While different countries are fit best for different forms of government, one particular form although imperfect will always be the object of my political devotion. This is the idea of a republic. By no stretch of the imagination are republics perfect, but these days I feel like they can use more appreciation.
I’ve been seeing many absolute monarchist apologists lately, and decided to write a series of articles about republicanism to offer the perspective so many in the US take for granted.
As a disclaimer there are a great variety of republics in the world- some more capitalist, others more socialist, some in between.
This article will discuss in an entertaining way the principles that are needed for a republic.
What is this concept? The concept I will express is a clear one, one of the people’s self governance in place with checks and balance. The first step to a virtuous republic is to have governance over yourself. Governance over your own desires and temptations. I can't just go into a candy store and eat all the chocolate. This first step is taught through the family. If the family doesn’t teach it, the schools should. This can be done secular or religiously, the point is human values. Values such as kindness and goodness that are universal to all religions and peoples. I believe that an Atheist and a Baptist can both reach the conclusion that kindness goes further than cruelty, and that we should show love to the human race.
This is self-governance, the first step in a republic. When I govern over my impulses and do not say the first thing that comes to my mind, this is a sign that I can rule my own spirit.
A young child may hit or scream to get what they want, but when they learn the principle of self-governance the world goes by smoothly.
After self-governance comes “virtue” which is very closely related to it. Virtue is a concept of morality and right and wrong. While some moral issues vary based on religious context, I’ll leave these aside for another deeper analysis and get to the core issues. There seems to be a sense of “right” and “wrong’ expressed by human nature. The very idea of a conscious and “I did something wrong” cements this idea. If I stole a kid’s candy bar, I think universally people would say I did something wrong. A republic needs basic laws to prevent citizens from infringing on the rights of others. This is the concept of “virtue.” There are some sins that the government cannot govern, but if what I’m doing infringes on another person’s rights then I’m in the wrong.
What is liberty? This in itself has had numerous topics devoted to it. I’d say liberty is the right of an individual to live, to express their views without worrying about imprisonment for being a dissident, to write articles criticizing the government without fear of the gulag, to worship freely without persecution. This is liberty, a combined series of concepts of the very core of human nature- to be themselves. An atheist socialist has the same right to express their viewpoints as a conservative Baptist. The government cannot take this right away unless personal harm is done or threatened.
Everybody should have a chance to vote and be heard.
People like to paint “liberty” and “equality” as opposing concepts, but I should point out we need both. Liberty without equality will result in anarchy, equality without liberty will result in totalitarianism.
We have the liberty to do what we want as long as we don’t infringe on others liberty. Equality is to give everybody a chance of success. This is where I know a lot of good intelligent people have different concepts of “equality.”
I shall classify us all as “republicans” (not the political party, but believers of the concept of a republic as opposed to a monarchy) Some republicans believe that the lower classes need more help from the government in order to succeed. A poor person growing up in the slums will not have the same access to education and jobs as a wealthy kid growing up right outside DC in the Northern Virginia suburbs.
Therefore this category of republicans believes that the government on the state or federal level should invest more funds into helping these people have a chance at success.
The second category of republicans is more Jeffersonian and believes a lassiez-faire approach works best for the person to truly appreciate their success.
Equality of opportunity vs Equality of outcome. Personally I believe in both, we need to help the disadvantage to have more opportunities of success and we need to open ways to have more jobs in this country for a wider variety of fields. If we have no jobs that people are truly passionate about, how are they free to pursue their own interests?
But this also is a topic I’d love to devote more time to.
This I mean as in humanity. We need a concept of solidarity and helping our fellow humans without help from the government. The government steps in when issues are too big for the people to help. But we need a sense of looking out for each other as a family. If we do not care about our fellow citizens, where is our republic? Our republic dissolves into selfishness and greedy people taking over. Of course, selfishness and greed come with human nature but so does kindness and goodness. We needs checks and balances in our government to set greed against itself, to check our fellow people with a sense of critique but also help to help them improve themselves. We need to have open dialogue with those who are different from us. Different races, different religions, different political backgrounds- once we do that we find out we have more in common than we ever thought. One of the most interesting discussions I had was with a girl from a totally different background, class, family background, political and religious views. But this girl and I were passionate about the same topics and interested in the same subjects. This made discussions even more enriching to see her angle and where she came from as an individual.
These are several morals I laid out. Many of them are complex enough ideas that I would love to devote entire essays to them and highlight all the opposing viewpoints. But the most important thing in a republic is that we have some variant of these concepts, and with that the system of a republic consisting of an elected legislature held accountable to the people through frequent elections, the president and legislature both being held accountable to the Constitution which stands as the supreme law of the land to protect human rights. Active citizens who are well-read on the issues facing the republic and open to discussing the issues facing them. These concepts all come together to form the republic. Long live the republic, while it isn’t the perfect system it is a system that gives people of diverse backgrounds a chance to be heard and a chance to succeed.