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In the discussion you formulate, you should not reflect anyone else’s belief. The professor

does not grade you on whether or not she is in agreement; only on how logically and

ethically you discuss the issues. The following is, in fact, what would constitute the first

lecture in a Political Science Class. It is factual, academic information. Read through and

incorporate your answers to questions in your discussion.

For a point of reference, when using the term democratic or the term republic it is in reference

to the philosophy of, and those who subscribe to democratic principles; not political parties.

The United States of America is a Democratic Republic. The people elect representatives to

legislative bodies to make national, state and local decisions for them.

There is no single principle, or attitude, held in common by all democratic philosophers, it is a

confidence in the capacity of human beings, living together, to govern themselves justly. When

we enter into this institution, theoretically, poverty is not a bar. There should be no

exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private intercourse we should not be suspicious of one

another, or angry with our neighbor if he believes differently. We are unconstrained in our

private lives; however, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from

doing wrong by respect for authority and for the laws, having an especial regard to those which

are ordained for the protection of the injured, the poor and the under-represented.

At the core of American Democracy is Federalism. (You will address this more when you study

Chapter 3.) Unlike many political philosophies our democracy is not all-powered from the top

down or from the bottom up. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution solidly establishes the

powers of the 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 the people.” Federal

ism has provided the opportunity for both State and National governments to operate effectively

and ethically, with some powers going upward and constitutional powers going downward.

Throughout this discussion (and the entire course) keep the principle of Federalism at the

forefront.

Our democracy is a system that developed through three traditions; natural rights democracy,

democratic liberalism, and ultimately, contemporary democracy.

The oldest form, natural rights democracy, is based upon the existence of a law of nature, from

which the inalienable rights of every citizen are derived. Some of the early writers likened these

laws of nature to “laws of a God.” Man (generically) could make laws only as far as they did not

disagree with that of the defining force. The great difficulty being, “who” defined what nature or

a God wanted? The most modern of the natural rights democrats, Thomas Jefferson incorporated

the idea of a creator into the Declaration of Independence. This document carries no weight of

law, but it carries the burden of commitment of a people to live under democratic principles.

Natural rights democracy led into a period of democratic liberalism. Philosophers turned from

alleged inalienable rights to the well-being and happiness of all members of a society. Laws

protecting the liberty of people and the equality of treatment could only be controlled by people

themselves, not a God or nature. Democratic ideals were supported as those best suited for the

achievement of the greatest good for the greatest number. Men must be free and equal, not

because it had been preordained, but because only freedom and equality could lead to the kind of

government and kind of man considered ideal by all.

The pragmatists of the time, 55 gentlemen gathered in Philadelphia to write the Constitution.

They were concerned with the operation of democracy, with changes in its laws and institutions

that would have the optimum consequences. They were concerned about the possible tyranny of

the majority and how it could be prevented with a democracy; and they were troubled about the

conflict of interest into which excessive liberty could lead; and they tried to develop principles

upon which freedoms could be safely extended and when necessary, justly restricted. These

were the philosophers of democratic liberalism. They sought to answer questions. How do we

insure freedom for all, and still restrict it in order to protect the rights of others? How do we

provide the greatest good for the greatest number, yet protect minorities? How do we establish a

strong executive without creating a monarchy. Answers were found in the development of

contemporary democracy, the tradition in which the Constitution was framed.

Inherent in contemporary democracy are two traditions, democratic capitalism, and democratic

socialism. Capitalism is, and always has been a major motivation for all Americans. Free

enterprise is that rock upon which many young people have placed a dream and built that dream

into a thriving business. Democratic socialism is of equal import. When private corporations,

businesses or individuals are unable to provide the services necessary to a democratic society the

government has an obligation to provide them. Examples: medical care for service persons,

Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Welfare, family leave, minimum wage, workmen’s comp,

unemployment insurance, GI Bill, TVA.

In your discussion of the topic you have just read answer the following questions:

How does this evolutionary socialism differ from revolutionary socialism found in

Communism?

Which of these three traditions of democracy do you believe is the best? Why? Give

examples, using sound reasoning. If you agree or disagree with any principle explain your

justification logically and with reason. Does the dual economic system work well? Why or

why not?

What do you see is the best “road” for America today? Should we cling to the old

principles? Should we make major changes? Keeping in mind, the Fifth Article of the U.S.

Constitution provides the means for amendment.


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