Philosophical and Historical Foundations of American Politics

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The Founding Father's views on government were influenced by both the classical republican and the natural rights philosophers. The two groups of philosophers held very different views on how a government should run. The classical republicans believed that the individual should sacrifice his or her personal freedoms in order to gain the greater good. The natural rights philosophers, on the other hand, held that a person's individual freedoms out to be preserved at all costs. The two greatest examples of historical precedent in republican government were the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, which both gave the people a great deal of power in the government by allowing them a voice. The natural rights philosophers favored the Greeks, while most classical republicans admired the Romans.

The theory of classical republicanism is that the best society is one that promotes the common good instead of individual interests. One of the ways that this is done is by limiting individual rights. This idea began in Rome in 509 after King Servius' successor Tarquin the Proud behaved in such a tyrannical way that the outraged aristocracy ousted him. In response to the unspeakable treatment, the Romans changed the government's job. The elite proclaimed themselves the protectors of Rome against tyranny. This mindset became crucial to the ideology through which they justified their political supremacy. From this point on, there would be intense suspicion of any individual who tried to turn popular support into personal power.

Numerous problems can arise in a society which emphasizes both individual rights and the common good because the two goals are often conflicting in nature. Everyone desires individual rights, but to protect the common good a social contract must be in effect. This means that some personal rights must be sacrificed for the good of the community. The natural rights philosophy considered the rights of the individual to be of primary...
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