I realize that by posting this on a conservative website such as Ricochet I am largely preaching to the choir, but...
I was kind of struggling to figure out what tonight’s post should be. There were several ideas in my mind, but none of them were coming together. Coincidentally, I found the right topic while I watched the first 2 segments (there are 5) of Uncommon Knowledge, The Constitution with Paul Rahe. I’ll leave it to you to go learn more about Rahe, but in general he is an expert on political philosophy.
In this particular series by Uncommon Knowledge, Peter Robinson interviews Dr. Rahe about his book “Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution.” Calling it a book is a bit of an understatement, it is a 1200 page behemoth (Robinson said trying to discuss the book in 30 minutes was like trying to “turn an ox into a bouillon cube.”). One of the questions Robinson asks is “what is a Republic?” Dr. Rahe’s answer was in part that it (a Republic) is a state where the citizens practice self-government, and a primary vehicle for this is “public discourse” such as debates, discussions, etc. Terms such as a forum come to mind…It was the term “self-government” that caught my attention. Why? Because of another article I read the other day.
This other article comes from The Atlantic, and it is a rather long read (for the internet). In that piece the author is looking at the nature of manufacturing jobs in the US. As part of his story, he focuses on the difference in plight between to Luke, and Maddie, two manufacturing employees that he interviewed. Luke went to community college and became a “skilled” worker, and has a rather secure job. Maddie on the other hand, while a good student in high school, became an unmarried teen mom, and had a rather reckless family (divorced parents, and her father later killed 4 people in addition to himself while driving drunk). She is an “unskilled” worker, and could lose her job more or less at any time. It struck me after listening to Dr. Rahe, that the difference between Luke and Maddie is a rough example of self-governing, and NOT self-governing. In America, there are a large number of people who make bad decisions (everybody does at some point right?), and lazy decisions all day long then at some point want a bail out. They want someone other than themselves to take the blame. We even have companies these days doing the same thing. Sure circumstance plays a role in what problems a person will face in life…But to blame a life of bad decisions and little success on circumstance is a pure cop out, a shirk of responsibility. This does not seem like self-government.
But what is the extent of self-government? Is it merely making “good decisions” and being “successful” (not very definitive terms, but outside my scope)? Or does it extend to managing one’s own retirement, healthcare, educational costs, and investment risks etc. If this is true, then America has moved dramatically away from self-government, and in fact it would appear that the Democratic Party is AGAINST self-government (should I deduce then, that they are against Republics?).
With 2012 being an election year, there is no shortage of blaming our leadership and searching for our “bailout.” But the right leader(s) is(are) only part of the solution; the other part is to get back to the business of self-government. To this end, the American “bailout” (return to prosperity) will come through serious consideration of what self-government really means (especially in terms of extent) and choosing leaders who steadfastly defend this foundational principle of our great Republic (Dr. Rahe calls it "the greatest").