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.

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