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Political Ideas and American Politics

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David Smailes

on 4 September 2018

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Transcript of Political Ideas and American Politics

Political Ideas and American Politics
Start with the Greeks and Romans - let's call them the "Ancients."
Myths - teaching how to live a "good" life
What do these myths have in common? What lesson were they teaching?
All have the idea of putting our own self aside (our own desires) for something greater than ourselves.

They called these ideas "virtue"
Teaching virtue = perfecting human beings

Perfect human beings can be trusted with power
And that perfection makes DEMOCRACY possible
Demos = the people
Cracy = "to rule"

Demos + Cracy = democracy, or rule by the people
Democracy ONLY works if people are perfected
So what changed? The Judeo-Christian tradition.
"original sin" - we are born imperfect
So if we are imperfect, we aren't virtuous - and democracy makes no sense
Imperfect people must be CONTROLLED
To make life easier we create governments and use law to actually help us enjoy more freedom
Two central principles guide Locke's thinking:
1. EQUALITY: We all have equal natural rights to life, liberty and property
These rights are given to us by nature

So they come before governments, and governments must respect them
2. CONSENT - we must agree to the government that is to rule over us
And if that government fails to respect our rights, we have the right of revolution - to rebel against it
At the same time this turmoil in England was taking place, colonists were settling the east coast of the North American Continent
During the 1760's a war broke out between France and England
On this continent it became known as the "French and Indian War"
To pay for the defense of British colonies, England demanded the colonists pay a tax - the law was called the "Stamp Act"
It wasn't popular
The Stamp Act was quickly repealed, but it set the colonists thinking about their own rights
When the British gave a monopoly to a certain English tea company, the colonists rebelled
As a result, the British closed Boston Harbor in early 1774 and sent troops into Boston to occupy the city - the laws doing this were called the "Intolerable" Acts
All this scared the colonists into holding a meeting in 1774 to decide how to respond
The meeting became known as the "First Continental Congress"
They wrote a petition to King George III begging for his help - and then they went home
But things didn't stay quiet - in April 1775 the British heard a rumor and marched on two Massachusetts towns:
Lexington and Concord
A second Continental Congress was called in late 1775, and an army was sent to try to contain the British in Boston
But it took a pamphlet to urge that Second Continental Congress to take action and declare independence
John Locke
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