The Principles Of Democracy And Liberty Essay

The Principles Of Democracy And Liberty Essay

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My fellow countrymen, I stand before you today in order to defend the necessity of small republics for democracy and liberty. Let us begin with Montesquieu’s simple thesis: Large republics are incapable of self-government because of the massive and inevitable diversity of their populations and of the interests of that population (153). This leads to a corruption of the principles of democracy and ends liberty. Using Montesquieu’s elegantly argued The Spirit of Laws as a framework to discuss and reflect upon the principles of a democratic republic and the necessity of a small republic, I hope to articulate herein the reasons you should come to see this most brilliant insight, honorable gentlemen.
Firstly, let us discuss the principles of democracy – the equality of man and his inalienable right to liberty. Montesquieu informs us that “The corruption of… government generally begins with that of the principles.” This corruption can occur in two ways – through both the destruction of equality amongst citizens and through the overvaluation of equality by the citizenry itself. The first, obvious enough to those here, destroys the principle of democratic government through preventing a man to have his voice be heard and accounted for and, as such, places that man under the tyranny of his rulers. The second, though, is perhaps less obvious. The overvaluation of equality by citizens leads them to seek to control every aspect of governments themselves rather than electing officials to represent them – they, in their multitude, all seek to draft every piece of legislation, to execute every law, to make every ruling. This is impossible and prevents self-government through citizens deciding who should work on their behalf. When this occurs, w...

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My countrymen, we must avoid this outcome at all costs. Montesquieu writes that “once the principles of government are corrupted, the very best laws become bad, and turn against the state: but when the principles are sound, even bad laws have the same effect as good; the force of the principle draws everything to it” (136). Once corruption of the essential principles of liberty occurs, we simply cannot avoid a complete collapse of the noble system of government we seek to create. The problem is never what laws the king makes, only that there is a king who makes the laws and not the people. Likewise, we must work to ensure that even if a small republic and weaker government may seem less desirable than a utopia in which man is both heard, strongly governed and liberty is ample, it is better to have this less desirable outcome than risk the destruction of liberty.

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