Farmers Market




Lewis & Quark

     Who do you want to rule over? Who would you like to tell when to do something, how to do it, and where to do it? Maybe your siblings? People who annoy you? Sidestepping your dominion and control, who would you like to rule over you?
     Humans by nature are social animals. Sociability is one of our capabilities, not just because it shows up in every aspect of our lives, but essentially as part of our nature. Cicero says in his De Amicitia:
"Who would be such a man of iron as to be able to endure such a life?" 
     He speaks of being a hermit, and the consequences that come with it. Humans avoid those consequences by creating a community or a society turned towards a good--multiple goods. And when a community becomes significantly large and takes up so much land, an organization or some ordered way of reaching the good society wants must be put in place.
     That organization is called the state. The state should have one main goal--the good of the people it protects. A ruler, or a government, must protect its people for it to be looking to the end good of all. The state aims at satisfying the needs of the citizens. Politics is directly linked to how we live and the environment we live in. Our lives are partially dictated by the laws of the political system we are under. Part of the reason capitalism works so well as opposed to communism is that the needs of the individual are put over the needs of the general state. Communism is more of a philosophy than a political system. 
     Ultimately, a government takes three forms: rule of the one, or monarchy; rule of the few, or oligarchy; and rule of the many, or democracy. Each of these forms can be misused as well. Monarchy can be tyranny. Oligarchy can be aristocracy or plutocracy. Democracy can be anarchy. 
  • Monarchy - Tyranny
  • Oligarchy - Aristocracy/Plutocracy
  • Democracy - Anarchy
     Any and every government falls under these three. Now that we think of politics as a system for our good, we have some requirements for it, a definition of what it should be. There were governments before philosophy shaped and formed it. The Greeks had tyrants, the Britons: chiefs, and the Egyptians, Pharaohs. But the study of politics emerged from philosophy. Hence, the seminal political work was done by philosophers. 
     Plato addressed politics in his variety of dialogues from the mouth of Socrates, talking about the perfect state and its functions. He creates and evaluative framework for government, but ends up condemning the democracy of his polis as well. (Polis  is the Greek term for city-state.) Plato's politics are mostly just illustrations to posit his definitions of morality and justice. 
     Aristotle, Plato's student, presents a more balanced view of politics in his aptly named Politics. He informed and shaped the view of the three types of government, the perversions of it, and its end. Politics grew out of philosophy, and the two are almost inseparable. 
     Later on, Augustine's works offer a view on how the church and state should be separate and where they should overlap. Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince discusses economic, social, and military policy and their impact on government. British social contract thinkers like John Locke and Thomas Hobbes provided a very different critiques of their classical predecessors' view of politics as a remedy for the hypothetical "state of nature." Instead, they opted for classical liberalism. Georg W. F. Hegel wrote a comprehensive evaluation of politics in his The Philosophy of the Right, and Karl Marx, with his socioeconomic communism, brought forth one of the most devastating forms of government on the planet.
     But the turning point for politics came in the 18th century. A group of forward thinking politicians, with the oppression of monarchy fresh on their minds, created the constitutional republic that is America, basing it on a group of points that promote individualism, equality, freedom, and the idea that the government's end purpose is for the people. Several years later, in defense of the proposed Constitution, they authored a series of papers defending constitutional republican government in America, The Federalist Papers
     Since the American system rose to prominence and political philosophers like Alexis de Tocqueville have praised it, the appeal of equality and individualism crept into the entire world. The French Revolution, largely inspired by the American. The freedom fighters of South America, driven by the hope of an American-style freedom. The fall of the British Empire, mostly countries deciding they wanted to do their own will for themselves. 
     Politics has grown, settling on what we have today--a group of people being protected enough, both economically and militarily, in order to do what they wish to do. And in some ways, this is true. Governments tend to give people what they desire, as it does not wedge the two into aggressive separation. We are safe now, yes. But nobody wins for long. 
     The Greek city-states, by their disunity, were conquered and subdued. The Roman Empire, after it licensed immorality and broke apart the family, was assimilated and destroyed. The Franks, after their emperor Charlemagne died, failed to hold together their empire. All political systems fail. Plato theorized in The Republic that governments fail because they fail to adapt and reinvent themselves. James Madison hit much closer to the truth when he said:
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary."
    Man is not perfect. Therefore, nothing from man can be perfect. And unless something is built without flaw, probability dictates that flaw will eventually be exploited and the thing in question will either fall apart, or cease to fulfill its purpose. No human will be perfect. No human political system will be perfect. Every single one will fall. Whether it be the people in the system, or some temporal error, it will end. Everything ends.
     This all relates to us, as we are all citizens of some state. We are all going to participate or choose not to participate in the political system we are under. As citizens, we have some obligation to it, not just for what it does for us by ensuring our protection, but because it is supposed to train us to think that way. But should we suppose that our duty to the government transcends one's claims to rights that could be asserted against our government? Put simply, what are our rights? Do we put our morals ahead of the state? This harkens back to the idea that there is a universal, moral law--and there is--and that sometimes the state will break or come against that law. 
     That may be beside the point. We are citizens. Because of that, we have a duty to be involved. To choose our leaders. To even become our leaders. Throughout history, leaders have been raised up and benefited their political systems and the people protected by the political system. All political systems will fail, but they are necessary for protection and the fulfillment of needs. But there is one government that will never fail. It is perfect because its leader is perfect--Christ. To be a leader like that, one has to serve. That is the pattern of the "good life" Aristotle talks about in the very beginning of Politics. Politics is a colossal picture of the good life. That's the universal cry of humanity. And no matter who we are, leaders or citizens, putting others' interests ahead of our own is the good life. Abraham Lincoln expresses it best in the Gettysburg Address.
"Government of the people, by the people, for the people."
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