For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
- Isaiah 9:6-7
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
- 1 Samuel 8:1-4
“Rousseau’s second Discourse ruffled even more feathers than his first, but it gained him a reputation and quite a flowing. His portrayal of the state of nature as desirable and not brutal formed a vital part of the emerging Romantic movement in literature. Rousseau’s rallying cry of ‘back to nature!’ and his pessimistic analysis of modern society as full of inequalities and injustices sat well with the growing unrest of the 1750s, especially in France. Not content with merely stating the problem, Rousseau went on to offer a solution. In what is seen as perhaps his most influential work, The Social Contract.
Rousseau opens his book with the challenging declaration ‘Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains’, which was considered such a call for radical change that it was adopted as a slogan during the French Revolution 27 years later. Having issued his challenge, Rousseau then sets out his vision of an alternative civil society, run not by aristocrats, the monarchy, and the Church, but by all citizens, who participate in the business of legislation. Modelled on Classical republican ideas of democracy, Rousseau imagines the citizen body operating as a unit, prescribing laws according to the … general will. The laws would arise from all and apply to all – everyone would be considered equal. In contrast with the social contract envisaged by Locke, which was designed to protect the rights and property of individuals, Rousseau advocates giving legislative power to the people as a whole, for the benefit of all, administered by the general will. He believes that the freedom to take part in the legislative process would lead to an elimination of inequity and injustice, and that it would promote a feeling of belonging to society – that it would inevitably lead to the … (liberty, equality, fraternity) that became the motto of the new French Republic.”
- Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) died eleven years before the French Revolution began. It is hard to determine whether Rousseau was a recorder of history or a maker of history by fomenting the crowd of angry and hungry citizens. He was definitely unliked, for obvious reasons, by the power brokers of his day. Yet, his words were taken as a battle cry among the French people and his comment about “being free, yet in chains” was foundational in Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.
The republican form of government is, on the surface, an easier form of government than a democracy, as Rousseau suggests here. In a democracy, each person has a voice in the affairs of the State, but with most folks, you will have a wide range of ideas, and it could take forever to obtain a consensus.
As an example on obtaining a consensus, I became a certified facilitator for team building – back when that was a thing in the 80s. In the course that I took, we had about 15-16 people in the class. We brainstormed to create a “problem” that we would solve using team building techniques, all within a two-week course. We had about 20-30 ideas that were generated. We then used a technique of elimination by thirds. In other words, of all the ideas, we could vote on only one third of the ideas. You would think that the idea with the most votes would be the problem that we would “solve,” but 2-3 people in the class said that they could not relate to that idea. The same was true for the next idea and the next. After two full days of doing nothing but argue, we chose the bottom item on the top third of the list, the least favorite among those that got the most votes. No one in the group liked the idea, but all said that they could live with solving the problem.
We had achieved consensus, but we had avoided the big problems that everyone could benefit from a thorough study of the issues. The instructor allowed us to do this to illustrate two things. 1) The rules of team building and team mechanics must never be violated and 2) Achieving consensus never ends up where you expect it. And I guess a third reason, 3) Consensus is hard work. Ours was one of many such classes, but the certified facilitators were still few in number.
As the huge organization that was incorporating teams began to have some minor success, I became the facilitator that was asked to facilitate more steering committees than most of the others, at least in our part f the facility – a t=steering committee being a group of bosses that provided guidance and boundaries to the teams. I was basically their punching bag for a few hours once each month. Try telling the guy who became a boss by bullying that bullying was not allowed in team building. That does not work at all.
So, in a free society with one hundred voters, you will have one hundred sovereign states that all demand that their ideas become heard over everyone else’s. Then the bully or the rich person uses their influence and one by one, the one hundred views become one, two, or three views. Whose views are accepted as law? It depends if the rich man can buy off the bully before the bully punches the rich man in the face and takes his money. That eliminates the stupid bully that punches the rich man in the face but fails to take his money.
In the Scriptures above, the second is about how the people of Israel were getting tired of the cycle of acting like hooligans and chasing the gods of their neighbors while becoming prosperous and then being overrun by those neighbors to have their prosperity stolen from them.
They had the true answer. They had God. They were God’s chosen people, but just as Moses had prophesied, they turned away from God. Then God did as He promised, He caused calamities upon calamities. A judge rose up to save the people from peril and the cycle began again.
Yet, Samuel said that with a king, it will be the king who oppresses you instead of your neighbors. They need to turn back to God. No that was not good enough. They needed a king.
Now, for the first Scripture. Isaiah prophesies that there will be a king that will remain pure and never corrupt. The cycle of good then bad will be broken. We know that King as Jesus.
Our world is at the same crossroads as the Israelites of old and the French of the mid 1700s. Aristocrats will make laws that benefit the aristocrats, just as the US Congress enacts laws that all the people have to live with but they do not. A monarchy will work only as the monarch in charge is connected to both the people and to God.
Samuel became the priest and judge of Israel because Eli was getting old, and his sons were corrupt. Samuel may have been a great leader, but his sons were corrupt. I would have to write a series of posts about the sons of David, the man after God’s own heart. Solomon was among the youngest of them – less time to become corrupt, and Solomon screwed up later. Rehoboam totally screwed up and the nation split into two nations.
Only as long as a government recognizes Jesus Christ as the true King of kings can a government truly stand. Only then can it be a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” (Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address) for only then can we know the true meaning of loving one another.
Rousseau and his ‘friend’ David Hume (with whom he resided in exile until they argued with one another) missed the boat by not focusing of Jesus. In fact, rejecting Jesus.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
Rousseau isn’t always all there but he’s insightful
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