T Nation

The Ideal Citizen


#1

I was perusing through the conservatarian thread and started to become overwhelmed with all the bullshit in there.

It seems to me that there is an overarching attitude, not only in this forum but just in society in general, that the problems of the world or of the country are the result of bad forms of gov't and the inherent malignancy in their various forms upon which Polybius expounded.

But this misses an even more important element, the citizen. The gov't is nothing more than a collection of citizens, created by citizens, chosen from amongst citizens, and maintained by citizens. So any form of gov't needs to be examined not necessarily in terms of the form itself, but rather in such a way that asks why citizens could reason that a failed form of gov't could work in the first place.

Under what kinds of conditions could a group of citizens think that communism or direct democracy could work? What about that society leads otherwise rational people to arrive at such conclusions? What type of society is it that produces such citizens?

I think if we look at it in those terms, we'll engender a much larger sense of personal responsibility, rather than falling victim to the same bullshit copout that it's all government's fault. The problems in this country and in this world are not a result of the form of gov'ts we assign the blame to, or the way we label and compartmentalize different political views.

As far as the ideal citizen goes, I tend to lean toward the idea that the citizen has certain rights AND certain responsibilities. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern liberalism is that these responsibilities tend to become coercive law instead, which turns a responsibility into a burden. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern conservatism is that there is a highly diminished sense of responsibility toward society.


#2

Shit, I almost forgot to list some of my qualifications for the ideal citizen.

I would basically defer to the classic Greek and Roman ideal. Someone with honor and virtue. Actually, I would cite virtu as more important than virtue. The pitfall of any republican/democratic form of gov’t is that at some point, a politician will have to choose to allow one group to suffer at the expense of the community as a whole. This would exclude the possibility that basic rights of one group are violated in furtherance of those of the entire group, since no community can thrive when the rights of the individual citizens are in perpetual jeopardy.

Regardless, politicians are faced with tough decisions in which a decision may be bad for their immediate constituents, and therefore their own political career, but it would be the right one for society as a whole. However, in many cases the reverse is required. A statesman may have to make a decision that appears to harm most of society to the benefit of a few. In this case, a good orator is also necessary. This new religious freedom law appears to be just such a thing. It is a great thing for society, but society won’t view it that way. It protects our rights to free speech, the right to dispose of our property the way we want to, and it allows for us to more freely associate with those whom we choose.

The ability to build a consensus and arrive at a compromise without allowing both sides to feel as if they sold themselves out in the process is important amongst citizens. Part of this gets back to being capable of logical, rational thought and the ability to convey such thought to others.


#3

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


#4

Like Rob Roy crossed with Henry Clay?

You have the right and duty to protect yourself and your family, but you should be fair dealing with others. Be strong and capable, but go out of your way not to insult people.

Ever notice how respectful guys are after jail?

Use the government as a tool for compromise, not as a way to personal power and wealth.

Interesting topic.


#5

[quote]pushharder wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
I was perusing through the conservatarian thread and started to become overwhelmed with all the bullshit in there.

It seems to me that there is an overarching attitude, not only in this forum but just in society in general, that the problems of the world or of the country are the result of bad forms of gov’t and the inherent malignancy in their various forms upon which Polybius expounded.

But this misses an even more important element, the citizen. The gov’t is nothing more than a collection of citizens, created by citizens, chosen from amongst citizens, and maintained by citizens. So any form of gov’t needs to be examined not necessarily in terms of the form itself, but rather in such a way that asks why citizens could reason that a failed form of gov’t could work in the first place.

Under what kinds of conditions could a group of citizens think that communism or direct democracy could work? What about that society leads otherwise rational people to arrive at such conclusions? What type of society is it that produces such citizens?

I think if we look at it in those terms, we’ll engender a much larger sense of personal responsibility, rather than falling victim to the same bullshit copout that it’s all government’s fault. The problems in this country and in this world are not a result of the form of gov’ts we assign the blame to, or the way we label and compartmentalize different political views.

As far as the ideal citizen goes, I tend to lean toward the idea that the citizen has certain rights AND certain responsibilities. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern liberalism is that these responsibilities tend to become coercive law instead, which turns a responsibility into a burden. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern conservatism is that there is a highly diminished sense of responsibility toward society.
[/quote]

I pretty much agree with your entire post except the last sentence.

