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The Republican Party, since its first convention in Michigan in 1854, has had a philosophy that has remained
relatively unchanged. Its oath entices Americans to believe that "good government is based on the individual and
that each person's ability, dignity, freedom and responsibility must be honored and recognized" How do the
Republican philosophies hold up to the ideas of some of the political thinkers that we have discussed in class. In the
selection to follow, I will examine the Republican's main philosophies and will describe how Rousseau would agree
or disagree with their position. I will be using the Republican Platform of 1996 to aid in my discussion. Ideas that
will be of focus will be the role of the government, property rights, and freedom of the individual.
The Role of the Government
"We are the party of small, responsible and efficient government… We therefore assert the power of the American
people over government, rather than the other way around".
The view of the Republicans across the Nation is that the role of government should be kept to a minimum. In this
section, I will discuss certain views of the Party and how they would be accepted or rejected by Jean-Jacques
Rousseau. The Republican notion has been that less government is better. Rousseau's notion was that of extrication.
He states that the fundamental political problem is "to find a form of association that defends and protects the person
and the goods of each associate with all the common force, and by means of which each one uniting with all,
nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as before" (Cahn, 367). The Republicans would agree with
Rousseau's idea. They (Republican Party) state that the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution should
be the basis for the role of government. The Tenth Amendment states:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to
the States respectively, or to its people.
Republicans, while holding the majority in both the House and Senate have taken it upon themselves to apply all
laws to Congress, so that those who make the rules have to live by them. Rousseau agrees in respect that no
association should be above the laws it makes. In his treatise entitled Of the Social contract or Principles of Political
Right, Rousseau states, "Indeed, each individual may, as a man, have a particular will contrary to, or divergent from,
the general will which he may have as a citizen" (Cahn, 426). What Rousseau is suggesting is that a person may feel
one way, but he/she must act in accordance with the general will of his/her fellow citizens. The Republicans would
insist that the proper role of the Government is to provide only what can be considered critical functions that can't be
preformed by individuals or private organizations; and that the best government is that which governs least. They
plan to streamline the government and make it more effective by !
competition and privatization. Rousseau agrees by saying that simple government is best, because it is simple.
Democracy. On the subject of Democracy, Rousseau would point out that there has never been, nor will there ever
be a true Democracy. He says, "It is contrary to the natural order that the greater number should govern and the
lesser number should be governed" (Cahn, 448). Republicans would tend to lean towards the fact that people in the
United States need to have more say in how the government is ran.
Signs of a Good Government. Rousseau says that there is no way to find out the best Government, because there are
as many solutions as there are combinations. He does give people an idea on how to determine if when a
Government is working. "All other things being equal, the Government under which, without naturalizations,
without colonies, the Citizens become populous and multiply most is infallibly the best" (Cahn, 456).
The subject of property and the rights to it have instigated many heated debates over time. Rousseau's argument is
for that of first occupant. "The right of the first occupant, altough more real than that of strongest, becomes a true
right only after the establishment of property [ownership]" (Cahn, 428). Rousseau
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Deists, Hypochondriacs, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Philosophes, Romanticism, General will, The Social Contract, Social contract, Republican Party, United States Constitution
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