Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense reminds me of how the leader of a society must be able to interact with their public. In the book he writes about how anybody should be able to rule due to a lottery, but I strongly disagree. It takes special talent to be able to rule a society, an ability that is not easy to come by. Of the many things that a ruler must be capable of, I believe that the sovereign of a nation be capable of having a great relationship with public that leads to the public’s usual obedience..
The relationship between the sovereign and the public is very complex. Contrary to Paine’s beliefs, it is not something that anybody can understand or manage. At all times both must keep the other satisfied in order to achieve peace, while also maintaining mutual respect. However, the sovereign is an employee of the public and has a greater responsibility to keep the connection stable and adequately meet the expectations of the public. The state will function ideally when there is a balance between the sovereign making laws and decisions that are genuinely in the best interest for their constituents. But there will also be times when the sovereign must make unpopular decisions that will upset the people in order to maintain the establishment as a whole. For example, budget constraints could cause the government to increase taxes or decrease the pay it gives to its employees. These instances are illegitimate reasons to rebel when these measurements are done with the authentic interest of the people in mind.
As long as the decisions made are in the best interest of the people, the public ought to respect and obey the policies set forth. When these conditions are fulfilled, there can be tranquil organization between the ruler and the public. However, when these actions are not satisfied there are several possible instances, whether it is tyranny, exploitation, or ignoring the public’s rights, when the public can legitimately revolt. Also, the government can truly be successful in preventing a revolt when it both cultivates an attitude of obedience and forces it through their power to initiate strict policies and penalties if necessary.
Paine does not seem to recognize the complexity of the relationship between the state of the public in Common Sense. Instead, he naively believes that anybody can not only understand the relationship, can also do what it takes to manage an entire population and the government above them. If anybody was to be elected head of a government simply through a lottery in which all citizens participate in, it could lead to the head of the state making many mistakes that can lead to a revolt.
There are several instances when a revolt by the subjects of the sovereign is legitimate, and also inevitable, and can ruin the relationship between a government and its citizens. This results in an unstable distribution between applying power and respecting the rights of the people. An illustration of this situation is discussed by John Locke in Second Treatise on Civil Government. In chapter 19 of the book Locke writes about tyranny, defining it as “the exercise of power beyond right,” and its effects on the citizens of the ruling administration. “The exercise of power beyond right,” can occur when the state makes policies that are outside of their jurisdiction and violates the liberties of the public. He believes that anytime the leader or a branch of a government oversteps their boundaries and deploys their authority in an immoderate force, it is acceptable for the public to overthrow the sovereign and end the tyrannical exploitation.
All citizens of the United States should be grateful that Paine’s suggestion of a lottery to decide who rules the government was not seriously considered by the Founding Fathers. If it was, the country probably would not have lasted very long and would not have become such a powerful nation.