I don’t think modern conservatism fails to be responsible toward society but rather our entire social structure is so heavily based on government fixing everything that conservatism doesn’t have the chance to do so.
[/quote]

I suppose I can’t help separating modern conservatism from Ayn Rand. Obviously, there are huge swaths of conservatives who DO feel and act upon a sense of responsibility toward society, just like there are, allegedly, liberals who do not feel that the gov’t is a tool for social “equality”.

But I can never get past the overwhelming impression I am left with after reading a Rand essay: poor people are a problem for the rest of society. There doesn’t seem to be the same attention paid to the causes of poverty as there is toward the potential the potential for their own drop in living standards.


#6

[quote]FlatsFarmer wrote:
Like Rob Roy crossed with Henry Clay?

You have the right and duty to protect yourself and your family, but you should be fair dealing with others. Be strong and capable, but go out of your way not to insult people.

Ever notice how respectful guys are after jail?

Use the government as a tool for compromise, not as a way to personal power and wealth.

Interesting topic.[/quote]

I was thinking more like MLK, Jr. crossed with Cicero.


#7

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


#8

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
But this misses an even more important element, the citizen. The gov’t is nothing more than a collection of citizens, created by citizens, chosen from amongst citizens, and maintained by citizens.[/quote]

And businesses are made up of customers; the difference is that as a customer I have more power with a dollar than with a vote. Large corporations have already figured this out which is why I can conclude it is not really the citizens that affect how a government works. Government is a power market and the only thing they respond to is the angry mob waving their guns.

[quote]So any form of gov’t needs to be examined not necessarily in terms of the form itself, but rather in such a way that asks why citizens could reason that a failed form of gov’t could work in the first place.

Under what kinds of conditions could a group of citizens think that communism or direct democracy could work? What about that society leads otherwise rational people to arrive at such conclusions? What type of society is it that produces such citizens?[/quote]

People have always imagined it is possible to organize society by command and everyone has their own pet theory how it could be achieved. I am always skeptical of these ideas though because the only way they can be implemented is by forcing people to go along with it. What happens when enough people get fed up?

[quote]I suppose the fatal flaw in modern liberalism is that these responsibilities tend to become coercive law instead, which turns a responsibility into a burden. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern conservatism is that there is a highly diminished sense of responsibility toward society.
[/quote]

The nanny versus the night-watchman. While I have no problem with either nanny or night-watchman I prefer to have them on my own terms. I see the “flaw” more with the audacity between the two groups that we cannot decide this as customers would a mobile carrier or automobile insurance.


#9

[quote]pushharder wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

[quote]pushharder wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:
I was perusing through the conservatarian thread and started to become overwhelmed with all the bullshit in there.

It seems to me that there is an overarching attitude, not only in this forum but just in society in general, that the problems of the world or of the country are the result of bad forms of gov’t and the inherent malignancy in their various forms upon which Polybius expounded.

But this misses an even more important element, the citizen. The gov’t is nothing more than a collection of citizens, created by citizens, chosen from amongst citizens, and maintained by citizens. So any form of gov’t needs to be examined not necessarily in terms of the form itself, but rather in such a way that asks why citizens could reason that a failed form of gov’t could work in the first place.

Under what kinds of conditions could a group of citizens think that communism or direct democracy could work? What about that society leads otherwise rational people to arrive at such conclusions? What type of society is it that produces such citizens?

I think if we look at it in those terms, we’ll engender a much larger sense of personal responsibility, rather than falling victim to the same bullshit copout that it’s all government’s fault. The problems in this country and in this world are not a result of the form of gov’ts we assign the blame to, or the way we label and compartmentalize different political views.

As far as the ideal citizen goes, I tend to lean toward the idea that the citizen has certain rights AND certain responsibilities. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern liberalism is that these responsibilities tend to become coercive law instead, which turns a responsibility into a burden. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern conservatism is that there is a highly diminished sense of responsibility toward society.
[/quote]

I pretty much agree with your entire post except the last sentence.

I don’t think modern conservatism fails to be responsible toward society but rather our entire social structure is so heavily based on government fixing everything that conservatism doesn’t have the chance to do so.
[/quote]

I suppose I can’t help separating modern conservatism from Ayn Rand. Obviously, there are huge swaths of conservatives who DO feel and act upon a sense of responsibility toward society, just like there are, allegedly, liberals who do not feel that the gov’t is a tool for social “equality”.

