Presentation on theme: "Revolution! The two models Ronald Wiltse December 2006."— Presentation transcript:
Revolution! The two models Ronald Wiltse December 2006
Model 1: The American Revolution A revolution of sober expectations Model 2: The French Revolution The revolution of utopian hopes
Sidebar 1: Democratic government a bad question –Plato caused confusion by misstating the essential question about government, saying the fundamental question is “Who rules, the leader or the people?” –But, in all cases (except theoretical ‘direct democracy’), the leader or leaders rule. –A better question would be “How many rule?”
Sidebar 1: Democratic government what it is, actually –a way of choosing the leadership, not “rule of the people” –therefore, democracy is not a type of government –(the “people” are the authority behind American government, but this isn’t essential for democratic government ) –(the philosopher to see: Karl Popper)
Sidebar 1: Democratic government from majoritarian to antimajoritarian –Our Founding Fathers rejected ancient “democracies” and (therefore) the word democracy because the majority could abuse minorities. This type of democratic rule can be called majoritarianism. –Our Founding Fathers wanted protection for minorities—they were antimajoritarian.
Sidebar 1: Democratic government Antimajoritarian features of the US Constitution include –primarily, limitations on the power of majorities (to protect minorities) –but also, requiring super-majorities to exercise certain actions –(see Federalist Paper No. 10)
Sidebar 2: Republican government named by the Romans for their government with plural leaders and no king but : This form of government had already been invented by polis Greeks (they misnamed it, by confusing the method they used for choosing the leadership with the type of government). not associated with representative government until the late medieval period (the Roman republican assemblies were not representative) –(the book to see: The End of Kings, by William Everdell)
Sidebar 3: a clearer view of gov’t. Single leaders (originally all kings, later with various titles) can be called monarchs. Plural leadership marks out the substance of republican government (originally, all examples of plural leader government had no kings, so it was easy to think of this as the defining characteristic [and, unlike Americans, Europeans still define republican government in this way] ).
Sidebar 3: a clearer view of gov’t. Thus, we can see the two types of government as –monarchy (single leaders, no matter what the title) –republican government (plural leadership, no matter whether one of the leaders has the title of king)
Sidebar 3: a clearer view of gov’t. This type of analysis allows for clearer thinking than the traditional “democracy=republic =representative government”. For example, in dealing with questions such as how should one view term limits? (They are anti- democratic, but republican.) Should an elected official vote his beliefs or his constituents’ beliefs? (A leader is a leader and should therefore vote as he sees fit, but practically, he may choose to vote otherwise to keep his employers happy.)
Sidebar 3: a clearer view of gov’t. Confusion of thinking: ► shadow over substance: The significant point about a king in the government is not his presence, but his power (thus, defining republican government as one without a king emphasizes appearances, while defining it as one with plural leaders emphasizes the substance of the matter). ► After the Civil War, as the US became more democratic, the terms democracy and republican government melded, making clear thinking about these issues more difficult. ► The description of republican government as representative government (or representative democracy) is historically inaccurate (Roman assemblies were not representative). ► Plato misstated the essential question about government, causing confusion ever since.
Sidebar 4 All modern so-called democracies share five characteristics:
Sidebar 4, continued The five elements of modern “democracies”: ► republican government ► democratically chosen leaders ► anti-majoritarian restrictions ► willingness of the citizenry (and canditates) to lose an election (i.e., acceptance of majority rule over being right) ► citizenry’s sense of fair play (toleration of opposing views)
Sidebar 4, continued Thus, the government of the United States can clearly and accurately be described as an antimajoritarian democratic republic. Parts of our constitution are antimajoritarian, parts are democratic, and parts are republican (what the Founding Fathers called “popular government”).
Note All revolutions involve two elements: tearing down and building up. Of the two, destruction is far easier than construction. The great destroyer: Tom Paine
Model 1: The American Revolution A revolution of sober expectations –limited goals: political only –built on a democratic tradition –well thought out –negative outcomes weighed –primarily constructive –moderate –no theory of class warfare
Model 2: The French Revolution The Revolution of utopian hopes: –everything was up for change, not just political leadership government, legal system religion economic system calendar measurement system see slide presentation, The French Revolution, for details
Model 2: The French Revolution But, The French Revolution was actually two Revolutions... one moderate, and one radical
Model 2: The French Revolution First Revolution 1789-1791 moderate result: an actual republic King Louis XVI was the chief executive, with less power than he had had as absolute monarch “The revolution is over”—Robespierre Fatal weakness: the chief executive was not loyal to the government (he already had shown this earlier by trying to flee the country).
Model 2: The French Revolution The first revolution failed to produce a lasting government. Why? Even though the king had shown his enmity toward the aims of the revolution, he was allowed to be its chief executive. so, back to revolution
Model 2: The French Revolution It is the second revolution most think of when they think “French Revolution”.
Second Revolution 1792-1795 radical utopian goals willingness to resort to violence result: totalitarian government (in the form of an oligarchical republic) END RESULT: the revolution collapses, monarchy returns, and government allows more freedom (for example, the Napoleonic Code replaced medieval legal system)
Model 2: The French Revolution Lessons of the French Revolution 1. Utopian goals are unobtainable on earth. 2. Noble goals without wisdom can lead to bad results. 3. Tyrants claim to know what’s best for others and are usually willing to use coercion. 4. A monstrous evil can have some good results (but don’t look only at the good).
Model 2: The French Revolution. From now on, monarchies (whether run by kings or dictators) must court popular support because such support releases greatly increased power to the government; that is, the government must give (or at least appear to give) the citizenry some of what they want. In France itself: – a thoroughgoing decimal system – national public education – the Napoleonic Code Legacies of the French Revolution
Which model will most subsequent revolutions follow? The models... 1: The American Revolution A revolution of sober expectations 2: The French Revolution (i.e., the 2 nd one) The revolution of utopian hopes The revolutions... The Bolshevik, Chinese and Cuban Revolutions
Sober expectations vs. Utopia The winner, when measured by imitators: The French Revolution The winner, when measured by freedom created and good achieved: The American Revolution