Monday, July 9, 2012

A Word of Caution for the New Secular "Democratic Fundamentalists"

Paine's political influence was greatest in England. In intellectual terms, his Rights of Man was his greatest political work and was certainly the best-selling radical political tract in late 18th century England. Before Paine, British radicals sought a reform of Parliament which would grant to all men the vote for members of the House of Commons. In his Rights of Man, Paine abandoned this approach and, rejecting the lessons of history, maintained that each age had the right to establish a political system which satisfied its needs. He rested his case on the moral basis of the natural equality of men in the sight of God. Since government is a necessary evil that men accepted as a means of protecting their natural rights (cf. John Locke), the only legitimate government was that established by a contract between all members of society and one in which all men preserved all their natural rights, except the individual right to use force. Paine argued rationally that all men had an equal claim to political rights and that government must rest on the ultimate sovereignty of the people.

3 comments:

Always On Watch said...

maintained that each age had the right to establish a political system which satisfied its needs

Hmmmm....Might be a slippery slope there?

How does one define "needs"?

"My own mind is my own church" -- every man does what he thinks right in his own eyes?

-FJ said...

His is but a variation on Madison's Unalienable rights theme from the Memorial & Remonstrance.

I've always admired Paine... especially his participation on the Girondist side in the French Revolution.

-FJ said...

...and I suppose I should elaborate on the "theme" of this post... how the idea of a separation of church and state does NOT mesh well with modern "progressive liberal" ideals of an idea presently termed "democratic fundamentalism." There are times when the nation is in extremis and one needs to throw over democracy and the democratic process as the Romans once did and give the President "War Powers". A "Democratic Fundamentalism" would prevent such a necessary step as no one would be able to commit the "heresy" of "questioning" the fundamental democratic order.