But I can never get past the overwhelming impression I am left with after reading a Rand essay: poor people are a problem for the rest of society. There doesn’t seem to be the same attention paid to the causes of poverty as there is toward the potential the potential for their own drop in living standards.[/quote]

Huh? Don’t conflate Rand with conservatism.
[/quote]

It’s hard not to. I generally conflate her with ignorance, contradictions, poor scholarship, plagiarism, a dearth of a priori knowledge, the use of inductive logic to arrive at solid truths despite inductive logic being inappropriate for such an endeavor, a lack of citations in her essays despite repeated claims about the statements of other philosophers (I suppose that’s the same as poor scholarship), and atheism.

But the only people I’ve ever heard espouse her are libertarians, conservatives, or some combination of the two. I’m not sure who I despise more, those who claim she is the most influential philosopher of the last 50 years (how that can be possible when we have Obama in the White House and Ted Cruz and Rand Paul don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning more than maybe 2 or 3 primaries, I don’t know), or those who claim to adhere to her philosophies and still believe in God. I’m not sure how people can profess belief in the same flawed system of logic that produces both objectivism and atheism when they aren’t atheists themselves.


#10

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

As far as the ideal citizen goes, I tend to lean toward the idea that the citizen has certain rights AND certain responsibilities. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern liberalism is that these responsibilities tend to become coercive law instead, which turns a responsibility into a burden.
[/quote]

In the liberal utopia, whatever isn’t banned, will be mandatory.


#11

[quote]Alrightmiami19c wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

As far as the ideal citizen goes, I tend to lean toward the idea that the citizen has certain rights AND certain responsibilities. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern liberalism is that these responsibilities tend to become coercive law instead, which turns a responsibility into a burden.
[/quote]

In the liberal utopia, whatever isn’t banned, will be mandatory.
[/quote]

What qualities do you think make up the perfect citizen? And I stress citizen, not person or man or woman. Much like Tacitus and Machiavelli delved into, there is a difference between a good person and a good citizen. What are your requirements?


#12

Look at how many people actively attempt to avoid some of the responsibilities of living in our society today- a really easy example being jury duty.

The ideal citizen carries a huge amount of burden and responsibilities.


#13

[quote]magick wrote:
Look at how many people actively attempt to avoid some of the responsibilities of living in our society today- a really easy example being jury duty.

The ideal citizen carries a huge amount of burden and responsibilities.[/quote]

Good example. Jury duty, especially considering the fact that jury nullification is probably the citizens’ greatest peaceful power, is a great responsibility.


#14

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

[quote]Alrightmiami19c wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

As far as the ideal citizen goes, I tend to lean toward the idea that the citizen has certain rights AND certain responsibilities. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern liberalism is that these responsibilities tend to become coercive law instead, which turns a responsibility into a burden.
[/quote]

In the liberal utopia, whatever isn’t banned, will be mandatory.
[/quote]

What qualities do you think make up the perfect citizen? And I stress citizen, not person or man or woman. Much like Tacitus and Machiavelli delved into, there is a difference between a good person and a good citizen. What are your requirements?[/quote]

Honestly its a tough question. Since I know that men are flawed I have to make some concessions. There really can never be a perfect citizen, so we have to go to the most basic of rules.

A good person loves their neighbor.

A good citizen does not infringe on the rights of others.

Isn’t that really all there is? If you are a good person you treat others as you would have them treat you. If your a good citizen, you don’t have to help your fellow men, you simply do not harm them.


#15

[quote]Alrightmiami19c wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

[quote]Alrightmiami19c wrote:

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

As far as the ideal citizen goes, I tend to lean toward the idea that the citizen has certain rights AND certain responsibilities. I suppose the fatal flaw in modern liberalism is that these responsibilities tend to become coercive law instead, which turns a responsibility into a burden.
[/quote]

In the liberal utopia, whatever isn’t banned, will be mandatory.
[/quote]

What qualities do you think make up the perfect citizen? And I stress citizen, not person or man or woman. Much like Tacitus and Machiavelli delved into, there is a difference between a good person and a good citizen. What are your requirements?[/quote]

Honestly its a tough question. Since I know that men are flawed I have to make some concessions. There really can never be a perfect citizen, so we have to go to the most basic of rules.

A good person loves their neighbor.

A good citizen does not infringe on the rights of others.

Isn’t that really all there is? If you are a good person you treat others as you would have them treat you. If your a good citizen, you don’t have to help your fellow men, you simply do not harm them.

[/quote]

I could care less about what a good person is. I’m talking strictly about a good/ideal citizen.

Naturally, since all men love two things (liberty and dominion over others, and generally at the same time), there is no need to search for the “perfect” citizen.

