Months ago I read The Rights of Man and Common Sense by Thomas Paine.
Read them not long after finishing "Reflections on the Revolution in France" by Edmund Burke: The Rights of Man was a liberal response to this first great work defining conservatism. I meant to do a detailed comparison, but the project just got too big.
"Common Sense" is a very short pamphlet justifying the America Revolution. Has a short but elegant justification of democracy. Worth a read.
"The Rights of Man" is a much longer work. It effectively demolishes a lot of the more strained arguments in "Reflections on the Revolution" about the advantages of monarchical government,d the hereditary peerage, and the limited franchise.
While Burke was proven right in the short term about the fate of the French Revolution, he can't really said to have been right in the long term about the greatness of the 18th century British system of government.
It's interesting to see how in some ways, the fathers of conservatism and liberalism had inverted ideas to the present day.
Burke was generally in favour of Big Government. Paine constantly harps on taxes, which like most reformers and radicals up to the twentieth century he believes come from wars and corruptions, and can be greatly reduced by democracy. Paine also wants to keep government out of religion, while Burke wants to keep it in. Paine however does propose an early version of the welfare state, which he regards as easily affordable.
In some ways, the 21st century Tea Party movement are a lot closer to the American Revolutionaries in their views of tax as tyranny, than some modern US "liberals" might like to think.
On the other hand, Burke's views of the advantages of the slow adaptability of the unwritten British constitution, have been proven more right that Paine might have expected. Without any revolution, through gradual reform this has become vastly more democratic than Paine might have ever expected, and Burke would probably ever have wanted.
As the book "People Power" pointed out, the British constitution has changed a lot even in recent decades, with the change from a hereditary to an appointed House of Lords, and the incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights. IN some ways again things have changed in the modern day: US conservatives generally love their written constitution.
Overall, both books are well worth reading for historical interest and clear expounding of principles. As is "Reflections on the Revolution in France."
Couple of paragraphs to compare.
The more perfect civilisation is, the less occasion has it for government, because the more does it regulate its own affairs, and govern itself; but so contrary is the practice of old governments to the reason of the case, that the expenses of them increase in the proportion they ought to diminish. It is but few general laws that civilised life requires, and those of such common usefulness, that whether they are enforced by the forms of government or not, the effect will be nearly the same. If we consider what the principles are that first condense men into society, and what are the motives that regulate their mutual intercourse afterwards, we shall find, by the time we arrive at what is called government, that nearly the whole of the business is performed by the natural operation of the parts upon each other.Burke:
The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity: and therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man's nature or to the quality of his affairs. When I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed at and boasted of in any new political constitutions, I am at no loss to decide that the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade or totally negligent of their duty. The simple governments are fundamentally defective.What I'm Watching
Saw Rush at the cinema. Movie based on the Seventies Formula One rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Surprisingly good. Goes a bit beyond the cliches of the uptight Lauda and the laid-back playboy Hunt, ending up depicting them both pretty sympathetically and with more complex characters.
The racing scenes are tense and gripping, with deliberately blurred and obscured frames recalling in-car cameras. Surprisingly in 2D, I would have liked 3D for the close-in racing scenes, but still works well.
Only downside is an overlong scene at the end where the characters spell out what ought to be obvious, suspect it was added on at the last minute.
What I'm Watching 2
Rewatched Pulp Fiction for the first time in ages. Great film, but my god, they all look so young.
Socioeconomics. Problems legislating against zero-hours contracts. Britons still don't want minimal state. Crack addicts rational, Rats don't get addicted to morphine when in a nice cage. American Schools Are Failing Nonconformist Kids. Lehman sisters would have been like Lehman brothers. Accepting inequality.
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