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Paine continues Common Sense by masterfully illustrating the ideal evolution of government by introducing a hypothetical people. Paine did not give them a name, but I will call them the Paragons. The Paragons are a small in number and are isolated from the rest of the civilized world; a brand-spanking new civilization. He points out that man’s social nature, his biological needs, and his desire to attain things he cannot produce on his own will compel the Paragons to band together to form their society; society will be the Paragons’ first thought. In this state, law is unnecessary as the Paragons remain just to each other.

… nothing but heaven is impregnable to vice…”

As soon as the Paragons conquer the challenges of emigration and establishing society that united them in purpose, their duties and attachments will begin to fall by the wayside as they become comfortable in their overall prosperity. Because of the inability of human nature to maintain moral virtue, the Paragons will be made to establish a government to maintain social order.

Because of their small numbers, a truly democratic form of government will naturally form. The laws from this government will be enforced only by the threat of public shame. As the Paragons increase in number, true democracy becomes cumbersome and inefficient. Enter: elected officials.

These elect will naturally have the same concerns at stake as those they represent, and would act the same as the whole body. If the population grows large enough, districting will take place, and the number of representatives will be augmented. Paine writes, “… the elected might never form to themselves an interest separate from the electors…” To prevent this, Paine asserts that elections should occur often. Doing so will ensure that the elected won’t succumb to becoming too powerful. This also allows the elected and electors to very naturally support each other.

Paine finishes his hypothetical example by stating that the above concept, and not the power of a king (or any type of ruling class, I would infer), ensures the strength of government.

Congress is our current body of representatives. Incumbency is its blunder. Corruption is the result. The solution is simple:

Term limits.

I give you a list of Senators who have been elected over seven times resulting in 30+ years of service. I also found a PDF listing the Representatives in the House in descending order by seniority. You may notice that both of these links are from official sources. I note that the late Robert Byrd is still listed on the above list of Senators (six months is not enough time to update the page, apparently). The longest-serving Representative has been in office for 55 years. Plenty of time for the inevitable selfishness of human nature to encourage the building of personal empires – quite separate from our interests as citizens.

Paine often uses the word ‘natural’ in his writing when he describes the structure of government vs. the vices of human nature. It is not natural for a Congressman to remain truly involved with the interests of his electors after 30 years. What naturally occurs is complacency, and a tendency to grow out of touch with the people he represents. Naturally, for many of us, this is simple common sense.

Paine often refers to the old English monarchy when illustrating his reasoning. But whether in kingship, or as a member of a representative republic, the consequences of prolonged power are always the same; the formalities of how the power is wielded are the only difference. I submit that the difference between the English monarchy of the 18th Century, and our current form of government is merely different window dressing, and the shift of power from one pompous, self-serving idiot (the king) to several (Congress). To be fair, there are pompous, self-serving, idiotic Congressmen of all political affiliations – greed and corruption are very bipartisan. It’s a large part as to why I am so tickled that there is a Tea Party. I should also say that I do not believe that all Congresspeople are immoral and have ulterior motives; unfortunately, the adage, “one bad apple spoils the bunch” aptly applies.

Paine continues by outlining why a fellow human being does not have a right to govern because of who he is. I will tackle this subject in my next blog post.

Thomas Paine was not an accomplished man by any social means. In fact, he was a failure domestically, financially, and was academically unexperienced. Undoubtedly, he was the least likely candidate to ignite the spark to separate from Britain. Paine was human, and he recognized this. Common Sense was originally written anonymously when it was published in 1776. Not only did he recognize his humanity, he was courageous enough to confront the colonies of the shortcomings of their humanity as well. Despite his personal failings, he was pragmatic and passionate enough to point out the logical fallacies in the English constitution, and ultimately inspire the revolution of freedom.

What Paine outlined in Common Sense did more than placate his desire to promote freedom, or to stir up feelings of bitterness alone. His writings inspired a would-be nation into action. He begins the introduction by validating the premise of his writing. He states that conservatism is not presumed to be popular, and that the status quo, though not exactly wrong, will be thought to be right if given enough time. I believe, in regards to our current state of affairs, most in our country fall in line with this concept. Our government’s current methods are all we know. It does not take long for an ideology to take over a culture, and I hope to write in future postings about how radically our culture has changed in just one or two generations.

Paine believed that there was a better way to administer government, and he faithfully continues the pamphlet explaining why and how. He asserts that violence and abuse of power ushers the means to bring its virtue into question. In other words, when we witness injustice, we have a duty to examine it. America experienced abuse of power in spades (read the list of 27 offenses as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, or you can wait until I cover it in the future).

He begins the bulk of the pamphlet by defining and explaining the roles of society and government which he contends are very separate. Society is produced by our wants, and government is made a necessity by our wickedness. Society “… promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections… [government promotes our happiness] negatively by restraining our vices.” One makes patrons, the other, punishers.

He admits that government is a necessary evil. He poignantly states that when government makes us suffer miseries that should be found in nations without government, the general reaction is to “…furnish the means by which we suffer.” I don’t believe I am alone when I see the truth of this statement applied to our present day – be it socially, economically, or domestically. Our government which promises security and prosperity seems like it may never stop weaving a web of delayed collapse. I personally contend that the longer we delay in implementing true solutions to our problems, the more violent the consequences will be. Paine points out that the government which governs best does so by ensuring security at the least expense, and greatest benefit. Sounds an awful lot like frugality.

I plead for someone, anyone, provide any evidence of frugality in our government today.

I can wait.

In my view, any actual frugality in this country has been shifted to ethical businesses, individuals, and the family. As I hope to illustrate in the future, family is where government starts in the first place. There is a clear divide between the actions of the government, and the virtue of family. In my next post, I hope to explain how this disparity occurs, and the most logical way to avoid this pitfall.

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