That being said, your qualifications are simply insufficient. Your qualifications would exclude any and all political participation. While the idea of the active vs. passive citizen has to do with property ownership and not actual activity within the political sphere, in this case you are advocating what would essentially be beyond passive: apathetic.

Your definition would not mandate any sort of political participation whatsoever. So while your ideal citizen may be respectful of the rights of others, he will soon be dominated by those who gain power because he did nothing but lay back and wait for the violations of his rights to occur.


#16

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

That being said, your qualifications are simply insufficient. Your qualifications would exclude any and all political participation. While the idea of the active vs. passive citizen has to do with property ownership and not actual activity within the political sphere, in this case you are advocating what would essentially be beyond passive: apathetic.

Your definition would not mandate any sort of political participation whatsoever. So while your ideal citizen may be respectful of the rights of others, he will soon be dominated by those who gain power because he did nothing but lay back and wait for the violations of his rights to occur. [/quote]

How can you have freedom when you mandate political participation?

This problem you bring up is exactly what the founders of the United States attempted to address. The rule of law was to rule supreme, so that even the most apathetic of citizens would have their rights protected. Democracy, as you pointed out, is just as evil as a dictatorship. The majority can destroy the rights of the minority or the politically inactive. Obviously, it didn’t last as long as they had hoped, and the republic no longer exists. Since we have devolved into some type of Democracy, it is more important to have an educated electorate, because the will of the majority is what matters.


#17

[quote]Alrightmiami19c wrote:

Isn’t that really all there is? If you are a good person you treat others as you would have them treat you. If your a good citizen, you don’t have to help your fellow men, you simply do not harm them.
[/quote]

I think virtually all of the major players of the founding fathers would disagree with you regarding what a good citizen is.


#18

I think mandating political participation is a mistake in a society where “low information voters” are the majority. only my opinion, and I’m not sure if the population turned its back on actual news media, or if the news media turned its back on the population, but its basically impossible to find unbiased news or information.

Most of the “news” falls into “Info-tainment” and/or pandering to one viewpoint or another. What is sold as news is really designed to keep the viewers coming back so the “news” can sell more advertising. As a result, they sell hard to the left or right, and avoid any opinion contrary to their viewers. Meanwhile, the same audience is spoon-fed more of their own opinion by their “newsfeeds” online. These are contently adjusted and customized to what that individual “liked” or read last.

The information gets more and more narrowly focused on what the individual already agrees with so there is no longer a chance to learn or debate. The only logical evolution in this is that the opinion gets more radicalized in their chosen direction, thus we have a nation of extreme liberalism and extreme conservatism. This might not seem like a problem until you see the US government is basically run on compromise and/or deals, but when your constituents will no longer compromise on anything, its impossible to do anything that will actually serve the public.

This is why we have an essentially unbreakable two party system, and why we will continue to see more “shutdowns” and political stand-offs. This is also why you hear people say things like, “my vote doesn’t matter because they are all criminals” or some variation of something they probably saw on TV or Facebook.

Schools no longer teach kids how to learn, only to sit quietly, memorize, regurgitate and obey. Again, this really comes down to “funding” or money. All of the above, again my opinion, would be a great way to control a society to steer it in any direction you wanted…blah, blah, I’ll put my tinfoil hat back on be quiet again.


#19

[quote]DBCooper wrote:

But I can never get past the overwhelming impression I am left with after reading a Rand essay: poor people are a problem for the rest of society. There doesn’t seem to be the same attention paid to the causes of poverty as there is toward the potential the potential for their own drop in living standards.[/quote]

I’ve discovered as a lawyer a high correlation between poverty and being a generally shitty human being. It’s not really something that makes me happy to think about, nor do I announce it in polite company, but I’m not going to pretend it isn’t the case. Poor people ARE a problem for the rest of society, but generally it isn’t due to their economic poverty, but rather a poverty of character. This of course isn’t universally true, but again, there’s a very high correlation.


#20

[quote]magick wrote:
Look at how many people actively attempt to avoid some of the responsibilities of living in our society today- a really easy example being jury duty.

The ideal citizen carries a huge amount of burden and responsibilities.[/quote]

I’d like to touch on jury duty for a second. If you skip jury duty without a legitimately good reason, you’re a fuck.

I live in a small college town as a defense and family law attorney. The last trial I did was a battery by a college kid against a meter maid. The jury had ZERO college kids because they all found an excuse to get out. I NEEDED college kids on that jury because they were aware of the behavior of campus meter maids. Instead my client had a jury of sensitive house wives and retired people. Not exactly a jury of his peers. I got the acquittal, but I’m still damn annoyed over it.