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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Your Excellency

The good citizen must wish for the well-being of his fellows as earnestly as he wishes it for himself.  On this all the best thinkers, both ancient and modern, agree.  This is for the reason that by definition, society is comprised of a number of distinguishable but interdependent parts, each, ideally contributing to the stability and prosperity of the whole.  The happiness of the one is indeed ultimately dependent upon the happiness of the others.

Of course, it is impossible that any single person, let alone the entirety of the citizenry, should be at once capable of feeling the needs of all of his fellows to the degree that each feels his or her own, and wise enough to foresee the precise means of accomplishing it while at the same time having the practical means to realize it.  The expedient adopted by all societies to offset this defect is to promote mutual forebearance, on the implicit understanding that if no one is able to obtain perfect satisfaction for him or her self, at least they are all able to achieve a portion of it.

An excellent method of inculcating the principle of mutual forebearance is to multiply the number of interactions each member of society has with his fellows.  Perceiving many opportunities to arrive at the desired result, the citizen becomes less resentful of those occassions he or she fails to achieve it, confident that another opportunity will present itself shortly; if the failing today, he or she may succeed tomorrow.  Each citizen sees that his or her personal happiness is enhanced by interacting with his or her fellows.

But a "trans"-action is not necessarily an "inter"-action.  "Trans"-actions are those that occur across unlike parties; "inter"-actions are mutually undertaken among like parties.  One may negotiate, on more or less equal terms, the requirements of an "inter"-action, whereas the disparity of powers inherent to a "trans"-action compells one party or the other to simply accept its terms or do without in toto.

The significance of this difference is often lost in societies predisposed towards democracy.  It is not merely the function of the unsophistication of individual intellects, but the common imperative to respect one's fellows as equals in dignity.  Constantly reminding him or her self that all are entitled to an equal human dignity, the member of a democratic society is apt to forget that each is not endowed with identical capacities.

This diversity of capacities is often presented as the particular virtue of democratic societies, the theory being that democracy, being least prejudicial to individual interests, is, among all political forms, best constituted to harnessing individual energies to the common good.

But this is rarely the case.  It is often forgotten by those predisposed to see their fellows as equals in dignity, that the laws do not always proceed from the social mores of the people those laws govern.

Finding it odious to disparage others, citizens of good will are unwilling to question the aims of those who, unlike themselves, wish to obtain a secret command that makes transactions increasingly un-equal.  Cloaked by language directly opposed to his actual intent, the gifted dissembler obscures from us the fact that a moral agent is not necessarily a competent economic agent, and thus he encounters no serious barrier in his evil design to bind others to him by chains of obligation which they cannot scorn except at the cost of their livliehood.

What wonder, then, that simple souls, intending nothing but the honest well-being of their fellows, and committed to respect of the common law as they find it, step by step become unwitting accomplices to the destruction of everything they love?  For that is the case.  Sooner or later, the accumulated dissatisfaction of people living under such an un-equal system, as it becomes more and more apparent, must necessarily dissolve the bonds of mutual esteem that render a society coherent.  For this cause and for no other are societies destroyed.

So while the good citizen must wish for the well-being of his fellows as earnestly as he or she wishes it for himself, the excellent citizen must make careful inquiries into the particular qualities of each he encounters and take care that no one of them acquire command over too many.

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