PaineCommonSense - Thomas Paine, Common Sense Paine begins...

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Thomas Paine, Common Sense Paine begins not from the immediacy of the conflict between America and Britain, but rather from a set of universal claims and assumptions about natural rights, as he argues, “The cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected, and in the event of which their affections are interested. The laying a country desolate with fire and sword, declaring war against the natural rights of mankind, and extirpating the defenders thereof from the face of the earth, is the concern of every man,” (2). Paine first distinguishes between society (the natural and positive result of human life) and government (the negative mechanism of control demanded by human wickedness) (3). Paine argues, “Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one,” (3). This is a common Enlightenment argument, but one that particularly reverberates with the liberal tradition of Locke and Rousseau. A minimal form of government is desirable to Paine, and that government (however perfect in form) is legitimate only when it secures the rights and liberties of the people, as Paine holds, “ Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us all, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others,” (3). Government is thus only necessary because ‘moral virtue’ is insufficient to govern the world. Government is meant to correct the lax sense of duty, concern with personal interest and waning interpersonal connections that arise naturally as society and the economy grow (4). As this growth continues, direct democracy will become impossible and ineffective, and a representative system will grow in its place (5). Frequent elections and strong bonds between the representative and the representative are necessary , “And this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this (not in the unmeaning name of king) depends the strength of government and the happiness of the governed, ” (5). Think about the kind of state and citizen this would shape. For Paine, the simpler the mechanism, the less it is prone to disorder. For Paine, the English government is outmoded, overly complicated and unable to properly secure the rights, security and freedom of its people. As he notes, “the constitution of England is so exceedingly complex that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies; some will say in one and some in another, and every political physician will advise a different medicine,” (5). Paine sees the English system as the remains of two ancient
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PaineCommonSense - Thomas Paine, Common Sense Paine begins...

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