Today, we hail the system of representative government as the great liberator, the mechanism of society that allows each of its members to engage in the process of governing the whole. For a great deal of the world, this system of representation has replaced the system of monarchs and kings. There are still countries in Europe, even ones we consider “progressive,” which hold positions for kings and queens, whom weild powerful political powers.
Revolutions were waged, in which millions of people would die, so that the system of monarchy was completely removed and the system of representation installed. What was the essential desire of these revolutionaries, when they were overthrowing their governments? What hope, or goal even, was it that they desired to achieve, when they entered the battlefields to end the power of despots and kings? Without a doubt, I think that everyone knows the answer to this: people wanted to create a government system of representation because it most effectively allows the people of that nation to govern themselves. The people of every nation and of every age have given an importance to the matter of governing their own lives. When the government of the time decides to take some action, whether it is military, or commercial, or domestic, or international, or when it raises or decreases taxes, or starts a war or not, all of these are issues of the whole body of a nation.
The citizens of that country make up the tissues and organs of this body. Their ancestors from far ago had come together as countrymen and as citizens of the same nation, that they might offer mutual aid and benefit to each other. The social contract was created based on the principles of reciprocity. As members of a collective based on a reciprocal ethic, the members of this society believed that they each had an equal say in the determination of the future of this body they called the group.
The most effective method, to the opinions of these people, for creating a system in which all of their opinions were counted was that of a representative government. People would elect a person to rule over them. The creed that was attached to this representative system was that the people would be able to choose the person who would rule them, and therefore, they would be able to create a system of government that would be effective. If the people desired to alter the military standing of the government, or the policies of commercial dealings, or the matters of national, international, domestic, or other affairs, then the people had the right to vote. By this vote, they could alter the government’s standing on these affairs, by choosing a representative to change these policies. In this respect, the people had control over the government, or so was their justification for this sentiment. The forms of government that are based on dictatorship or despotism or monarchy, these forms of government were regarded as the enemy of the people, and with reason. If men are to be in control of their lives, then a king with great military might is in the wrong, when he can simply enforce whatever regulation or policy or law that he desires.
With that respect, it seems that there is enough justification for the theory of a representative government. The trial of representative government has been tried in all parts of the world. What has its result been? When trying to understand the mechanics of a representative government, there are certain things that must be taken into consideration. First, the representative government, no matter what branches it has, or what formation it might take, or whether it is combined with a hereditary government to create a sort of hybrid, no matter any of these circumstances, there is one thing that must be considered above all: there are two classes, the ruled and the ruling. That is to say, there are essentially two types of people: those who are given the power to rule, and those who are not given the power to rule. Individuals who support the idea of a republican government will not argue me in this fact. There is a clear distinction in this society of who is in charge and who is under rule.
The second observation that must be considered is that of human nature. That is to say, each individual person, whether ruled or ruler, has that set of emotions that we understand human beings to have. Particular to our inquiry, the emotion of self-interest is to be considered. When we look to the ruling parties, we see they are humans, not robots — they are conscious beings, not constitutions or charters or laws. As human beings, they have this desire of self-interest. What is it that this self interest impels them to do? I imagine some government enthusiasts, some aspiring promoter of the republican form of government, will come up to me and say, “They will do what is best for all of society. They will only enact good laws, improving the society and their world.” If it is true that every politician thought this, then I imagine there would be no need to have a representative government at all. After all, if a politician honestly thinks this, no matter what politician, then I imagine that kings and queens would feel this as well, and that there would be no effective difference between a representative government and a dictatorship. In fact, if one can bestow upon every politician the character of a saint, then I see no reason why such a character cannot be bestowed upon every member of the ruled class.
There is a not-so stunning realization that is had here. The only reason, at least as far as supporters of the representative government go, the only reason why government exists is to protect the rights of the people. If it proves to be true that all of mankind is saintly, without even a slight inkling of sin or cruelty or brutality, then there is no need for government, since there would be no infringement of anyone’s rights. So, we come to the realization, that mankind is not inherently good, nor is he inherently evil. Returning to the abovementioned question, what would the desire of self-interest lead the ruling class of society to do? Since like any humans, they have a self-interest that cares for their personal security and welfare, we can expect that the ruling class will act not completely unlike the ruled class. What kind of interests do people normally have? Usually, to secure and protect their own rights: the right to life, liberty, and property. As members of the ruling class, the easiest and most effective way of maintaining these rights is the capability of power.