege of seeing their work translated into a form of government.
If this does occur it is usually a number of years after their death. Karl Marx never saw the full affect that his Communist Manifesto would have on the world. His philosophy was not truly held until after his death in 1883. John Stuart Mill never saw his philosophy in On Liberty used to help protect minorities after his death. The cynical Nietzsche had a great impact on the views of morality and still carries a great following for his views of life and government. The Social Contract by Rousseau was used in addition to Locke to form the Declaration of Independence.
These essays have all impacted the realm of government beyond the comprehension of our current ever-forgetful politicians.
I wish to take these four authors and extend their views to the current United States government. I will evaluate our government and see how it would stand up to the theories and expectations of these authors. I will examine the laws, moralities, and social events that compose the United States of America.
Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in the cold winter of 1848. The Manifesto created complete new governments and ways of thinking among literally billions of people worldwide. The idea of Manifesto is quite simple: the state will control all money, property, industry, and transportation. The state will then evenly spread the population across the country and will give each person a job, mostly in the agricultural field.
Marx would say that the United States is everything that the Manifesto is not. The bourgeoisie control everything in this country. Marx would be the first to quote the statistical analysis that the bourgeoisie control 95% of the country, while only composing of 5% of the population. Marx doesnt believe that the bourgeoisie should have control of 95% of the nation; he believed that the ownership of private property should be amongst everyone equally, with very little actual ownership.
Marx would also continually repeat of a bourgeois control of production. The bourgeoisie are firmly in control of production. As an example, Bill Gates is so in control of the computer industry that he must attempt to prove that he does not have a monopoly. It is nearly impossible for any infant business to be able to compete within the already established market. Marx would say that our industries are too entrenched in their market share for any new companies to compete. The proletariat has no chance of competing with the bourgeoisie in the United States.
Karl Marx would also say that the bourgeoisie has a firm control over the political spotlight in the United States. He would say to be a politician you would have to be well schooled, rich, know the right people, and owe a few favors to achieve a worthwhile position. Your social class placement decides the extent of influence within the political realm. The bourgeoisie have firm control over its candidates and act quickly against any that would wish to change the system. Ruby Ridge and other incidents show that the government is not willing to allow descending thoughts to surface and become popular opinion. Marx would cite that American people are not free because they have very little say in the actual operation of the American political situation. Proletariat freedom only means to pick which bourgeois they want to run the country.
The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry, the place of the industrial middle class, by industrial millionaires, the leaders of whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeoisie. Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America
paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry, and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages. Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. Marx talks about America in the sense that with each advance of industry, the bourgeoisie further advances itself politically. The further that America advances industry is the further the bourgeoisie gains control over politics. The fields that continue to advance, such as science, are increasingly having less and less of the proletariat involved.
The proletariat only takes piecemeal actions to change the government, but Marx says, This organization of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. Marx believes that the proletariat is not able to unite because of the competition to become a member of the bourgeoisie. A political party of common people will always fail, mainly because once one group attempts to unite, others follow suite. The only group that will benefit is the experienced bourgeoisie. Marx does not believe that politically the proletariat can defeat the bourgeoisie.
The proletariat will not gain control over production, as well as politics. Marx writes, All the preceding classes that got the upper hand sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation. The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation. They have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property. Marx says that the only way for the proletariat to gain control of industry is to overthrow the government and set up communism. The American bourgeoisie continue to fortify their position of power by advancing the technology and making the proletariat more dependent upon them. Marx says that the American proletariat will not ever control industry because they will not give up the desire of personal property. This desire of personal property would make even a victorious proletariat the new bourgeoisie.
Marx would say that the American government is a bourgeoisie tool used to control industry and politics. He would continue that the proletariat does not have a chance of gaining ground on the bourgeoisie. He would say that America is stagnate of political change.
John Stuart Mill, author of On Liberty, would view our government as overextending its boundaries and decreasing the power of the citizen. Mill would frown upon the American government because it continually takes from the rights of the individual. Mill would enjoy the Bill of Rights because they initially limited the control the government had over an individual. Mill believed that the government should only regulate actions that harmed others.
Mill believes that the government should be based on the interests of the public. It is the governments responsibility to turn the publics will into law. That it was a resource against rulers whose interests were habitually opposed to those of the people. What was now wanted was that the rulers should be identified with the people, that their interest and will should be the interest and will of the nation.
Mill would not be impressed with the petty laws that our legislative bodies create. Mill says that laws need to stay pertinent to important issues. Mill believed that the majority is correct, as long as it does not infringe upon the minority. He would say that the American government does not properly conduct the general will of the public. The majority elects the officials, but the general will is not conducted by the legislative. The legislator often does not promote the general will. The majority opinion is no longer represented in Congress. The only opinion represented is that of the members. Recently the general will was not the Congressional Will on things such as comprehensive national healthcare, foreign aid to Bosnia or Haiti, and the national debt. Congress continues to avoid the general will, which decreases individual liberty.
Mill also talks about the government impeding upon the type of jobs that citizens can hold. He says, Fornication, for example, must be tolerated, and so must gambling; but should a person be free to be a pimp, or to keep a gambling house? The is one of those which lie on the exact boundary line between two principles, and it is not at once apparent to which of the two it properly belongs. Mill says that the government should not be able to dictate jobs held by citizens. If a person wishes to gamble or be a prostitute, then the government should allow them too. The government has no legitimate right to regulate the work citizens choose to do. The government has outlawed most forms of gambling and prostitution, which do nothing but harm the individual.
