Much of what America looks like today, its political structure, the behavior of its citizens, the social institutions, the laws, as well as how the U.S. soldiers react on the battlefield can all be linked to the ideological foundations that this country was built on. It was the Founding Fathers who made it all possible when they adhered to certain principles of leadership and government while rejecting other forms of leadership and government they considered injurious to the overall population. It was their ideas concerning life, liberty, health, and democracy that transformed a former colony into one of the greatest nations in the history of mankind. While the ideological foundations are strong and were able to withstand the test of time, the edifice has shown cracks simply because the foundation was far from perfect. The following will show an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the said ideological foundation.
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If the Founding Fathers were influenced by a different political stream then America will not look like the way it is seen today. Say for instance, if the Founding Fathers rejected the ideas of life, liberty, and democracy and instead decided not to go against the flow, then they would have adopted European forms of government that have been established since the Medieval Ages. This would have meant using the old world system of monarchy where Kings and queens rule.
There can be both good and bad implications for using a monarchical form of government but one of the most striking differences is the fact that commoners would not be able to participate in nation-building. There would be no elections, no caucus, and the people would be forced to accept what the King or the Queen will decide with regards to a particular issue. If the Founding Fathers opted to accept Communism/Socialism for instance then the government can have tyrannical control over the American population. It would have been impossible to hold an assembly and there would be no freedom of religion or freedom of speech.
Hobbes, Locke, and Mill
Thomas Hobbes believed in the idea of a “Commonwealth” where all men and women must participate in government and their union will become their source of strength. By joining the commonwealth, all its members are assured of protection as well as support from the other members. Thus, joining the commonwealth is like having a covenant with one another that they will defend each other if a threat arises and they would do their best to make the commonwealth strong and prosperous. But a covenant is like marriage, many people bind themselves together in marriage and make all sorts of promises but in the end, they can decide to break their vows if the going gets rough.
John Locke on the other hand believed in the idea that just civil society must be able to protect the rights of Americans to life, liberty, health, and property (Uzgalis, par. 1). This is one of the most admirable facets of American democracy and government but there is also a flaw to this ideology. What will the government do if there are people who refuse to do their best to help improve the state of the union? There are many lazy Americans who survive on dole-outs. They are content to live a mediocre life because the government is ready to lend a helping hand even if they do not deserve it.
John Stuart Mill on the other hand had a similar view, and he wrote, that though society is not founded on a contract each American citizen has to repay the goodness they receive by doing a good deed towards others (Mill, On Liberty, Chap. IV). But there is also a flaw in this ideology because other members of society can exploit the benevolence of others. Thus, American society can be too lenient sometimes when it comes to violent offenders. In other societies, this type of behavior is simply answered with harsh punishment.
The perceived weakness of the American ideological foundation is evident in the high crime rate in the country. It is hard to imagine the proliferation of criminal elements in a country under Communism because the government will need no search warrants or any other justification to apprehend suspected criminals. The government can simply interrogate and detain someone behaving suspiciously. But in America, even terrorists can hide under the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
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Aside from the high crime rate, there are also many Americans who rely on welfare and are too lazy to work. The government could not force these people to work hard and to find a way out of poverty. Some will use drugs and use the tenets of freedom and liberty to justify their actions. Suspected terrorists can roam free in this country because a just and civil society will never violate their liberty to enjoy life, even if they are already planning to destroy America’s way of life. Just the other day President Obama ordered the closure of a prison facility that incarcerates hard-core terrorists. In some countries, this move is difficult to comprehend.
Hobbes, T. Leviathan. 2009. Web.
Mill, J. S. On Liberty. 2009. Web.
Uzgalis, W. (2007). “John Locke.” 2009. Web.