May 2013 - Keane on Politics | Total Politics
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Political Thought: Smith, the Federalists, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Bentham and Mill

The most important work Adam Smith did was the Wealth of Nations. This book is considered as the fundamental work in classical economics. It totally argues that free market economies are more productive and beneficial to their societies. It consists of five books which their titles respectively are: Of the Causes of Improvement, of the Nature, Accumulation and Employment of Stock, of the different Progress of Opulence in different Nations, of Systems of political Economy and of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth.
Division of labor is the primary thing that Smith has an emphasis on in the first book. He believes that the division of labor has caused a greater increase in production in comparison with any other factor. This has helped the nations which have more industry. He believes that the division of labor does not come from innate wisdom of the people but it come from the human tendency to exchange goods and services and he thinks that this difference in natural talents between people is a result of specialization not any natural or innate cause. He then talks about the origin and use of money and the real and nominal price of commodities or their price in labor, and their price in money. Smith argues that the price of any product reflects wages, rent of land and "...profit of stock," which compensates the capitalist for risking his resources. He also who determines value by the utility that a commodity provides a person rather than cost of production.
He states that when demand exceeds supply, the price goes up and when the supply exceeds demand, the price goes down. He then argues that in societies where the amount of labor exceeds the amount of revenue available for waged labor, competition among workers is greater than the competition among employers, and wages fall. Inversely, where revenue is abundant, labor wages rise. Smith argues that, therefore, labor wages only rise as a result of greater revenue disposed to pay for labor.
The Federalist Papers
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay were the likely authors of the Federalist Papers. According to Federalist 1: "It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force" (Hamilton, Jay, Madison 1982), the Federalist Papers is all about the Constitution which connects people to the government.
There are many highlights among the essays of The Federalist. Federalist No. 10, in which Madison discusses the means of preventing rule by majority faction and advocates a large, commercial republic, is generally regarded as the most important of the 85 articles from a philosophical perspective; it is complemented by Federalist No. 14, in which Madison takes the measure of the United States, declares it appropriate for an extended republic, and concludes with a memorable defense of the constitutional and political creativity of the Federal Convention. In Federalist No. 84, Hamilton makes the case that there is no need to amend the Constitution by adding a Bill of Rights, insisting that the various provisions in the proposed Constitution protecting liberty amount to a bill of rights. Federalist No. 78, also written by Hamilton, lays the groundwork for the doctrine of judicial review by federal courts of federal legislation or executive acts. Federalist No. 70 presents Hamilton's case for a one-man chief executive. In Federalist No. 39, Madison presents the clearest exposition of what has come to be called "Federalism". In Federalist No. 51, Madison distills arguments for checks and balances in a memorable essay often quoted for its justification of government as "the greatest of all reflections on human nature."
Edmund Burke
He was among the scholars and philosophers who opposed the French Revolution. It seems that at first he did not oppose the Revolution but after some incidents he changed his mind and he calls it a world of Monsters. Among his ideas we can find these: he strongly defended constitutional limitation of the Crown's authority, opposed the religious persecution of Catholics in his native Ireland, voiced the grievances of Britain's American colonies, supported American Independence, and vigorously pursued impeachment of Warren Hastings, the Governor-General of British India, for corruption and abuse of power.
The Reflections on the Revolution in France is one of the letters Burke wrote as a reply to the French aristocrat Charles-Jean-Fran├žois Depont who had asked his impressions of the Revolution. In that letter he says that the French Revolution would end in a disastrous way because of the ignored complexities of human nature and society. He believed that the society must be handled like a living organism
Marie-Olympes de Gouges
The most important work she did during her life was the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen. She wrote it as an opposition to the same work on men which its title was Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen at the same year. She, in the deceleration, believes that the French Revolution did not lead to the recognition of women's rights and this made de Gouges to publish the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in early 1791.
Somewhere in the text she states that: "This revolution will only take effect when all women become fully aware of their deplorable condition, and of the rights they have lost in society", which I think the gist of her work.
Mary Wollstonecraft
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is not only one of the most important works done by Wollstonecraft, but also it is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. Totally in this book she wants to oppose the ones who believed that women did not have the right to have education. She believes that because women must educate their children then they themselves must be educated and as a result education is a necessity for them. And also because they are not considered as simply wives to their husbands and they must be considered as companions to their husbands then they must be educated to do so. She then argues that women are much more than being seen as ornaments or property to other people but they are human beings and equal to others and must be treated equally and they must have the equal rights as men have.
Jeremy Bentham
The majority of Bentham's works and thoughts are based on the idea of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism means "the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong"(Bentham 1776).
He believes that the goal of the legislator must be the happiness of the people and general utility must be taken into account in legislative affairs. He defines legislation as the determination of something that provides the general utility for the society and the legislation technique is the method to do so. He states that we must meet three conditions to put it into a rational system. First, we must define the utility well. Secondly, this fact is of great sovereignty and is not to be divided and there is no exception to this rule. Third, we must think out a kind of moral arithmetic by which we can achieve the same results.
He then talks about two different things that have made man the follower of. One of them is pleasure and the other one is pain. He believes that each and every decision we make in our life is determined by these two. He believes that the utility principle puts these two into practice. He states that the utility principle is that we always must make our decisions by comparing the pleasure and the pain and we should not take anything else into account.
John Stuart Mill
On Liberty is one of the most important works done by John Stuart Mill in which he supported individuals' moral and economic freedom from the state. He wants to oppose the idea of the social control by the majority and he supports the idea of the decision-making by the individuals. Another important thing he emphasizes in his work is the idea of liberty. He believes no one whether the state or another individual has the right to force or limit an individual unless the individual causes harm to others.
In an essay titled as, The Subjection of Women, Mill he tries to argue in favor of equality between the sexes. What he says in On Liberty can be applied to his essay on The Subjection of Women. That is, he states that women like men can participate in determining their own life, as there are individuals and no one can limit or restrict them. He believes that civilized people are able to make their own decisions and protect their own rights and he considers the representative government as a way to get people to think about the common good.
This is just an example, you can fill it later with your own note.