Mill would commend the womens movement in the United States. Mill would be extremely pleased with the steps that women have taken to leave the home and enter both the political and working world. Mill was an advocate of womens suffrage and helped start the earliest movements of women suffrage protests.
Mill leaves a warning of the expanding power of the government with, The third and most cogent reason for restricting the interference of government is the great evil adding unnecessarily to its power. Mill would stand for the devolution of the power to the states. He would believe that a more balanced federal system would better secure the liberty of United States citizens.
Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the most cynical thinkers of modern time, believes that people are better left alone by the government. Nietzsche would be happy if there was no civilization at all. He would say that the United States government attempts to control the average citizens thoughts and emotions.
Nietzsche believed that society has too much control over the individual. He would not agree with the way that the government attempts to run the lives of its citizens. Nietzsche would have openly protested the Clarence Thomas trial, because it was a case of the morals of an individual. He would have a problem with the Monica Lewinsky hearings, for they involve the morals of the president, not a crime committed.
Nietzsche would be a Montana man if he were still alive. He believes that people only believe that the government is right because the government makes them feel like they are inferior to it. He says humans become sheep because they believe that the strong are better. If they would not believe such philosophy then they would also be able to gain power. Recent voter turnout for national elections proves Nietzsches point. Voter turnout is the lowest in history because the people feel like the government is so large that a single vote will change nothing.
He would also frown upon Americans considering themselves to be the apex of the world. But this would still not amount to saying that the organizers themselves represent culture. Rather, the exact opposite is true, as is vividly shown by the current state of affairs Such instruments of culture are a disgrace to man and might make one suspicious of culture altogether. The United States is the pinnacle of culture for the world, yet he continues, Certainly not our fear of him, rather the that there is no longer anything to be feared from him; that the vermin man occupies the entire stage; that, tame, hopelessly mediocre, and savorless, he considers himself the apex of historical evolution, and not entirely without justice, since he is still somewhat removed from the mass of sickly and effete creatures whom Europe is beginning to stink of today.
Nietzsche would probably fall into Marxs camp as one who wants little government-to-citizen interaction. Nietzsche, however, would be completely happy with the condition of our prisoners in America. The prison is the closest environment to what Nietzsche preaches. He would be quite happy that prisoners receive 3 square meals, cable television, and a possible college education.
The Social Contract, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, can be easily applied to the United States government. The earliest notions of our government sought to protect the same liberties that Rousseau believed in. He had various views of individual liberty that could better be extrapolated to present day.
Rousseau would start by saying that no matter how great the United States would secure the freedom of its citizens, it will not last. He didnt believe that any government is able to stand the test of time. He says that all governments will eventually fail, for Rousseau had a cyclical view of
governments. The United States might fail for various reasons that Rousseau would quote. He might say that the population of the United States is perhaps growing too large. He believed that population and liberty were inversely proportional. He says that a perfect society would have all members of its community in the legislative body. This is obviously completely unconceivable, but logical reasoning says it makes the most effective government. The larger a population grows the further the government is removed from the people. Rousseau would also be disappointed in recent voter turnout results. He believed that every individual should partake in the actions of the government, specifically the vote. He says that this is the only way to secure the absolute protection of liberty.
Rousseau continues on in his essay to relate to the overstretching of a countries border and the impacts it could have upon a government. Rousseau would say that perhaps the United States should split into independent states. He would say that this would bring the United States government more closely to its citizens.
Rousseau would also say that the United States must not suppress the minority opinion, unless the majority decided so. The incidents in Waco and Ruby Ridge would both be declared an unfounded use of force. He would also say that these separatists movements mean that the government is not doing a proper job of securing liberty. A good, legitimate government is accepted and need not worry about rebellion. I believe that the United States suppresses many uprisings that could potentially become influential.
Rousseau would commend the Supreme Court on the job that it has done to protect individual liberty. It has continually overturned laws violating search and seizure and private property codes. This is extremely important to Rousseau, for government and civilization was formed to protect property. Rousseau would go on to say that only through the protection of life and property is freedom truly achieved.
Rousseau would be rather weary of Congresses use of the general will in the lawmaking process. Rousseau said that the best society secures the general will into the countries laws. This simply does not occur at the federal level of the government anymore. The lawmakers of the states merely decide the issue from their own personal belief, rather than the general will of the public. Congress has recently missed the mark on issues like health care, crime, and education.
The government is now so immense that the general will is impossible to contrive into law. The constituents are not able to have their voices heard. The government is now no longer listening to the general will of the public, which in turn decreases it legitimacy.
The rich/poor gap in the United States is something that would greatly disturb Rousseau. Much like Marx, Rousseau believed that the class between citizens had to be equal to secure absolute liberty. The greater ones class becomes the greater the influence that this person would have on the political realm. This would worry Rousseau, as the rich/poor gap in the United States continues to increase between the white and black worker. The gap creates a socioeconomic class that boosts the political influence of the beneficiary party. Thus, Rousseau says, Nothing is more dangerous in public affairs than the influence of public interest, and the abuse of the law by the government is a lesser evil than that corruption of the legislator which inevitably results from the pursuit of private interests. When this happens, the state is corrupted in its very substance and no reform is possible.
The mixed picture that has been painted for America is at best continuing to remain mixed. Solutions to the problems presented do not look to be coming in the near future. The government of the United States will continue done the path that these authors say will lead to destruction. It is a path that Rousseau says has no possible reform. Of course, he also says that democracy is only for the gods.
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