Apr 4, 2007

Book reflections: Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine published his famous book/pamphlet titled 'Common Sense' during the US Revolutionary War (1776) as an articulation of why US wanted to secede from England. (I read the audiobook)

The book can be viewed in two ways:
1- A historical one: understanding why George Washington & friends thought that US should be independent.
2- An interesting argument in Political Science & the "optimum form of government".

I've always wondered, what made the US what it is now? from an isolated colony to a super power?
I've also wondered on how revolutions take place. For example, the French Monarchy was supposedly strong, and yet, somehow a group of many uneducated hungry and poor people were able to carry on a revolution that changed the way people think of governments since then.

Same goes for the US. The American revolutionaries viewed seceding from England as a coupe against the idea of monarchy.

But how can normal people, who go about their daily errands and pursuit of bread and food, how can those people elevate to such abstract thinking and cause a revolution? This was the most interesting aspect of the book for me.

There is no straight answer to these questions. The spirit one feels by reading the book is the only answer.

I think the book is another proof that Democracy cannot be brought or imposed - it really has to develop and evolve and change within the people themselves until they want it. And there shouldn't be any preconceived ideas on how to implement it. We really should start with a white slate.

For example, in Hamilton first proposal to the parliament, he suggested that they elect a president for life! An idea that many of today's politician find the opposite of democracy. However, the fact that he was free tos uggest it and get everybody to discuss it - and discuss all the basics of what they want, all of this has resulted in a system that was custom made for the USA and tailored to their needs and aspirations.

Social structures can never be imported - and when they are, they cause many harmful side effects, and usually do not even achieve their goals. The example I like to use is usually the Jordan Educational System (and the system in the arab world - and many other 3rd world countries)

I've deviated away from the book. So, in conclusion - a nice book to get a feeling of the political thought at the time.

(drafted 6/3/06)

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